Canada, the North American state with a nice-guy reputation, has been incubating and encouraging Ukrainian far right ideology and activities for many years. As much as its more economically powerful neighbour to its south, Ottawa’s intimate alliance with Ukrainian – and Eastern European ultranationalist organisations – is an underreported and yet highly significant factor in understanding the current Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Canada provided sanctuary for Eastern European Nazi collaborator war criminals; cultivated an Eastern European diaspora that is ultranationalist in its political orientation, hostile to Russia, antisemitic and nonwhite nations generally. Ukrainian, Baltic and East European emigre groups, after 1945, have fascistic roots and constructed cults venerating Nazi collaborators from their home nations. Nationalist credentials cannot disguise the ugly reality of their eugenicist, racist and antisemitic foundational ideology.
After WW2, Britain, United States, Australia and Canada, accepted Ukrainians and Baltic Nazi collaborators as refugees. These militants, it was hoped, would be useful in the new Cold War against the USSR. Turning a blind eye to the millions of displaced persons in Europe – including Holocaust survivors – Ottawa adopted the rationale of London and Washington at this time, turning the former murderers of Jews into useful instruments of Cold War policy.
The Germans, upon invading the USSR in 1941, utilised its long-standing ties with Ukrainian ultranationalists and organised them as auxiliary forces in their war of extermination. The main group tasked with assisting Nazi forces was the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). Far from being forcibly conscripted, the OUN were willing accomplices of German, and subsequently US, imperialism.
Committing massacres of Poles, Jews, Hungarians and antifascist Ukrainians, the OUN pursued its goal of creating an ethnically pure Ukrainian state in the territories it controlled. Acting as a proxy for Nazi Germany, similarly to the Croat Ustasha and Italian fascism, the OUN’s military wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA is the acronym in Ukrainian) waged a relentless and criminal war of racial extermination.
The Ukrainian diaspora in Canada, backed up by official support from the state, has long agitated for war with Russia. The cult-like worship of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators, implemented by Canadian Ukrainian community-centred cultural groups, involves excusing and minimising the horrific complicity of their heroes in the Holocaust – complete with scouting uniforms for the youngsters.
Ukrainian nationalism, along with its East European analogues, contains a homicidal kernel. Ultranationalist OUN partisans not only wanted an expansionist Ukrainian state ethnically cleansed of Russians and Jews, but also cleansed of Poles, Hungarians and all non-Ukrainians. Ukrainian ethnonationalism was the crux, not only of the Ukrainian Canadian organisations and their milieu, but also of the ‘captive nations’ policy pursued by Ottawa and allied Western governments.
The so-called ‘captive nations’ was a policy implemented by Ottawa (and the associated Anglophone nations) regarding the Eastern bloc nations as captives of Soviet Communism. That did not stop western business interests from cooperating with these allegedly captive nations. Be that as it may, Canada cultivated East European emigré communities, incubating ultranationalist and fascistic ideologies in these ethnic minorities.
Not only did the Canadian Ukrainians become loyal supporters of Ottawa’s anti socialist foreign policies, they also became a solid domestic bulwark against leftist and socialist groups in their adopted nation. Stepan Bandera, the wartime leader of the OUN and Ukrainian Nazi collaborator, is not only regarded as a hero in today’s post-Communist Ukraine, but a figure of cultish veneration by the Canadian Ukrainian community.
Roman Shukhevych, Ukrainian wartime Nazi collaborator and responsible for the massacre of 100 000 Poles in the Galicia-Volhynia region, is memorialised with a statue by the Canadian Ukrainian community in Edmonton. In 2007, the Ukrainian government declared Shukhevych a national hero. The convergence of Ukrainian ultranationalist agendas between the Ukrainian diaspora and Kyiv is in plain view.
Ottawa has steadfastly supported the NATO war drive in Kyiv against Russia, solidly backing those Ukrainian political forces whose ideological continuities with the ultranationalism of the OUN is apparent. This military and diplomatic support is hardly motivated by humanitarian considerations, but rather by the policy of Canadian imperialism to integrate Ukraine more fully into the western economic orbit.
Both sides of Canadian politics, liberal and conservative, have deliberately cultivated political links with Ukrainian far right activists. Former Canadian prime minister gave his heavyweight support to the network of Ukrainian neofascist networks, agitating for a war with Russia and teaching an ultraconservative interpretation of Ukraine’s twentieth century history.
During the Cold War, the Ukrainian ultranationalist diaspora agitated for a hot confrontation with Soviet Russia, recycling the fascistic falsehood that Bolshevism originated with, and is advocated by, the Jews. The Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy, a favourite theme among the Nazi party, gets a renewed platform from the ultrarightist Ukrainian community.
Russia has certainly changed since 1991 – it is a capitalist oligarchy, advancing its own interests. However, the contempt with which the Canadian Ukrainian community regards Russia has not changed, with Vladimir Putin taking on the role of a ‘neo-Bolshevik’ villainous Dr Evil stereotype. While Moscow has behaved aggressively in Ukraine since the February 2022 invasion, it is not the sole aggressor.
The influence of the OUN’s neo-Nazi ideology, deliberately cultivated by Ottawa among other powers, has found its place in the Ukrainian parliament. The Ukrainian diasporan condition of ultrarightist vitriol has spread its tentacles to mainstream Ukrainian society. Maintaining the pretence that Moscow’s invasion of eastern Ukraine was unprovoked is getting impossible to sustain.
Having nationalist credentials, such as those of Stepan Bandera, cannot cover the fact that state-sponsored glorification of Nazi war criminals leads to an increase in racial hostility.