Ukrainians


UKRAINIANS began arriving in BC at the end of the 19th century, part of the huge migration from eastern Europe into western Canada. Most Ukrainians preferred to settle on the prairies, where the Canadian government was successfully enticing immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire with offers of "free land," but some moved on to BC to find work in the MINING, LOGGING and railway construction camps. In BC Ukrainians tended toward heavy labour in industrial and urban areas such as the CROWSNEST PASS, NANAIMO, POWELL RIVER, BRITANNIA MINES and VANCOUVER. Economic conditions led many Ukrainian newcomers to support the socialist labour movement and the Society of Ukrainian Workers and Farmers, later the Assoc of United Ukrainian Canadians, was created in response to the harsh labour climate. During WWI many Ukrainian-Canadians were interned as enemy aliens; 8 of these internment camps were located in BC at EDGEWOOD, FERNIE, FIELD, Mara Lake, Monashee, Nanaimo, REVELSTOKE and VERNON.

Following the Russian Revolution, Ukraine became a Soviet Republic in 1920 under Russian control. This development split the Ukrainian diaspora into pro-Soviet and anti-Soviet groups. Those supporting a Ukraine free of foreign control eventually formed the Ukrainian Canadian Committee (UCC), which included the Ukrainian National Federation and other associations affiliated with the Ukrainian Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic Churches. During the 1930s many rural Ukrainians moved to BC from the drought-parched prairies; then, following WWII, a large influx of Ukrainian immigrants from German labour camps (called "DPs," or displaced persons, by many Canadians) strengthened the UCC and gave renewed vigour to its organizations. Regardless of political differences within the community, it has been important for all Ukrainian Canadians to show that their culture survived the oppression of foreign domination. A traditional Ukrainian event each March is the celebration of the birth of Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine's national poet. The first Taras Shevchenko Concert in BC was held in the mining town of HOSMER in 1909. Singing, dancing, drama and craft presentations have become traditional events across the province. A "Ukrainian" float was a regular feature of the PACIFIC NATIONAL EXHIBITION parades from the 1930s to the 1960s, and a successful urban Ukrainian Festival—the only one of its kind in Canada—was held in Vancouver from 1979 to 1985. To celebrate 100 years of the Ukrainian presence in Canada, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, BC Provincial Council, organized a Ukrainian Canadian Pavilion at the PNE in 1992 that was toured by over 50,000 people.

After the independence of Ukraine in 1991 another wave of immigrants came to BC. In contrast to earlier immigrants, these people arrived from urban centres with professional skills. The Vancouver branch of Ukrainian Canadian Social Services provides assistance to these newcomers. The 2001 census indicated that 178,800 people of Ukrainian origin live in BC. There are cultural centres throughout the province, associations affiliated with the Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches, branches of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the Assoc of United Ukrainian Canadians and several other organizations that continue to provide valuable services to their members and proudly exhibit their heritage to other British Columbians.