Marcus Kolga, President, Estonian Central Council in Canada
As the Republic of Estonia approaches its 100th anniversary of independence we can celebrate our nation’s many accomplishments and its emergence as a leader among European nations. Despite the many geopolitical uncertainties that have emerged over the past few years, Estonia’s future and that of our community in Canada remain bright.
Estonia’s pioneering advancements in the areas of IT and cyber security continue to be admired around the world and respect for Estonia’s method of e-governance and transparency continue to grow around the world.
While certain NATO member states have been criticized for not contributing the prescribed 2% of GDP to defence, Estonia remains among only a handful of members to do so.
In Canada, our community continues to be a leader among other European communities and EKN has become a well respected voice on regional security and human rights issues, participating in high level defense discussions and leading the charge to sanction Russian human rights violators.
However, uncertainty about Baltic Sea region security and issues in our Canadian community present some challenges in the coming year.
Instability in the United States executive and questions about its foreign policy towards Russia and the Baltic States present concerns about the regional security. Canada can help by taking up leadership in NATO and on regional issues by standing up for collective defense and reiterating Canada’s commitment to NATO’s Article 5, which states that an attack on one state will be considered an attack on all members.
We can ask our members of Parliament to stand up for democracy, freedom and human rights in those countries where those values are rejected and repressed - states like Russia, Belarus and others. We can do that by adopting Magnitsky human rights legislation, which would ban international human rights abusers from traveling to Canada and hiding their money and assets in our country. Estonia became a global leader by being the first nation in the world to adopt this global law in December 2016. Canada must do the same. By helping fight for these values abroad, we strengthen them at home as well.
Our community must also be alert to attempts of manipulation through sinister disinformation. We cannot allow the agents of hate and division to turn us against each other. We must not allow ourselves to become a community divided based on petty partisanship as we have seen in the United States and other nations that are under attack by Kremlin propaganda and spin. It is in the interests of fiercely undemocratic and repressive regimes, like those in Russia, Iran, China, to erode our confidence in our governments, democracy and in each other.
Our community will only survive if we work together cooperatively with mutual respect to achieve and advance our common goals and values. Our leading organizations must respect and listen to the voices of all community stakeholders. Neither the volunteers or the participants who maintain our community’s vibrancy and keep it alive, should ever be ignored or marginalized. By doing so, we risk falling apart as we did in the 1960’s.
Let us not forget, that it is because of the mothers and fathers who drive their children to Estonian schools, Guides and Scouts, once a week, that our community has future in Canada.
It is because of the tireless volunteers who, after long work days, develop Estonian cultural and language activities for our community at camps, schools, archives, choir and folk dance practices, that we remain a community, active and connected.
As we approach the 100th anniversary of Estonian independence, we should reflect on our community’s achievements and thank all of those who have gifted us our Estonian heritage here in Canada and those who continue to grow it.
Respect and Cooperation in a Time of Uncertainty Estonian Life (15)