Memorial to Victims of Communism - I donated and so should you

I let it sit for a day or two, but the comments by Elizabeth May, Green Party leader and Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands, really irk me. Now everyone has the right to an ill informed opinion and they can most definitely convey it to others, but I would hope that leaders of political parties would know better. In Ms. May's case, its her inane comment and then lame defense when called out that I find ridiculous because its coming from someone who wants to be a national leader (and be taken seriously).

In the speech from the Throne delivered by Governor General David Johnston there is a mention that the Government of Canada will be committing funds towards the construction of a memorial to the victims of communism. Ms. May's lame quip led to this exchange (or rightly deserved barrage):

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She would late add that her comment was meant to question the continued process of building monuments and there being lots of victims of different -isms, etc. Again, lame response.

Why is it relevant in Canada? Because it touches the lives of millions of Canadians whose families fled to Canada to escape totalitarian communism in their homeland. The estimated death tolls are staggering with close to 100 million people having been killed in the name of an ideology, whether it be the planned mass starvation of Ukrainians known as Holodomor, the forced deportations and persecutions of Poles, Balts, Moldovans, Chechens, Ingush, etc. And also the Tibetans in China, the exterminations by the murderous Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the deaths in Vietnam, and Africa, and Afghanistan. Many of the kids of these families learned the stories of the persecutions, the mindless bloodshed, and the systematic nature with which it was executed.

True, Ms. May does not diminish any of these facts in any way, but she does trivialize it. Its not another "-ism" to her. Just like any other. I think otherwise. Its a political movement that perpetrated some of the worst atrocities in the 20th century. Its impact is profound on the communities it affected. My country of birth was occupied for half a century by the Soviets and communism became part of daily life for my grandparents, and parents. My grandparents survived the disaster that was World War II where a quarter of the population of Poland had been killed in combat, in camps, starved, executed, murdered. Survived only to be put through the hell that was living under communist rule.

While many Canadian families grew up hearing stories from their grandparents about life on the farm or the depression or war stories from Canadian veterans who bravely served; I got to hear stories about the brutality of occupation by first the Nazis, and then the communists. I got to listen to how entire villages were depopulated through deportations. Friends, families, work colleagues would disappear at night, the vast majority were never seen again. My paternal grandmother passed on much of these stories. She vividly remembered the air bombings and described how she was fleeing through the streets with luggage and people strewn about, blood everywhere - this is what a Polish boy who calls Canada his home listened to growing up. My father would tell me stories about the yearly riots while he completed his technical studies. Soldiers in the streets, tanks being used to suppress the rioting, and the general feeling that the communists were willing to do anything, kill anyone, deport anyone, do anything, to retain power. It is a surreal experience and the stories that were passed on I will pass on to my children.

This is what Elizabeth May trivializes.

But my experience is not unique. Ukrainians, Vietnamese, Lithuanians, Latvians, Chechens, Cubans, Koreans, Hungarians, Romanians, Russians, Tibetans, and countless other ethnic groups from different nationalities across the world experienced totalitarian communism. Their children got to hear the stories from their grandparents and parents. It forms the foundation of their beliefs, it is a heavy influence on their identity and how they look upon history. It has forever marked my life and theirs.

So, I donated to the Pathway to Liberty fundraising campaign launched by Tribute to Liberty which is the Canadian organization responsible for this project.

And I am asking you to do the same. Tribute to Liberty is a registered charitable foundation and received approval from the National Capital Commission to build a Memorial to Victims of Communism on National Capital Region land. In the summer of 2012, a piece of land between the Library & Archives Canada and the Justice Building on Wellington Street (the same street as Parliament is on) is allocated for the memorial.

The Government of Canada committed $1.5 million to the project and the fundraising continues to raise the rest. The memorial is expected to be completed in late 2014.

Make a donation today.

Hopefully Ms. May educates herself a little better before making any further ill informed quips over twitter.

/signing off

/A very fortunate victim of capitalism