Yushchenko Supported on Genocide Claim

ReutersUkrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and his wife, Kateryna, riding in a horse-drawn carriage in Ottawa on Monday.
OTTAWA -- Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he would support a bill recognizing the 1930s Ukrainian famine that killed millions of peasants as an act of genocide.

Harper made the pledge on Monday alongside Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who was granted the distinction of addressing a rare joint session of Canada's Senate and House of Commons.

Historians agree that the 1932-33 famine was engineered by Soviet authorities under Josef Stalin to force peasants to give up their private plots of land and join collective farms. Some say Ukrainians were specifically targeted as an ethnic group.

Authorities confiscated grain from village after village and prohibited residents from leaving, effectively condemning them to starvation.

"In Canada, we aren't afraid of history or of truth," Harper told the Canadian parliament.

"This is why our government recognized the injustice to Ukrainians who were interned during the First World War. ... [And this bill] would provide legal recognition of what happened in Ukraine under the brutal communist dictatorship of Josef Stalin."

Russian lawmakers passed a resolution in April saying the famine should not be considered genocide and should not be used as a political tool.


Chris Wattie / Reuters
Yushchenko turning to the applauding Harper after his address on Monday.


Yushchenko thanked Canada for its support over the years -- starting with its quick recognition of the country's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. There are about 1.2 million Ukrainian immigrants in Canada.

"I'm filled with very tender feelings to your country and to this land. For me as for millions of Ukrainians, this country and this land is sacred," Yushchenko said.

The two leaders also held private meetings to discuss co-operation in the military effort in Afghanistan and potential Ukrainian membership in NATO.

Harper has been a strong backer of Yushchenko's campaign to join the 26-member alliance, a prospect that has raised the hackles of Russia.

He told the assembled members of parliament and senators that Ukraine already supports all of NATO's missions in one way or another -- the only non-NATO country to do so.