FREELAND NOT A VICTIM
Can anyone just imagine the reaction at home, if the headline south of the border in the Washington Post was “Russia should stop calling my grandfather a Nazi, says Canada’s foreign minister,” and that the Minister was a member of the previous Harper conservative government?
There would be riots in the streets and demands of a letter of resignation from cabinet by the opposition by day’s end, if it went that long. Canadian media would have been vociferous in its coverage and asked all kinds of penetrating questions. If you missed the story, and given the lukewarm coverage might well have an excuse, shortly after our Global Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland, announced a two year extension to the Canadian Forces training mission in the Ukraine, she started to take questions about her long-passed grandfather. Freeland’s granddad, Mikhailo Chomiak, was editor of Ukrainian-language, Krakivs’ki Visti newspaper during the Second World War, and worked for the German Propaganda Ministry under the Nazis. The newspaper was pro-Ukrainian nationalist, pro-Nazi, heavily anti-Russian and very anti-Semitic. It was so trusted by the Nazi-Propaganda Ministry of Dr. Josef Goebbels that it was even allowed a degree of editorial license by the German occupation administration that was unheard of at the time. At wars end, Chomiak and his family were evacuated to Germany and surrendered to the Western allies where a great deal of important other collaborators were left behind.
To be fair, there is evidence that Freeland’s grandfather Chomiak helped to resist Nazi editorial policy, that he was a very independent Ukrainian nationalist, and some evidence that he was a figurehead as editor. There is a great peer-reviewed journal article about the history of Krakivski Visti and of Chomiak himself for that matter, based on Chomiak’s own papers and written by a family member and noted historian John Paul Himka, in the Harvard Journal of Ukrainian Studies entitled, “Krakivski visti and the Jews, 1943: A Contribution to the History of Ukrainian-Jewish Relations during the Second World War.” So Canadians can judge to what degree he was complicit in crimes against humanity in the East by holding a senior post in the Nazi administration of Poland and vast tracks of territory in the Ukraine. The journal article was published in 1996 so the matter of Chomiak and of Krakivski Visti was no secret.
I am certain that the Minister loved her grandparents as we all do and celebrated and massaged their successes rather than their failures in life. We tend to overlook the painful aspects of the ones that we love. Minister Freeland’s defense of herself and her family has been that this is a Russian disinformation campaign targeting her as Global Affairs Minister and therefore it is wrong, and she is the victim. She is right in one regard, she is the target of a Russian information warfare campaign and that the Russians are now in a process they call establishing reflexive control over an opponent. It is very hard to argue that it is a disinformation operation, because what is being alleged is true, in that her grandfather held a senior role in the propaganda arm of the Nazi administration of the occupied East in Poland and Ukraine. The Minister and the Trudeau government must start to realize though that the Minister is a target, and not a victim. If anyone has victimized Minister Freeland it is the way that she has glossed over her family’s history. It makes you wonder who, if anyone is vetting people in the Prime Minister’s Office, after previous Minister of Democratic Institutions, Maryam Monsef, claimed to be from Afghanistan, when in fact, she was born in Iran. Perhaps it just does not matter to the Trudeau government, and now appears to be an ironic pattern of behavior? Minister Freeland and the government are trying to portray themselves as both victims, and as standing up to Russia, with the press saying relations are even, more- frosty with Putin and his regime. Really, are relations more-frosty now under Trudeau than relations between the previous Harper government and Russia? Give your wooly Liberal heads a shake. These are self-inflicted wounds on the government, in the case of Freeland, one with potentially far reaching consequences.
The fact of the matter is this, Minister Freeland’s appointment of Global Affairs Minister has just handed Vladimir Putin and the Russian government a strategic victory on the propaganda front of the war in Eastern Ukraine, parts of Poland, and the Baltic States, where sizeable Russian minorities remember well the brutality of the Nazi administration. The Russian minorities still live in fear and have memories of SS units, recruits and some members of 14th Galician SS Volunteer Division notorious for their brutality during the war against partisans, and the Russians milk this for every ounce of propaganda value to demonize the current, legitimate Ukrainian government. The Russian levy the fact that the Galician SS is still celebrated in parts of the Ukraine and Poland as a unit of Ukrainian nationalist who fought the Soviet menace. In an area where Jews are buried in mass graves, the 14 Galician SS division is remembered by a beautiful monument and perfectly manicured cemetery. The Russians in the Ukrainian Civil War have raised the issue of fascism, pro-Nazi-Collaborator past, and anti-Semitism repeatedly in information warfare operations and as part of a disinformation campaign in the region to convince those trapped behind Russian and their Ukrainian-Russian militia lines that they need to stand up and fight the oppressors.
Now the Russians can point at Canadian Forces troops training the Ukrainian military to resist Russian invasion, and say that their Foreign Minister comes from a rabidly prominent Ukrainian nationalist family at best, or notorious family from the Nazi administration of the area at worst, and that the Canadian military is there as part of a great conspiracy to oppress them. The Russians can do it because they have a degree of truth on their side. Keeping in mind that it is an information warfare operation here in Canada, it is a disinformation campaign in the Ukraine. They can do it because Minister Freeland, and the Trudeau government, made themselves and our interests in Central Europe vulnerable and by extension our allies. While you cannot blame the granddaughter for the sins of a long-passed grandfather, you can question her fitness as Global Affairs Minister to represent Canada’s interests abroad given the way they are represented and massaged to the public.
There is one missing element to this story that we can all admire right now as Canadians having just come through a debate about Islamophobia and hate. There are six million victims that deserve to be honored, and heard, and Minister Freeland is not among them. My admiration goes out to the silence, and restraint, from Canada’s Jewish community, on Editor Mikhailo Chomiak, Krakivski Visti, and his part in the Holocaust and inspiring others to mass murder, as the silence of Jewish Canadians is thunderous and deafening.