Association of United Ukrainian Canadians

Association of United Ukrainian Canadians (Товариство об’єднаних українських канадців; Tovarystvo obiednanykh ukrainskykh kanadtsiv or ТОУК; AUUC). Pro-Communist organization of Ukrainians in Canada, incorporated in 1946 to replace the Association of Canadian Ukrainians (est 1942). The AUUC traces its origins to 1918 and the founding of the Ukrainian Labour Temple Association (ULTA) in Winnipeg and the Ukrainian Labour-Farmer Temple Association (ULFTA) that received its Dominion Charter as a national association in 1924. The ULFTA was banned in 1940 by the Canadian federal government along with the Communist Party of Canada and affiliated organizations. Most of the leadership was interned in internment camps and their buildings and property were confiscated by the federal government. After the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany in June, 1941, former ULFTA members organized the Ukrainian Society for Aid to the Motherland (USAM) and the name was changed to the Association of Canadian Ukrainians (ACU) in 1942. The ban on the ULFTA was lifted by the federal government in 1943. The ULFTA was legalized and their buildings and property were returned. The struggle against Nazi Germany on the European eastern front generated sympathy and support for the Soviet war effort and membership in the pro-Communist organizations increased including in the ACU. After June, 1941, members who belonged to the Workers’ Benevolent Association (WBA), ACU, and ULFTA and sympathisers contributed to the Aid to Russia Fund, purchased Victory bonds, and enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces. Activists from these organizations were able to incorporate the new organization, Association of United Ukrainian Canadians in 1946 essentially a continuation of the ULFTA. After the war, delegates from the AUUC brought humanitarian aid to war orphans and sought to strengthen contacts with Soviet Ukraine. The leadership of the AUUC maintained a close connection with the Labour Progressive Party of Canada (LPP), the front organization for the illegal Communist Party of Canada. The AUUC and affiliated organizations continued to represent and promote the political left-wing movement within the Ukrainian Canadian community. For these and other reasons, the members and activities of the AUUC remained under constant surveillance by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The arrival of the displaced persons after the Second World War, many of whom were militant nationalists and anti-communists, revived the political rivalry with the Ukrainian nationalist organizations in Canada. During this period, almost all of the AUUC new members came from Canadian-born Ukrainians. By the 1950s, the AUUC had branches in most rural and urban Ukrainian communities across Canada and the national headquarters were in Toronto. These AUUC branches included women, junior and English-speaking branches. Plans and activities were initiated and monitored at the National Conventions held every two years. A national executive was elected at that time and formed the national executive committee (NEC). Provincial conventions were held and provincial executives were elected and in most provinces, district and local committees were also elected.

But the onset of the Cold War in the late 1940s, the continued surveillance by the RCMP, the increased socioeconomic integration, an aging leadership, and the arrival of larger numbers of Ukrainian displaced persons, significantly impacted the levels of membership and activities of the AUUC over the next decades. The preservation and promotion of Ukrainian cultural heritage in Canada continued to be a central objective and the AUUC undertook various language and cultural projects for this purpose. These activities were mainly in the area of Ukrainian folk song, dance, and performing arts and were conducted in the halls and, in some cases, at the AUUC summer camps. From the 1950s, folk dance instructors and performers were invited from Soviet Ukraine to conduct seminars and workshops and participate in cultural events and regional, national and multicultural festivals across Canada. In other cases, students were sent to Soviet Ukraine to learn and improve their language and artistic skills and also for their political education. Tour groups to Soviet Ukraine were promoted from the 1960s to encourage closer contacts and familiarize Ukrainian Canadians with the history and culture of Soviet Ukraine. The AUUC leadership regularly visited Soviet Ukraine to attend anniversaries, conferences, and meetings and they participated in political, academic, literary and cultural events. These visits to Soviet Ukraine made some Ukrainian Canadians aware of the Soviet policy of Russification that resulted in complaints to the AUUC leadership. A delegation from the AUUC/CPC was sent to Soviet Ukraine in 1967 to investigate these complaints. However, the delegation report confirming the complaints was withdrawn by the CPC at the insistence of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).

From the earliest years, the language of communication was Ukrainian, however, many branches especially those in western Canada began to conduct their activities in English and for this purpose, English-speaking branches were created. The NEC of the AUUC communicated with the membership through correspondence, the NEC circulars and the larger Ukrainian Canadian community through the Ukrainian-language newspapers Ukraïns’ke zhyttia (Winnipeg), Ukraïns’ke slovo (Winnipeg) and the English-language periodical The Ukrainian Canadian, established in 1947. In 1965, the two Ukrainian-language newspapers merged to form Zhyttia i slovo (Toronto) and the English-language The Ukrainian Canadian became a monthly journal in 1968. Both publications were succeeded by the bilingual newspaper, Ukraïnskyi kanads’kyi visnyk/Ukrainian Canadian Herald in 1991 until it ceased publication in the spring of 2020.

There were a number of organizations and enterprises associated with the AUUC including the Workers’ Benevolent Association (WBA), Ukrainska Knyha, and Globe Tours. In 1985, members of the AUUC founded the Canadian Society for Ukrainian Labour Research (CSULR) to promote scholarly research on Ukrainian labour history in Canada. A number of publications were published in Ukrainian and in English in succeeding years on the history of the AUUC, the early pioneers and leaders, their press, and cultural activities. The AUUC worked closely with other national and international organizations that pursued similar political objectives and activities such as the Canadian Peace Congress, Congress of Canadian Women, Canada-USSR Friendship Association, and the World Federation of Democratic Youth. Members were also active in the peace, anti-nuclear and anti-Vietnam War movements and participated in protests and demonstrations. During federal and provincial elections, members were encouraged to support LPP/CPC candidates. The AUUC continued to maintain close contacts with the Ukraina Society and Soviet Ukraine. The AUUC received as gifts from Soviet Ukraine, the monuments to the national poet, Taras Shevchenko at Camp Palermo in 1951; to the prose writer, Vasyl Stefanyk at the Ukrainian Pioneer Village near Edmonton, in 1974; and to the poet, Lesia Ukrainka, at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon in 1976. The Taras H. Shevchenko Museum in Toronto was founded by the AUUC.

The AUUC provided humanitarian assistance to the casualties from the Chornobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 and aid to children recovering in Cuba. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990–91 generated political discussions that significantly influenced the political orientation, levels of membership, and activities of the AUUC and affiliated organizations. The AUUC officially supported the establishment of an independent and democratic Ukraine in 1991. This political event concluded the political rivalry with the Ukrainian Canadian nationalist organizations that has been one of the main themes in Ukrainian Canadian historiography. After 1991, the AUUC re-evaluated their social and cultural history and relationship with the larger Ukrainian Canadian community and planned future directions. There are AUUC branches in larger urban centres: Vancouver, Richmond, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Toronto, and others. The AUUC branches maintain their original objective of preserving and promoting Ukrainian culture in Canada and members continue to be involved in various cultural activities including dance groups, string orchestras, and choirs and the organization of events and festivals that mark their history in Canada. The national headquarters of the AUUC are located in the Ukrainian Labour Temple in Winnipeg, which is now a national, provincial, and municipal historic site. In 2018, the AUUC celebrated their 100th anniversary as a Ukrainian Canadian cultural and political organization. The association’s most active members included A. Bilecki, John Boychuk, John Boyd, W. Harasym, Mykola Hrynchyshyn, Peter Krawchuk, G. Moskal, John Navis (Ivan Navizivsky), Z. Nykolyshyn, Mary Prokop, Peter Prokop (Petro Prokopchak), Mitch Sago, Matthew Shatulsky, Mary Skrypnyk, and John Weir.

Kolasky, John. The Shattered Illusion: The History of Ukrainian Pro-Communist Organizations in Canada (Toronto 1979)
Krawchuk, Peter. Our History: The Ukrainian Labour-Farmer Movement in Canada, 1907–1991 (Toronto 1996)

Myron Momryk

[This article was updated in 2022.]

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