A political history of the Ukrainian community in Manitoba, 1899-1922

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Melnycky, Peter J.
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The first and largest influx of Ukrainian immigrants to Manitoba came between 1896 and 1914. Having left oppressive conditions in Eastern Europe, they desired equality with other Canadian citizens, but initially their political participation was neither welcomed nor encouraged. In 1899 the Conservative opposition in Manitoba came to power by characterizlng them as a political threat to the the province's British heritage and character. For four years, the new government invoked legislation designed to deny Ukrainians and other Eastern Europeans the vote. By 1901, however, this attitude changed to a manipulative paternalism as both Liberals and Conservatives sought to win votes through the work of various political agents. The Conservatives in particular established a political machine which conceded Ukrainians and others the right to benefit from the bilingual educational clause of the 1896 Laurier-Greenway agreement. By 1910, the Liberal party headed a reform coalition in opposition to the Conservative government. Coming to power in 1915, during a period of intense wartime patriotism, it repealed legislation providing bilingual education. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian community in the province was fragmented into rival factions, including conservative Catholics, liberal nationalists and radical socialists, as well as being subjected to various "colonizing" efforts by French Catholics and British Protestant clergy. Restrictive legislation and social hostility necessitated an initial political participation by Ukrainians which was turbulent and defensive in nature. Political participation and representation was first achieved at the local municipal level, and later in 1915, provincially, with the first Ukrainian Canadian being elected to the legislature. The effect of wartime nativism and Liberal intolerance was to move the Ukrainians towards greater commnunity-oriented political activity, independent of the previous manipulation by party interests. By 1922, the Ukrainians had achieved a permanent legislative presence, a development which was welcomed in the community as a step towards a more equitable political participation.