Political interests arrived with the Ukrainian settlers, sprung from deep interest in their surroundings as well as concern for what was happening in Ukraine or the other regions from which they came. In their places of origin, self-help groups, elementary cooperatives had done much to improve the lot of persons including the promotion of literacy. The Ukrainian press flourished, and Ukrainian settlers began to take interest in the Canadian politics of the day.
It was difficult to avoid politics. The 1914-1918 War brought the internment of approximately 5,000 Ukrainian Canadians, previous citizens of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They were held in twenty-six camps scattered throughout Canada, some of them lasting until 1920. In 1917 the War Time Elections Act disenfranchised all “enemy aliens” who had been naturalized after 1902, an estimated 143,000 persons.
Canadian Politicians of Ukrainian Descent
In 1952 Alexander Kuziak became the first Ukrainian appointed a Cabinet Minister in a provincial government. A teacher, secretary-treasurer of the Rural Muncipality of Keys and a businessman, he was elected first in 1948 as a C.C.F. candidate, in 1952 and in 1956. He was appointed to Cabinet as Minister of Telephones and Minister in charge of the Government Finance Office in 1952, and later served as Minister of Natural Resources and Minister in charge of Northern Crown Corporations A charter member of the Yorkton Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Association, the A.G. Kuziak Building in Yorkton is named in his honor.
In 1956, the first Ukrainian-Canadian woman to be elected to a provincial parliament, Mary Fodchuk Batten, was elected to serve in the Saskatchewan Legislature. By 1959 there were eleven Ukrainian-Canadian members in Alberta and Saskatchewan Legislatures, and five in the House of Commons; the earliest Ukrainian-Canadians in the Senate were William M. Wall, Winnipeg and John Hnatyshyn.
The Hnatyshyn Family
Honourable John Hnatyshyn . Q.C. (Saskatoon). B. Jan. 20, 1907 in the Ukraine. S. of Michael and Anna Hnatyshyn. Came to Canada when two months old. Lived on a farm near Canora. Ed. at Canora Public School, Yorkton Collegiate, Saskatoon Teachers Coll., and U. of Sask. (B.A. 1930, L.L.B. 1932). M. in 1931 to Helen Pitts of Yorkton. Four children: Ramon John (B.A. , LL.B.) exec. asst. to Leader of the Senate, Victor, David and Elizabeth. A lawyer. Admitted to Sask. Bar 1933; Q. C. 1957. Practised law in Saskatoon since 1933. Mem. firm of Kyle, Ferguson and Hnatyshyn since 1942. Pres. Board of Dir. Saskatoon Community Chest 1955 and dir. 5 years. Pres. Bar Assoc. and former pres. Board Dir. for Ukr. Inst., Saskatoon. Prov. vice-pres. Sask Conserv. party and former pres. Saskatoon Conserv. Association, 1935-36 and 1952. Mem. Kiwanis, Saskatoon and Canadian Clubs. Was federal candidate for Yorkton at g.e. 1935, 1940 and 1945; provincial candidate for Saskatoon, 1952. Summoned to the Senate Jan. 15, 1959. Party pol.: Progressive conservative. Rel.: Orthodox Church. Address: 808 University Drive, Saskatoon; business: Priel Bldg., 214 — 21st Street East, Saskatoon, Sask. Canadian Parliamentary Guide, 1960
Ramon John Hnatyshyn (1934 — 2002), Q.C:
“He was born Ramon John Hnatyshyn, but everybody called him Ray. His grandparents had been illiterate immigrant farmers, one of many Ukrainian families that settled on the Canadian prairies in the 19th century. One of his proudest moments, he once said, was to return to his ancestral homeland as Governor-General after Ukraine won independence when the Soviet Union collapsed.”
Jeff Sallot, Globe and Mail, 19 December 2002
Born in Saskatoon, he was elected to the House of Commons in 1974 with re-elections in 1979, 1980 and 1984. He served as a Conservative MP and Cabinet Minister, being Energy Minister, Justice Minister and Attorney General. In 1990 he became Canada's 24th Governor-General and in 1992, Chancellor of Carleton University.