Last fall, a national day of remembrance for the victims of European communism and Nazism, Black Ribbon Day, was declared by Canada’s House of Parliament.
This declaration culminated decades of efforts by Canada’s communities that were affected by this tragic day of infamy. The importance of declaring this day in Canada was relayed to the government of Canada and the leaders of all federal parties in a letter signed by Milo Suchma (President, Czech and Slovak Association of Canada), Agnes Somorjai, (President, (Hungarian Community of Canada), Avo Kittask, (President, Estonian Central Council), Andris Kesteris President, Latvian National Federation), Joana Kuras (President, Lithuanian Canadian community), Wladyslaw Lizon (President, Canadian Polish Congress), Paul Grod (President, Ukrainian Canadian Congress) and Helen Bucic ( President, Slovak Canadian Association).
Through the dedicated support and efforts of MP’s Mr. Bob Rae and Mr. Boris Wrzesnewskyj the motion was carried with unanimous consent on November 30, 2010.
Black Ribbon Day coincides with the anniversary of the signing of the Molotov Ribbentrop pact, where Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia conspired to engulf into their regimes the lands and peoples situated between them.
The impact of this conspiracy and the ensuing struggles and sacrifices to thwart and overcome the interests of the pact’s proponents has made August 23rd 1939 a watershed milestone in the history of civilization as we know it today. Canada’s Eastern and Central European communities participated in these struggles and sacrifices and suffered grave losses in the the grim tragedies and aftermath of this pact. Their communities were instrumental in bringing international attention and understanding to this pact during the years leading to the independence of their heritage nations by initiating Black Ribbon Day as a world-wide protest in 1986. In that year the Central and Eastern European Communities in Canada formed The Black Ribbon Day Committee which, with headquarter in Toronto, organized demonstrations in 56 cities on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
On this first official Canadian memorial day known as Black Ribbon Day, community churches in cities across Canada are opening their doors in the evening of Monday August 23, 2010 so that members of their community and the general public may drop by to place a flower with a black ribbon or light a candle to pay respects to personal memories and go home again.
Some churches will have an organ playing during the evening, whilst others plan to have a short prayer at a fixed time. For example, St Peters Evangelical Estonian Lutheran Church and the Toronto Estonian Baptist Church will open their doors from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm on August 23 rd with a prayer planned for 7:00pm. A table will be placed before the altar with a black ribbon for flowers to be placed by the public. Soloists will sing intermittently throughout the evening.
The salience of the evening is that a simple elegant avenue for remembrance is provided in the most appropriate place for the individual members of Canada’s affected communities.
Coinciding with the Church memorials is a conference co-sponsored by the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre, the CEEC and the Black Ribbon Day Foundation. The conference has attracted leading historical political and historic academic figures to discuss the theme, “History, Memory and Politics in Central and Eastern Europe”.
Resolution by the Parliament of Canada
By unanimous consent, it was resolved, —
(1) WHEREAS the Government of Canada has actively advocated for and continues to support the principles enshrined by the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 260 (III) A of December 9, 1948;
(2) WHEREAS the extreme forms of totalitarian rule practiced by the Nazi and Communist dictatorships led to premeditated and vast crimes committed against millions of human beings and their basic and inalienable rights on a scale unseen before in history;
(3) WHEREAS hundreds of thousands of human beings, fleeing the Nazi and Soviet Communist crimes, sought and found refuge in Canada;
(4) WHEREAS the millions of Canadians of Eastern and Central European descent whose families have been directly affected by Nazi and/or Communist crimes have made unique and significant, cultural, economic, social and other contributions to help build the Canada we know today;
(5) WHEREAS 20 years after the fall of the totalitarian Communist regimes in Europe, knowledge among Canadians about the totalitarian regimes which terrorised their fellow citizens in Central and Eastern Europe for more than 40 years in the form of systematic and ruthless military, economic and political repression of the people by means of arbitrary executions, mass arrests, deportations, the suppression of free expression, private property and civil society and the destruction of cultural and moral identity and which deprived the vast majority of the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe of their basic human rights and dignity, separating them from the democratic world by means of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall, is still alarmingly superficial and inadequate;
(6) WHEREAS Canadians were instrumental during the 1980’s in raising global awareness of crimes committed by European totalitarian Nazi and Communist regimes by founding an annual “Black Ribbon Day” on August 23, to commemorate the legal partnership of these two regimes through the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its
BE IT RESOLVED THAT every victim of any totalitarian regime has the same human dignity and deserves justice, remembrance and recognition by the Parliament and the Government of Canada, in efforts to ensure that such crimes and events are never again repeated;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Parliament and the Government of Canada unequivocally condemn the crimes against humanity committed by totalitarian Nazi and Communist regimes and offer the victims of these crimes and their family members sympathy, understanding and recognition for their suffering;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Government of Canada establish an annual Canadian Day of Remembrance for the victims of Nazi and Soviet Communist crimes on August 23, called “Black Ribbon Day”, to coincide with the anniversary of the signing of the infamous pact between the Nazi and Soviet Communist regimes.
Central and Eastern European Community Churches Will Open Their Doors to Commemorate Black Ribbon Day on August 23, 2010 in Canada