Central and Eastern European Council in Canada

Media and Statements

Canadians of Central and Eastern European Heritage Stand With the People of Belarus on Freedom Day

March 25, 2021

TORONTO – The CEE Council in Canada, representing the interests of 4.5 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European Heritage stands with the people of Belarus on the nation’s March 25 Freedom Day, and urges Canada to expand Magnitsky sanctions against the illegitimate and repressive regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

The people of Belarus and Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage have been calling for fair elections, freedom and human rights for the past eight months where thousands of Belarusians have been violently arrested, beaten and detained. We call on the Canadian government to monitor upcoming protests and to hold regime officials who engage in human rights abuses to account.

The CEEC thanks the Government of Canada for pledging $2.25 million to support the development of Belarusian civil society organizations and independent media, earlier this year.

The CEEC calls on the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs Canada, to work with the U.S. and other international partners to facilitate a mediation and negotiation process led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations. 

According to The Belarusian Canadian Alliance and Belarusian opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, 32,000 Belarusians have been detained, 2,500 criminal cases have been initiated, 1,000 cases of torture have been documented by human rights NGOs, and 290 people are currently being held as political prisoners. At least eight protesters have been killed, and no government officials have been held accountable for the violence.

For more information ceecouncilincanada@gmail.com

CEEC Condemns the Arrest of Vladimir Kara-Murza and Russian Activists in Moscow

March 14, 2021

TORONTO – The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada, representing the interests of 4.5 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage, condemns the arrest of Russian pro-democracy and human rights activist Vladimir Kara-Murza and over 200 of his colleagues in Moscow today.

Vladimir Kara-Murza has twice been targeted for assassination by the FSB for his activism. A recent report by Bellingcat exposed the Russian government’s involvement through the same FSB assassination team, that poisoned Alexey Navalny in August 2020. Vladimir Kara-Murza has testified in Canada’s Parliament about the human rights situation in Russia on numerous occasions and screened his documentary film about his colleague and friend, assassinated Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

The government of Canada must reverse its failure to join our allies in applying Magnitsky sanctions on Russian officials responsible for the poisoning of Navalny. By failing to apply sanctions, Canada implicitly enables human rights abuse and political repression by regimes like that of Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin’s actions are not limited to the repression of Russian activists. The Globe and Mail reported that Putin associate and oligarch, Yevgeni Prigozhin has used his Internet Research Agency – the same group responsible for interference in the 2016 US Presidential elections-  to target issues of Canadian national interest. Prigozhin is on the UK, US, EU sanctions lists and the FBI most wanted list, but not on Canada’s sanction list. Russian state media and Putin aligned oligarchs and proxies have actively sought to discredit and intimidate critics of the Kremlin in Canada over the past years.

The CEEC reiterates its calls on the Canadian government to join our allies to place Magnitsky sanctions on members of the Putin regime who are responsible for the poisoning of Russian anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny in August 2020, his incarceration on January 18, 2021 and the detention and poisoning of Vladimir Kara-Murza.

“Canada is a nation that believes in the need to defend global human rights, which is why we led among our allies in adopting the Sergei Magnitsky Law in 2017,” said CEEC President Marcus Kolga. “By failing to use it to protect activists like Vladimir Kara-Murza and Alexey Navalny, we fail them, our allies and our sacred commitment to defending human rights.”

For more information: ceecouncilincanada@gmail.com

Arena Riga. Photo: IIHF
Arena Riga. Photo: IIHF

Central and Eastern European Council in Canada Supports IIHF Decision to Move World Hockey Championships from Belarus

TORONTO – The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada, representing the interests of 4.5 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage, supports the IIHF’s decision to move the 2021 World Hockey Championship tournament away from Belarus.

The CEEC condemns the ongoing violent crackdown on peaceful protestors in Belarus and the mass electoral fraud committed by the Lukashenka regime in August 2020. 

Over the past 6 months, thousands of brave Belarusian protestors have been detained, many viciously beaten, tortured and even killed. 

Regimes that engage in widespread human rights abuses should never be legitimized or their behavior normalized by being allowed to host important international sporting events like the IIHF world championships. 

“As a nation that supports international human rights and holds the sport of hockey as an important part of our national identity, the 4.5 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage applaud the IIHF and Hockey Canada, for putting human rights first,” said CEEC President Marcus Kolga.

The CEEC urges the Government of Canada to: 

  • Continue calling out and hold the Lukashenka regime to account for its mass repression of protestors, opposition leaders and media;
  • Work with our allies to apply coordinated Magnitsky sanctions against corrupt Belarusian officials who have abused the rights of their people beginning with Lidia Yarmoshyna, the head of Belarus’ Central Election Commission;
  • Work with our allies to support Belarusians and civil society groups who seek change, freedom and democracy for their people.
Protests in Russia, January 23, 2021.
Protests in Russia, January 23, 2021.

CEEC Condemns Kremlin’s Violent Crackdown on Peaceful Protestors in Russia

TORONTO – The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada, representing the interests of 4.5 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage, strongly condemns the violent widespread crackdown on peaceful protests in Russia, during which thousands of protestors have been detained.

The CEEC welcomes the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marc Garneau’s condemnation of Alexey Navalny’s arrest and the expression of concern published by Global Affairs Canada about the safety of Russian protestors, however, Canada must start taking concrete action to defend global human rights and hold the abusers to account.

The nearly 200,000 Russian people who bravely took to streets across Russia, despite freezing temperatures, and the threat of arrest and violence, deserve a free, democratically elected government and an end to the corrupt Putin regime. 

The CEEC calls on the Canadian government to coordinate sanctions against members of the Putin regime who are responsible for the poisoning of Russian anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny in August 2020, and his incarceration on January 18, 2021. 

We encourage the Canadian government to help lead the creation of a coalition of liberal western democracies along with our allies and the Biden administration to support those who courageously advocate for human rights and hold to account those who violate  human  rights.

“The Canadian government adopted the Sergei Magnitsky Law in 2018, which allows us to hold officials who engage in human rights abuse and corruption to account by placing sanctions on them,” said CEEC president Marcus Kolga. “This includes the corrupt oligarchs supporting the Putin regime,  that Alexey Navalny has asked Western leaders to include on their Magnitsky sanctions lists.

CEEC Thanks The Canadian Government for Supporting Belarusian Civil Society

September 24, 2020 

TORONTO – The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada, representing the interests of 4.5 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage, would like to thank the Government of Canada and Ministers Champagne and Gould for their commitment to support Belarusian civil society and independent media with $600,000 in funding.

The CEEC applauds Minister Champagne’s strong statement condemning the illegitimate inauguration of Aleksander Lukashenka, who proclaimed himself President of Belarus after a fraudulent election in August and has engaged in six weeks of brutal violence against peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators. 

The CEEC reiterates its call for the Lukashenka regime to step aside after 26 years and finally give the Belarusian people the opportunity to grow and prosper in a democratic society free of repression, corruption and fear.

Thousands of brace Belarusian protestors have been detained, many viciously beaten and at least one protester has been killed. Riot police using water cannons, rubber bullets and stun grenades have been used to suppress protestors in at least a dozen Belarusian cities.

“The Central and Eastern European communities in Canada stand with all Belarusian Canadians and the people of Belarus in their struggle for freedom and democracy,” said CEEC President, Marcus Kolga. “We are thankful that Canada is working with our allies to hold Lukashenka and his officials to account for their abuse of human rights, and hope that sanctions will soon be applied to the regime and those carrying out violent repression on its behalf.”

Central and Eastern European Communities in Canada Condemn Violent Crackdown in Belarus

TORONTO – The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada, representing the interests of 4.5 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage, strongly condemns the violent crackdown on peaceful protestors in Belarus and the mass electoral fraud committed by the Lukashenka regime.

The CEEC calls on the Lukashenka regime to step aside after 26 years and finally give the Belarusian people the opportunity to grow and prosper in a democratic society free of repression, corruption and fear.

Thousands of brave Belarusian protestors have been detained, many viciously beaten and at least one protester has been killed. Riot police using water cannons, rubber bullets and stun grenades have been deployed to suppress protestors in at least a dozen Belarusian cities.

“The Central and Eastern European communities in Canada stand with all Belarusian Canadians and the people of Belarus in their struggle for freedom and democracy,” said CEEC President, Marcus Kolga. “Canada must work with our allies to hold Lukashenka and his officials to account for their abuse of human rights and mass corruption.”

The CEEC urges the Government of Canada to: 

  • Call out and hold the Lukashenka regime to account for its mass repression of protestors, opposition leaders and media;
  • Work with our allies to apply coordinated Magnitsky sanctions against corrupt Belarusian officials who have abused the rights of their people beginning with Lidia Yarmoshyna, the head of Belarus’ Central Election Commission;
  • Work with our allies to support Belarusians and civil society groups who seek change, freedom and democracy for their people. 

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For more information ceecouncilincanada@gmail.com

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

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