LIVING SLOVAK
THE CHURCHES, CENTRES OF ACTIVITY
THE ORGANIZATIONS
WILL YOU SPEAK SLOVAK?
THE UNKNOWN ARTS
SOCIAL NEEDS
COMMUNICATIONS
IS IT TIME TO GO BACK?
IT'S ONLY POLITICS
YOU'VE GOT TO BE THERE
WHO WILL SPEAK FOR US?
REMEMBERING THE PAST
THE WIRED COMMUNITY
PROJECTS TO CONSIDER
SPORTS TIMES
A PLACE TO SHOW OUR STUFF
THE STRUGGLING ARTS
COME TOGETHER
WHAT YOU MUST DO
SLOVAK SOM, AJ SLOVAK BUDEM!

Slovaks in Canada
in the Year 2000

by John V. Stephens, Q.C.,
Honorary Consul, Slovak Republic


IT'S ONLY POLITICS

In this series, we have been discussing how a small community of 120,000 Slovaks can survive, retaining its language and culture among 27,000,000 people in Canada.

Because of our small number, our community suffers when we need help. We are fortunate to have Paul Szabo as a Liberal Member of Canada's Parliament and Peter Kormos as an NDP member of Ontario's Legislature, but in both instances they were elected not because of the Slovak vote in their areas, but because of other qualities they have. Their priorities understandably are in connection with things in their ridings.

Their electorate is not interested in their work in the Slovak community. Their supporters want them to spend their time in their matters if they want to be re-elected.

At one time, nominations for elections were limited to the English and the French, but every once in a while a person like Mike Starr, the Ukrainain from Oshawa, George Ben, the Slovak Toronto City alderman, Lincoln Alexander, the black who became Lt. Governor of Ontario, rise to the top. Interestingly, three of the four were Conservatives!

Starr, and my wife's uncle, Arthur Maloney, the famed Canadian criminal attorney, said I was making a mistake in supporting the Liberals when the Conservatives were of more help to the ethnic communities. I remember the Ukrainian wanting a high profile Liberal cabinet minister to speak at one of their functions in Toronto, and I was appalled to hear that he said if he wanted to speak to the Ukrainians he would speak to them in Winnipeg!

In recent times, the black, asian and Italian communities have grown immensely through immigration and they understand what political power means. They have made their way into federal and provincial politics where they have been able to do much for their people. (Doesn't that remark tell you about where Canada is heading!)

Political parties do not concern themselves with every issue; they can't. But they look very carefully at the numbers in trying to be re-elected. While they say they want ethnic candidates, they look for them only in areas where they will be elected, or where the party has no realistic hope of winning. In the case of our Slovak community, there is no riding where the Slovak vote alone would elect a candidate.

Today we read that Czechs no longer need visas to visit Canada, but Slovaks still do. This is a political decision, one that should rankle Canadians of Slovak descent. We should be protesting that decision. But do Liberals care when we can't affect the vote in any area?

As I write this, a group of young women wanting to visit Canada have been denied visas at the Canadian Embassy in Vienna. Why? It doesn't make sense. It is discrimination.

We have always believed Liberal governments were mindful of ethnic Canadians and encouraged their participation in the mainstream of Canadian life by adopting a policy of multiculturalism. How soon we forget that it was the Liberal government in 1968 that was prepared to write off the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia as a matter of no concern to Canadians.

How many remember that it was a group of Canadian Slovaks -- George Ben, Dr. Joseph Kirschbaum, John Puhky, John Dvorsky, Nick Belak, Bernard Kadnar and myself, among others, who flew to Ottawa to persuade the Liberals to change their minds and to permit Slovaks to come to Canada to flee the Russian invasion and with proper social assistance!

Today we need access to the Liberal government of Jean Chretien to help Slovakia. Now more than ever, to preserve our Slovak community in Canada in the future and to help our Slovakia, we need Slovaks to join Canadian political parties at the local level and to become influential in getting parties to adopt policies that will help our Slovak community in Canada and our Slovakia.

Other communities have learned that in Canada the squeaky wheel gets the grease. We must do the same.

Copyright of "Slovaks in Canada in the Year 2000" 1996 - John V. Stephens, Q.C.
All other contents & photographs 1997, Ondro Mihal.
All comments should be forwarded to
Ondro Mihal at omihal@slovak.com.
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Last update on
May 29, 1997.