NaziGate highlights Canadian ties to far-right Ukrainian nationalism, support for NATO and a long history of conflict with Russia. It should also shine a light on a foreign policy entangled with fascistic groups in many places. But politicians and media, as well as many on the left, have minimized the most salient points of NaziGate.
Jingoist politicians who stood for an individual lauded for killing Russians during the Second World War have (understandably) sought to portray the incident as an “error” by the speaker of Parliament or incompetence by the Liberal party. The media that initially described the standing ovations for former SS Waffen soldier Jaroslav Hunka as a touching moment have largely gone along for the ride. While rejecting the notion it was simply an error, leftists have largely ignored the role of war jingoism in NaziGate. Few have commented on Justin Trudeau apologizing to nearly everyone harmed by the Nazis except the over 10 million Russians killed.
Concurrent with the glaring omission, leftists have made the fascist threat principally about the danger to Canadians. Many have posted about how Canada opened its door to far-right Ukrainians to undermine the once large Ukrainian Canadian left and to break strikes. This is, of course, important history as it highlights Canadian politicians and capitalists’ fascistic tendencies.
But Hunka’s admission to Canada was primarily linked to the west’s bid to weaken the Soviet Union. At the time senior Foreign Affairs staffer Robert Mackay wrote that “Ukrainian nationalism was deserving of support … to break up the Soviet Union into a large number of successor states.” In referring to the establishment of the CBC’s International Service Ukraine’s section in 1952 Mackay wrote that “Canada’s large Ukrainian community would provide good propaganda material.”
The individual “Who Brought Hitler’s Waffen SS to Canada”, Bohdan Panchuk, subsequently headed CBC International Service’s Ukraine section. In the inaugural episode Ukrainian Canadian MP Mike Starr told Soviet citizens in Ukraine not to “lose courage” because “the free world has not forgotten you…. Canadian Ukrainians deplore that you our brother Ukrainians in Ukraine, do not have the right to a full political, national and personal life such as we enjoy in Canada …. The time will come when the spirit of freedom penetrates the Iron Curtain of oppression, the prison of nations crumbles and the regime of terror disintegrates under the blows of victorious forces of freedom and democracy.”
As Canada was bringing in Ukrainian Nazis and beaming nationalist propaganda into Ukraine the CIA was mobilizing far right Ukrainians to carry out acts of sabotage. Mackay linked CBC’s International Service to the CIA-backed dirty war in western Ukraine, writing of the need to “appeal to those Soviet minorities … above all the Ukrainians, who were already conducting underground resistance to Muscovite Russian rule.”
A similar dynamic has been at play in recent years. Since independence Canada has spent heavily supporting anti-Russian forces in Ukraine, including directly bolstering far right groups. During the Maidan protests that toppled elected president Viktor Yanukovich in 2014 the Canadian Embassy was used as a base by the far right C14. Subsequently, the Canadian military was repeatedly caught training the neo-Nazi Azov Regiment, which was fighting Russian-aligned forces in the Donbass.
Canadian foreign policy’s alliance with the far right is not unique to Ukraine, as I detailed two years ago in “Ottawa supports fascistic groups”. From Haiti to Venezuela, Hong Kong to Israel, it’s almost a principle of Canadian foreign policy to support fascistic, far right, groups.
During the NATO bombing of Libya in 2011 Canadian airmen joked, reported the Ottawa Citizen, that they were “al-Qaida’s air force”. A year before the fighting, a Canadian intelligence report described eastern Libya as an “epicentre of Islamist extremism” and said “several Islamist insurgent groups” were based in the anti-government stronghold.
A fascism at home versus abroad dynamic is highlighted by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and her family. Aligned with Nazi/nationalist/anti-socialist forces in Ukraine, Freeland and her mother are liberals/social democrats. As Jeremy Appel noted in a footnote,
Freeland’s mother, Halyna Chomiak, was a respected feminist and social democratic activist who founded the left-wing Common Woman Bookstore in Edmonton, but like Chrystia Freeland and Michael Chomiak [Nazi propagandist grandpa], was a staunch Ukrainian nationalist. Halyna Chomiak helped write the 1991 Ukrainian Constitution, which, in addition to outlining typical liberal democratic rights and protections, calls on the state ‘to preserve the gene pool of the Ukrainian people.’
In Freeland’s domestic policy there’s little to suggest she is a fascist. But the same can’t be said for her international policy.
There’s something about liberal social democrats that allows them to appear to oppose fascism at home but blinds them to the use of fascists abroad to achieve the aims of Canada’s pro-US Empire, corporate foreign policy.
The term “blowback” comes to mind. It’s not a question of if, but when.