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Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (“Holodomor”) Memorial Day

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to the victims of the Ukrainian Holodomor Famine Genocide of 1932-33. Each year, we gather on the fourth Saturday of November to mark Holodomor Memorial Day, an opportunity to reflect and remember the millions who perished under Soviet control in a man-made famine.

Guided by the goals of an ambitious industrialization program, Joseph Stalin implemented a brutal process of agricultural collectivization in 1932. Millions died of starvation, unable to fill the escalating grain quotas. Those who resisted were arrested or shot. As I have previously stated in this chamber, at the height of the famine, peasants in Ukraine died at the staggering rate of 17 persons per minute, 1,000 persons per hour and 25,000 persons per day.

Simultaneously fuelled by a desire to destroy a burgeoning Ukrainian nationalistic movement, Ukrainian political elites and intellectuals were arrested and sent to Soviet prisons. The outcome of these policies is succinctly described by historian Anne Applebaum in her recent book Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine. She states:

Taken together, these two policies — the Holodomor in the winter and spring of 1933 and the repression of the Ukrainian intellectual and political class in the months that followed — brought about the Sovietization of Ukraine, the destruction of the Ukrainian national idea, and the neutering of any Ukrainian challenge to Soviet unity.

I proudly note that in 2003, in this chamber, unanimously, we called on the Government of Canada to recognize the Holodomor as an act of genocide. Following the adoption of that motion unanimously, the Canadian Parliament passed the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (“Holodomor”) Memorial Day Act in 2008.

Honourable senators, in that same spirit, let us take this opportunity to remember those victims of Holodomor and reaffirm our commitment to the prevention of similar tragedies in the future.