Central and Eastern European Council in Canada

Media and Statements

Honouring the Legacy of Sergei Magnitsky 10 Years After His Tragic Death

November 16, 2019

The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada, representing the interests of over 4 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage, honors the brave legacy of Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian prison ten years ago, at the hands of Russian officials. 

In 2008, while working as a tax lawyer and advisor to Hermitage Capital Management, Sergei Magnitsky, uncovered a massive $230 million tax fraud committed by Russian officials. When he reported the crime to Russian authorities, Magnitsky was arrested and incarcerated in efforts to silence him. In prison, he was neglected, denied medical treatment and beaten, when he died in a Moscow prison in on November 16, 2009, leaving behind his eight year old son Nikita and wife Natalia.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the crime committed by Russian officials, which continues to grow to this day, the Putin regime tried and convicted just one person in connection to this crime, in absentia: Sergei Magnitsky.

Since Sergei Magnitsky’s death, Bill Browder, has campaigned to bring Sergei’s murderers to justice, by promoting legislation that allows western governments to hold regimes, like the one in Moscow, accountable for corruption and human rights abuse, by imposing individually targeted visa bans and asset freezes on those who engage in such practices.

Former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler helped promote and lead Canadian efforts. And in 2017, The Canadian government unanimously adopted Magnitsky legislation introduced by Senator Raynell Andreychuk and MP James Bezan with the support and coordination of Minister Chrystia Freeland. The Central and Eastern European Council was a lead supporter of this legislation, which has been characterized by leading Russian pro-democracy activists, Boris Nemtsov, Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kara-Murray as the most pro-Russian legislation that any western nation could adopt.

“The legislation named in honour of Sergei Magnitsky, is an incredibly innovative tool that will allow Canada to deter human rights abuse and corruption abroad by imposing smart sanctions that target individuals and not entire nations or states,” said CEEC President Marcus Kolga. “We know that Canada has become a place where some of the world’s most corrupt human rights abusers hide their assets, this legislation helps protect Canada against that, and will help deter further human rights abuses abroad.”

The CEEC encourages the Canadian government to further implement Canada’s Magnitsky Sanctions list and ensure its proper enforcement in the future, in order to maintain and grow its effectiveness as a leading tool in our human rights defence toolbox.

Boris Nemtsov, House of Commons, February 2012. Photo: Marcus Kolga
Boris Nemtsov, House of Commons, February 2012. Photo: Marcus Kolga

CEEC Calls on Mayor Tory and Toronto City Councillors to Overturn City Rejection of Application to Name a Park Street in Honour of Russian Human Rights Activist, Boris Nemtsov

October 9, 2019

TORONTO-  The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada, representing the interests of over 4 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage, is deeply concerned by the City of Toronto’s decision to reject an application to have a street inside a park in North Toronto, named in honor of assassinated Russian human rights and democracy activist and leader, Boris Nemtsov, and calls on Mayor John Tory and City Councillors to overturn the decision.

The application by the CEEC which was supported by the Raoul Wallenberg Center, was denied, according to city staff, due to negative feedback during a public consultation period in the summer and the risk of causing geopolitical issues.

Boris Nemtsov speaking in Ottawa inside the House of Commons, February 2012.

The yet unnamed street, inside Earl Bales Park, was chosen due to its proximity to the Russian community in Toronto. The proposal has received wide and diverse community support and has been supported by hundreds who signed a petition in support of the initiative.

Boris Nemtsov was a leading human rights and democracy activist in Russia. He was critical of the Putin regime’s corrupt, repressive oligarchy and Russia’s illegal invasion and annexation of Crimea. 

Since his assassination, Muscovites have placed flowers, pictures and other objects on the bridge to memorialize Nemtsov and his legacy of fighting for freedom and democracy for all Russian. Tragically, Russian authorities have rejected a permanent memorial to Nemtsov, in efforts to erase his legacy activism and sacrifice.

“Boris Nemtsov built bridges between Central and Eastern European nations and communities, as well as Canada and his legacy continues to be a beacon of hope for regional stability, cooperation and peace,” said CEEC President, Marcus Kolga. “It’s clear that the Russian Embassy and Consulate in Toronto would seek to undermine our street naming proposal by any means at their disposal, including the types of operations which are commonly associated with the Putin regime, all of which are intended to intimidate city officials into rejecting this very Canadian proposal, to honor a fallen international human rights hero.”

The CEEC was only notified about the City’s public consultation website for the proposal days before it closed. The survey itself was anonymous and open to meddling through the simple task of masking of IPs.

The CEEC calls on community members to write to their local councillors and the mayor to express their support for Boris Nemtsov Way in Earl Bales Park, and for the Mayor and Council to reconsider and overturn the decision to reject this important proposal. On October 9, 2019, Boris Nemtsov would have celebrated his 60th birthday.

For more information: ceecouncilcanada@gmail.com

Canadians of Central and Eastern European Heritage Remember The Victims of The Nazi-Soviet Pact 80 Years Later

TORONTO – Members of the Central and Eastern European communities today remember the millions of victims of Soviet and Nazi terror in Europe.

On August 23, 1939, Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin formally conspired to tear Europe in half when they signed a non-aggression pact and its secret protocols, whereby they agreed to divide Europe among them. Thus began the Second World War. The unprecedented scale of terror, bloodshed and violent repression that the Nazi-Soviet pact unleashed has forever scarred Europe and the millions of victims, many of whom escaped to Canada and still live here today.

In 2009, a resolution was adopted by the Parliament of Canada making August 23rd a National Day of Remembrance for the European victims of Nazism and communism, known as Black Ribbon Day.

“The families of millions of Canadians fled Soviet and Nazi terror in the 1940s and ‘50s, arriving in Canada as refugees,” said Central and Eastern European Council in Canada President, Marcus Kolga.  “The trauma that they endured at the hands of the Nazi and Soviet regimes continues to be passed along through generations and it is critically important that we never forget the terror inflicted on the millions of victims by these two authoritarian regimes, fascist and communist.”

A major international conference is being planned for September 12 at the University of Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre, where chess grandmaster, pro-democracy activist and Russian opposition leader, Garry Kasparov, will deliver the keynote address. A panel discussion about the legacy of the Nazi-Soviet Pact today, featuring international experts and political leaders, including former Canadian Justice Minister and international human rights advocate, Irwin Cotler, and former Liberal leader Bob Rae – who introduced the parliamentary motion to make Black Ribbon Day a national day of remeberence. Registration for the event can be completed here: https://nazi-sovietpact80.eventbrite.ca Doors will open for the event at 6pm.

It is of critical importance that Canada and the world remember this deadly pact between Hitler and Stalin which helped facilitate the start of the Second World War and left many millions of people under Soviet occupation for decades to come.  

The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada represents the interests of over 4 millions Canadians of CEE heritage.


GARRY KASPAROV KEYNOTE SPEAKER AT TORONTO EVENT TO COMMEMORATE 80TH ANNIVERSARY OF SIGNING OF NAZI-SOVIET PACT

TORONTO – Former chessmaster, pro-democracy activist and Russian opposition leader, Garry Kasparov, will deliver the keynote address at an event marking the 80th anniversary of the signing of the Nazi-Soviet pact, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which facilitated the start of WWII in August 1939.

The September 12 event will take place at the University of Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre, and will involve a panel discussion about the legacy of the Nazi-Soviet Pact today, featuring international experts and political leaders.

On August 23, 1939, Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin formally conspired to tear Europe in half when they signed a non-aggression pact and its secret protocols, whereby they agreed to divide Europe among them. Thus began the Second World War. The unprecedented scale of terror, bloodshed and violent repression that the Nazi-Soviet pact unleashed has forever scarred Europe and the millions of victims, many of whom escaped to Canada and still live here today.

In 2009, a resolution was adopted by the Parliament of Canada making August 23rd a National Day of Remembrance for the European victims of Nazism and communism.

The families of millions of Canadians fled Soviet and Nazi terror in the 1940s and ‘50s, arriving in Canada as refugees. The trauma that they endured at the hands of the Nazi and Soviet regimes is passed along through generations; it is critically important that we never forget the terror inflicted on the millions of victims by these two authoritarian regimes, fascist and communist.

The conference will highlight attempts to distort narratives about this history and will examine how malign foreign regimes, such as the current Russian government, use history as a tool to divide the transatlantic alliance and democracies worldwide – including here in Canada.

It is of critical importance that Canada and the world remember this deadly pact between Hitler and Stalin which helped facilitate the start of the Second World War and left many millions of people under Soviet occupation for decades to come.

Registration for the event can be completed here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/nazi-soviet-pact-80-tickets-66946658257

Glorification of Soviet Symbols of Occupation and Terror on Canadian Streets Must Be Condemned

May 9, 2019

TORONTO-  The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada, representing the interests of 4 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage, condemns the repeated, hateful, glorification of Soviet symbols of terror and occupation in Canadian cities in connection to the Russian government’s Victory Day marches and rallies.

While the CEEC is thankful to all allied nations in their efforts to defeat Nazism and liberate much of Europe in 1945, including Canada, we cannot forget that Eastern and Central Europe would continue to suffer horrific repression under illegal Soviet occupation for another 50 years.

Millions of refugees from Central and Eastern Europe fled Soviet terror in the immediate post-WWII era, and settled in Canada where they helped contribute to the building of this nation, with shared values of freedom, tolerance, and respect for the rule of law.

The annual glorification of Soviet symbols in Canadian cities, including the flags of the nations occupied and terrorized by the Soviet Union, is a hateful, taunting, reminder to the millions of Canadians whose families suffered and fled Soviet occupation and repression, must be condemned by all Canadians, including city officials. Such disturbing celebrations of violent imperialism and targeted repression, have no place in Canada.

In 2018, such celebrations were marred with physical violence, when according to reports filed with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Ottawa Police Service, a group of neo-Soviet demonstrators violently attacked a Canadian citizen for holding a Ukrainian flag at a Soviet Victory Day rally.

This year in Lisbon members of the Ukrainian community were attacked for standing alongside participants with placards informing the people of Portugal about the crimes of Stalin and Russia’s military aggression in the Donbas region of Ukraine. Such acts of anti-Ukrainian violence are unacceptable.

Founded by the Kremlin, these annual neo-Soviet rallies are believed to be financed from the Russian state budget. They seek to present Soviet totalitarianism in a positive light, whitewash the horrific crimes of Soviet-Communism and affirm the cult of Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union’s victory in WWII. Since the beginning of Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine in 2014, these neo-Soviet Victory Day rallies and marches have been used in efforts  to undermine the sovereignty of Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Georgia, Armenia and other nations once held captive by the Soviet Union.

The CEEC calls on all Canadians and Canadian politicians to condemn the hateful display of Soviet symbols and the un-Canadian glorification of Soviet occupation and tyranny over the free nations of Central and Eastern Europe.

Victory Day PDF

New Canadian Sanctions Strongly Supported by CEEC

TORONTO- The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada, strongly supports the decision by the Canadian government and Canada’s Department of Global Affairs to apply economic and travel sanctions against 114 individuals and 15 entities in response to Russia’s aggression in the Black Sea and the Kerch Strait, the illegal annexation of Crimea, and the war that Russia has been waging against Ukraine for over 5 years.

24 Ukrainian sailors were taken prisoner and have been in captivity for 100 days, since Russian naval forces seized three Ukrainian ships in November 2018. The Russian government continues to help wage an illegal war in Eastern Ukraine and it’s illegal occupation of Crimea remains.

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, said that: “Russia’s provocations in the Kerch Strait and its illegal invasion and ongoing occupation of Crimea will not go unchecked. Alongside our international partners, we call on Russia to immediately release the 24 detained Ukrainian servicemen and return the seized vessels. Russia must allow free and unhindered passage through the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov. Today’s sanctions demonstrate that Canada and the international community are ready to impose costs on Russia when it ignores international law and the rules-based international order.”

Sanctions were also imposed on advisors and members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, including the former head of Russian Railways, Vladimir Yakunin; CEO of the Kremlin controlled energy firm, Rosneft, Igor Sechin; billionaire Igor Rotenberg; and Viktor Zolotov, the head of The National Guard of Russia, a personal security force created to protect Vladimir Putin.

“The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada deeply appreciates the government’s  coordinated announcement about the application of targeted sanctions against those Russian government entities who are directly contributing to the Kremlin’s efforts to destabilize Ukraine and this region”, said CEEC President Marcus Kolga. “By joining the US and placing Viktor Yakunin and Igor Sechin on our sanctions list, Canada sends a strong message that it will not allow corrupt Russian kleptocrats to successfully use Canadian businesses or business groups to lobby on behalf of Kremlin aligned interests including keeping them off of sanctions lists.”

The Central and Eastern European Council represents the interests of 4 millions Canadians of Central and European heritage in Canada.

PDF VERSION HERE

Boris Nemtsov, House of Commons, February 2012. Photo: Marcus Kolga
Boris Nemtsov, House of Commons, February 2012. Photo: Marcus Kolga

Honouring Russian Human Rights and Opposition Leader, Boris Nemtsov, by Renaming Streets in Toronto and Ottawa

Toronto– The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada, representing the interests of nearly 4 million  Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage, calls on the Mayors of Toronto and Ottawa, and municipal councillors to rename streets after the late Russian pro-democracy opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov.

Boris Nemtsov visited Toronto and Ottawa in February 2012, to remind Canadians that an alternative free and democratic Russia was possible and that the Canadian government could help that cause by providing moral support for Russian pro-democracy activists.

His dedication and commitment to the principles of democracy and human rights, despite relentless efforts by the Putin regime to intimidate and repress him and his colleagues, inspired hope that one day, a peaceful Russia, free and democratic, would emerge as a reliable and trusted partner for Canada and other western nations.

Those hopes were dimmed to the faintest of flickers when Boris Nemtsov was violently assassinated just outside the walls of the Kremlin on February 27,  2015.

Boris Nemtsov followed in the tradition of other great Russian human rights advocates like Andrei Sakharov advocated fearlessly for change that would improve the lives of all Russians. Vladimir Kara-Murza, a close colleague and friend of Boris Nemtsov who has himself been poisoned twice, says that the action of renaming a street is a “symbolic but powerful way to show Putin his crimes will not be forgotten.”

Two international cities have already renamed streets in honour of Boris Nemtsov: Washington D.C. and Vilnius.

We call on the cities of Toronto and Ottawa to honour the cause of human rights and democracy by recognizing this great, fallen Russian hero who paid the ultimate price for his relentless advocacy for his people and cause.

Andris Ķesteris

President

Central and Eastern European Council

Latvian National Federation in Canada

Marcus Kolga

President

Estonian Central Council

Paul Grod

President

Ukrainian Canadian Congress

 

Joana Kuras

President Emeritus

Lithuanian-Canadian Community

Wladyslaw Lizon

President

Polish Canadian Congress

Sandor Balla

President

Hungarian Congress

 

 

Radmila Locher

President

Czech and Slovak Association in Toronto

Dr. Ruki Kondaj

Honorary President

Albanian Community in Canada

Milos Suchma

President

Czech and Slovak Association of Canada

 

 

PDF version of this statement

WALMART, AMAZON, E-BAY MUST END SALES OF ALL ITEMS THAT GLORIFY SOVIET REPRESSION AND TERROR

SEPTEMBER 10, 2018

Toronto– The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada, representing the interests of nearly 4 million  Canadians of Central and Eastern Euopean heritage, demands that Walmart, Amazon and eBay, immediately cease all sales of items on their online stores that glorify The Soviet Union, Soviet repression, Josef Stalin and the institutions used to carry out Soviet genocide in nations occupied by the Soviet regime, including but not limited to the KGB.

Tens of millions of people were killed by the Soviet and Soviet backed communist regimes, while many more millions were deported, arrested, and permanently displaced as refugees.

Large numbers  came to Canada to seek safety in the 1940’s and 50’s, where nearly 4 million live today.

Companies such as Walmart, Amazon and eBay, should be ashamed to promote, and profit from, shirts and other merchandise that glorifies the Soviet regime and the genocide and terror in which it engaged.

Soviet T-Shirts being sold on Walmart as of September 10, 2018

The Central and Eastern European Council calls on all Canadians to boycott these retailers until they cease sales of all items that feature Soviet symbols of repression and hate.

We urge all provincial and municipal governments to ban these symbols from being displayed in public parks and venues.

Members of the Central and Eastern European Council can brief the executive and management of these retailers about the dark importance of this history to help ensure their understanding and empathy towards the millions of victims of communist crimes.

Screenshot of Amazon.com page after searching “soviet KGB”

PDF STATEMENT HERE

Contact ceecouncilcanada@gmail.com

Andris Kesteris
President
Central and Eastern European Council
Latvian Federation in CanadaMarcus Kolga
President
Estonian Central CouncilPaul Grod
President
Ukrainian Congress in Canada
Joana Kuras
President
Lithuanian-Canadian CommunityWladyslaw Lizon
President
Polish Canadian CongressSandor Balla
President
Hungarian Congress
Radmilla Locker
President
Czech Community in CanadaDr. Ruki Kondaj
President
Albanian Community in CanadaMarie Fuchs
President
Czech and Slovak Association of Canada

CEEC and CIJA Call on Canadian Government to Add Magnitsky Sanctions to Upcoming G7 Agenda

2018-03-22 Minister Freeland_Magnitsky Law

OTTAWA, Ontario
March 21, 2018
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, PC, MP
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Freeland,

We are writing in response to reports that various parliamentarians are encouraging the Government of Canada to add the “Magnitsky Law” to the agenda of the upcoming G7 summit in Quebec, to encourage our allies who have not already done so to adopt similar legislation.

We strongly support this initiative, which comes in the wake of the unanimous passage of Canada’s own Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act. There is a clear Canadian consensus that foreign nationals who have not been held accountable in their home countries for gross human rights violations should not be allowed to travel or hold assets in Canada with impunity. The fact that this law has already been used to sanction dozens of perpetrators demonstrates that it is a practical tool in ensuring Canada’s foreign policy reflects the high value Canadians place on respect for human rights.

While Britain and the United States have similar laws, France, Germany, Italy and Japan have no such legal measures to hold foreign nationals accountable. We applaud your work in making this law a reality in Canada, and encourage you to raise this issue with your counterparts at the upcoming G7 summit. Legislation like the Magnitsky Law sends an extremely powerful message to repressive, totalitarian regimes around the world that they cannot violate human rights with impunity.

Thank you for your consideration, and for all that you do to represent Canadians and our collective values in the international community.

Sincerely,

Shimon Koffler Fogel
CEO, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA)
Andris Ķesteris
Central and Eastern European Council of Canada, Latvian National Federation in Canada
Dr. Ruki Kondaj
Albanian Canadian Community Association of Toronto
Radmila Locher
Czech and Slovak Association of Canada
Sandor Balla
Canadian Hungarian Heritage Council
Marcus Kolga
Estonian Central Council
Joana Kuras
Lithuanian-Canadian Community
Teresa Berezowski
Canadian Polish Congress
Paul Grod
Ukrainian Canadian Congress

CEEC THANKS CANADIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS FOR ADOPTING MAGNITSKY LEGISLATION UNANIMOUSLY

OCTOBER 17, 2017
OTTAWA-  The Central and Eastern European Council (CEEC), representing the interests of over 4 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage, applauds and congratulates the members of the House of Commons  and Senate in passing Bill S226 unanimously. The Sergei Magnitsky Law will be an important human rights tool for the Canadian government, allowing it to freeze the Canadian assets of global human rights abusers and banning their entry into this country.

The CEEC thanks Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Trudeau for supporting this important legislation and Senator Raynell Andreychuk and MP James Bezan for introducing the bill in the Senate and House.

This legislation represents the culmination of nearly 7 years of work and advocacy, which was led in Canada by investor and activist, Bill Browder, former Canadian Justice Minister, Irwin Cotler and VP of the CEEC, Marcus Kolga.

“It’s a great relief that this legislation has finally passed both The House of Commons and Senate,” said CEEC President, Andris Kesteris. “Activists like Boris Nemtsov, who was murdered in 2015, and Vladimir Kara-Murza, who has twice survived poisoning, frequently asked Canada to adopt this legislation. We hope that it can now be applied to help diminish the effects of international criminal activity and reduce the targeting of individuals who are simply struggling for democracy and freedom.”

The non-partisan nature and unanimous passage of this legislation, sends a strong message to nations where human rights abuses occur. Canadians are united. We will not tolerate the presence of those who inflict suffering on others and profit from their misdeeds.

Contact us info [at] ceecouncil.org!