Marcus Kolga’s recent article in Eesti Elu (30 November 2015) titled “For A Strong and United Estonian Community in Canada” identified that the Canadian Estonian community needs a “strong and well organized representative body like EKN”. I whole heartedly agree with this.
I also agree with his comments about the need to engage our youth, however…I believe our community benefits more and is stronger for it with their active participation directly at the EKN table as opposed to establishing yet another organization. We are a small community…let’s work together at the same table to build and sustain an Estonian Canadian community.
The engagement of our young adults was one of the principle reasons for several of us in our decision to run in the last EKN elections as we also saw this need and felt it was important to put this new life into an organization that many in the Canadian Estonian community had come to question in regards to its relevance and mandate. This past EKN did include the active participation of our young adults:
• Nearly 50% of the EKN membership was comprised of young adults (20 to 30 year olds)
• EKN’s Vice-President is from this age group, as are 2 other executive committee members
• EKN’s Finance Committee is strengthened with 2 young professionals with specific financial expertise
• 8 of the younger members were active delegates representing EKN at Estonia World Congresses which allowed them the opportunity meet and interact with other Estonian delegates from other countries
• The Esto 2018 Organizing Committee is being led by the EKN’s
Vice-President and is comprised of talented and enthusiastic young professionals, including non-EKN members.
EKN understands that the younger generation is the future of the Estonian Canadian community and thus wanted their active involvement. In addition to these young EKN members (all of whom were new members) there were several other first time members (including myself) and representatives from Vancouver to make the organization more representative of Canada versus being Toronto centric.
Past ESTOs have indeed “triggered a sense of patriotism and sense of duty towards freeing the occupied homeland of our parents and grandparents” as Marcus Kolga notes. In fact this patriotism that we Estonian Canadians have is often envied by many kodu eestlased. As our community ages the new generation of Estonian Canadians should not be deprived of this “trigger”…we cannot solely rely on our national song and folk dance festival to be this trigger. One could argue that the new generations will/may need an even stronger sense of patriotism and a stronger sense of duty to now preserve the free homeland of their grandparents and great grandparents.
ESTOs and in particular ESTO 2018 remain a vital instrument in bringing Estonians from across Canada and from around the world together and in continuing to build on this existing “sense of patriotism” that Marcus Kolga refers to. The talented group of young professionals comprising the Esto 2018 has been working for several years and has been in contact with numerous Estonian organizations and with the Estonian Ministry of Culture itself in their planning and organization. They will do things differently and I am looking forward to it. We need to support and encourage them in their planning and organizing.
Marcus Kolga is correct with his statements that “the Estonian community in Canada is in greater need than ever of strong, effective and sustained advocacy at all levels of government and in the media” and “that there is a growing threat to our voice, history and community posed by Putin's well funded and resource rich proxies on this side of the Atlantic”. In Andres Simonson’s recent Estonian World article (1 December 2015) titled “Estonians everywhere, make some шум (noise)” he encourages us to take a grass roots approach (letters, protests, etc.) to “make some noise” related to Putin’s aggressions.
Both EKN and we as individuals in the Estonian Canadian community cannot do enough in this regard. This does not suggest that EKN has not made noise nor taken a back seat in matters such as these. Markus Hess, President of EKN notes several items in his article “Vote” (Eesti Elu, 30 November 2015). Many of EKNs efforts were in the form of letters sent in protest/concern either on EKN letterhead or in conjunction with other central and eastern European communities. In hindsight EKN should likely have published these letters in Eesti Elu for our community to see/read. Could EKN have done more? Of course…just like all the prior EKN organizations could have done more as well.
It is not uncommon for organizations to need to spend money in order to execute their mandate. The restructuring of EKN’s financial situation took significantly longer than anyone could have anticipated and there were several difficult decisions made in the progress. But the EKN Financial Committee should take pride in the work it has done and has now put EKN on a solid foundation to move forward with.
Had EKN become dormant and/or less motivated since Eesti regained its freedom? While I cannot speak for past EKNs as I was not involved, I know that the EKN members I worked with were not dormant and were motivated. A solid foundation is in place and youth were engaged and involved. Often during any organizational restructuring process the initial stages of that transition are the most challenging, in particular communicating and managing change both internally and externally.
I hope that the coming Estonian Central Council of Canada (EKN) continues to have a large representation from our young adults.
Recent EKN Executive Committee Member
Building and Sustaining an Estonian Canadian Community – Robert Kimsto Estonian Life