Notes on BALTIC FEDERATION IN CANADA
and on the “BALTIC EVENINGS ON HILL”.
Shortly after the end of Second World War, relatively large numbers of the displaced (due to the war action) persons from the Baltic countries - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - immigrated to and established their new homes in Canada. As the newcomers from the Baltics had settled in their newly found homeland, they soon established numerous social, cultural and political organizations, with the aim of preserving their cultural identity abroad, and to give moral support to their brothers and sisters back home, under the Soviet occupation. As well, each of the three Canadian Baltic communities (even though spread out between the various cities here) also established central coordinating organizations, which in turn were joined for certain joint activities by the three communities, through the BALTIC FEDERATION IN CANADA / BFC – ref. http://balticfederation.ca/ ; for notes on the founding and governance of the BFC, please refer to the website of: http://www.balticfederation.ca/docs/notes.pdf .
So, the BFC is an umbrella organization for the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian communities’ central organizations in Canada. One of the key roles for the federation has been from its inception (early 1950s) - and still is, the development of effective social and political links between the three Canadian-Baltic communities and the multicultural Canada as a whole. When the homelands of Baltic peoples were occupied by the Soviet Union, the task of BFC included to keep Canada – through its Ministers of Crown and senior government officials – more fully informed of the real political and social conditions that existed (as distinct from the information provided by Soviets to the world) in the three Baltic countries. After the regaining of independence by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 1991, the role of the Baltic Federation in Canada has changed – it now provides assistance in the development of cultural and business relations between the three Baltic countries and Canada.
An important vehicle for the BFC in developing and maintaining an effective dialogue with the rest of Canada has been the “Baltic Evenings on the Hill”, held annually (during the past three decades, only a few years have been missed) in the Parliament Buildings, in Ottawa. These gala-evenings have been organized and are jointly funded by the three Baltic communities in Canada. In order to get a glimpse of these events, let’s look briefly at the 26th Baltic Evening, held on May 28, 2003 in the West Wing of the Parliament Building. The program for the evening was arranged to share information on opportunities for extended trade and tourism activities between Canada and the three Baltic countries (ref. the Program-sheet for the evening). It should be noted that the keynote speech at the gala evening-event was given by the Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, who had just returned from an extended visit to the Baltics, during which he had visited and spoken at each parliament of the three Baltic states. In attendance at that gala evening in Ottawa were some 100 members of Canadian Parliament, senior government officials and members from the Diplomatic Core, plus some 75 members of the Baltic diaspora in Canada.
Earlier the same day, the gala evening was preceded by the first “Baltic Business Roundtable” in Canada, with program designed to examine in some depth the business, trade and tourism opportunities between Canada and the three Baltic states. An overview of the Roundtable discussion topics and of those who spearheaded the various discussions can be seen from its agenda: Agenda . The Roundtable was attended by 50 people – about two thirds from the Baltic diaspora in Canada, two from Tallinn, Estonia and the balance by various officials from Government of Canada, from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The other major annual event organized by the BFC has been - and still is - an Ecumenical Commemoration Service, held in mid-June every year in memory of some 100,000 deportees. On June 14, 1941 throughout Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania innocent people, with families, were arrested by the Soviets, put into cattle-cars, deported to various gulags (Stalin’s prison camps) in Siberia and placed in forced labor. Many perished in the gulags; relatively few survived and were eventually allowed to return home after doing years, even decades of slave labor in the gulags.
Last updated: 25-0-1-2014
John (Johannes) Pahapill