Borys Wrzesnewskyj

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Borys Wrzesnewskyj
Borys Wrzesnewskyj.jpg
Member of Parliament
for Etobicoke Centre
In office
2004–2011
Preceded by Allan Rock
Succeeded by Ted Opitz
Personal details
Born (1960-11-10) November 10, 1960 (age 53)
Etobicoke
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Lina Fedko-Wrzesnewskyj
Children 2
Residence Etobicoke
Profession Businessman

Borys Wrzesnewskyj (/ˈbɔrɨs ʒɛzˈnɛfski/ zhez-NEF-skee;[1] born November 10, 1960) is a Canadian politician who represented the riding of Etobicoke Centre in the Canadian House of Commons in the 38th, 39th and 40th Parliaments. He is a member of the Liberal Party.

Background[edit]

Wrzesnewskyj was born in Etobicoke, Toronto, Canada. He is a third generation Ukrainian Canadian, of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. He attended Humber Valley Village Public School and Upper Canada College. He received a Bachelor of Commerce from Trinity College, University of Toronto and has been a member of Plast. He speaks English, Ukrainian, Polish, French, and Spanish. He is the owner of Future Bakery, founded by his grandparents, and M-C Dairy.

Humanitarian work[edit]

Wrzesnewskyj is known for his humanitarian work both in his riding of Etobicoke Centre and abroad, including helping children causes in Ukraine. Through Future Bakery, Wrzesnewskyj was one of the original sponsors of the Out of the Cold program to aid the homeless and numerous other charitable organizations working in a number of Toronto’s most challenging neighbourhoods.

In the late 1980s he helped organize and finance the nascent Rukh Movement (People's Movement of Ukraine). In 1991, financed and organized a group in support of the referendum for the independence of Ukraine. One of his projects was an underground printing press which produced and distributed several million pieces of pro-independence literature in the South and East of Ukraine. Throughout the 1990s, he was involved with various civil society and humanitarian projects in Ukraine, such as the building of libraries and providing scholarships for gifted students.

Through his family foundation, Wrzesnewskyj has provided funding support for the following:

  • The Ukraine Transparency and Election Monitoring Project to train independent election scrutineers in Ukraine.
  • The Ukraine List electronic periodical of the Chair of Ukrainian Studies (University of Ottawa) targeting policy specialists and academics.
  • The delivery of Ukrainian News to every MP and Senator in Canada’s Parliament.
  • The publication and delivery of Ukraine Analyst to members of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group.
  • Ukrainian courses at The Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (CERES) at the University of Toronto.
  • Grants for archival research into Ukrainian national movements during World War II.
  • The republication of books about Ukrainians who perished in the Holocaust.
  • Archival research into victims of the Holocaust and Soviet terror in the Sambir region of Ukraine.
  • Donated $500,000 to build the Ukrainian Canadian Care Centre (Toronto, Canada).
  • Annually sponsored an intern from Ukraine to participate in an internship program in Canada's Parliament (Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program).
  • Donated $250,000 to finance election observers for the first round of voting in Ukraine.
  • Self-funded missions to Sudan, Darfur, Somalia, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.
  • Lead the Ukrainian Canadian community's fundraising effort for famine relief in Somalia during the 2011 Horn of Africa famine, with $100,000 committed.
  • Donated $100,000 to the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine.[2]

In December 2010, he created the Roman Wrzesnewskyj Polish Endowment Fund with a $35,000 donation toward the preservation and development of advanced Polish language studies at the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Toronto.[3] Additionally, each Christmas and New Years Day, he donates his time by delivering toys and gifts to children in community housing projects in Etobicoke Centre.

Politics[edit]

Wrzesnewskyj was actively involved in the Canadian delegation to the contested Ukrainian election of 2004, Orange Revolution, and has often spoken to Canadian media on its behalf. Then, Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin said that he was personally briefed by him to publicly warn Russian President Vladimir Putin "hands off the Ukrainian election" in the House of Commons of Canada which fundamentally shifted Canada's position (Wrzesnewskyj telephoned Martin from Kyiv during the Orange Revolution). Originally, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Ottawa took a "hands off" approach to the contested Ukrainian election. Martin says that he, and the Government of Canada would not have stood up for democracy in Ukraine "if it hadn't been for Borys". Subsequently, he was instrumental in securing the Government of Canada's commitment to sending five hundred Canadian election observers to the December 2004 Presidential elections in Ukraine.

Legislative work[edit]

His House of Commons legislative work saw the introduction of several private member's bills and motions including:

  • Bill C-180, "An Act to amend the Criminal Code (hate propaganda)", 6 May 2009; Bill C-181, "An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking and transplanting human organs and other body parts)", 7 May 2009.
  • Bill C-383, "An Act respecting education benefits for spouses and children of certain deceased federal enforcement officers", 12 May 2009.
  • Bill C-394 "An Act to acknowledge that persons of Croatian origin were interned in Canada during the First World War and to provide for recognition of this event", 26 May 2009. This began as his Private Members’ Bill C-374, which the Winnipeg Sun placed this item in its top ten list of bills (9 November 2006).[4]
  • Bill C-450, "An Act respecting a national day of remembrance of the Ukrainian Holodomor-Genocide".
  • Bill C-537, "An Act to amend the Criminal Code (judicial interim release for offenses involving firearms)" to toughen up bail conditions for perpetrators of crimes involving guns, June 2010.

Regarding Bill C-181, Wrzesnewskyj gave a press conference in Ottawa together with David Matas and David Kilgour, authors of "Bloody Harvest: Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China". While saying that "consumers benefit from trade with China", and that "Canada would like to do more trade with China", he asserted "it does not exonerate us for addressing the issue of Organ transplantation in China" and questioned "trusting a country that would engage in this sort of horrific crime against its own people."

Wrzesnewskyj helped pass MP James Bezan’s Bill C-459, An Act to establish a Ukrainian Famine and Genocide Memorial Day and to recognize the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33 as an act of genocide, at all stages through the House of Commons and Senate.

He also worked with MP Bob Rae to introduce and help pass unanimously through the House of Commons the Black Ribbon Day motion establishing an annual Canadian Day of Remembrance for the victims of Nazi and Soviet Communist regimes on August 23, called “Black Ribbon Day”, to coincide with the anniversary of the signing of the infamous pact between the Nazi and Soviet Communist regimes.

Committees - House of Commons[edit]

In 2010, Wrzesnewskyj served as vice-chair on two committees: (1) Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, (2) Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure on the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

Between 2004 and 2010, he served as member on eleven committees, including Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Standing Committee on Public Accounts, and Standing Committee on Transport among others.[5]

Wrzesnewskyj discussed the importance of Ukraine's accession to NATO at meetings of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe parliamentary assembly meetings and official meetings of NATO member states. He was later selected as an official member of the delegation of the Speaker of the House of Commons to Ukraine (a trip geared toward developing relations between Canada and Ukraine).

He helped the previous Canadian government to negotiate and sign the historic agreement for $12.5 million with the Ukrainian Canadian community for the acknowledgement, commemoration and, education of Canadians of the dark episode of internment operations against Ukrainian Canadians.

International self-financed fact-finding missions[edit]

From 7–14 August 2009, Wrzesnewskyj initiated in a self-financed fact-finding mission to Jordan, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem along with fellow parliamentarians from the New Democratic Party and Bloc Québécois. The mission's goals were to gain firsthand knowledge and understanding and assess the opportunities to build towards a peaceful and just solution between Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. He subsequently co-authored a report which offered several key recommendations to the Government of Canada. He also a self-financed fact-finding mission to Darfur, Sudan, regarding the Darfur Conflict, and another to Somalia.

RCMP pension scandal[edit]

In April 2007, Wrzesnewskyj publicly called for a full judicial inquiry into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) pension fund scandal and spoke to the media on the matter. He was instrumental in bringing forward to the Public Accounts Committee, and pursuing, an investigation into the misuse of the RCMP pension and insurance funds involving the upper echelons of Canada’s national police force which pressured the government into establishing the Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP. Here again, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin emphatically stated that "nothing would not have been done (with the RCMP pension scandal) if it hadn't been for Borys."

Hezbollah comments[edit]

In August 2006, Wrzesnewskyj said that the Canadian government should engage in talks with militant organizations, including Hezbollah, for the purpose of ending the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.[6] There were some media reports in this period that Wrzesnewskyj called for Hezbollah to be taken off Canada's list of terrorist organizations. He responded that this was a misrepresentation of his position, saying, "on the contrary, Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, and I stated that it must remain on Canada's list because it has committed war crimes by sending rockets into civilian areas." He added that Canadian law should be amended to permit political and diplomatic contact for the purposes of ending the conflict.[7] As the result of media perceptions about his comments, he resigned his post as foreign affairs critic.[8] He would later be critic for Crown Corporations for most of 2007.

Special Advisor to the Liberal Leader on Emerging Democracies[edit]

From 2009-11, Wrzesnewskyj held the position of Special Advisor to the Liberal Leader on Emerging Democracies.[9]

As a Canadian parliamentarian of partial Polish heritage, Wrzesnewskyj is the founder of the Canada-Poland Parliamentary Friendship Group. He has persistently criticized Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney for reducing immigration quotas from Poland, and Ukraine to Canada. He has also spoken to Canadian media on the Katyn Massacre and 2010 Polish Air Force Tu-154 crash that saw the deaths of Poland's senior government, diplomatic and military leaders, including President Lech Kaczynski.

In April 2010, with the President of the Canadian Jewish Congress Mark Freiman, Wrzesnewskyj organized a symposium featuring Meylakh Sheykhet, director of the Union of Councils for Jews of the former Soviet Union in Ukraine, on the importance of Ukrainian-Jewish relations in a historical and current geopolitical context.[10]

Again in December 2010, Wrzesnewskyj and Mustafa Jemilev (Dzhemilev) spoke out about the potential for ethnic conflict in Crimea between Russians, Tartars, and Ukrainians.

2011 election[edit]

In the 2011 election, Wrzesnewskyj was defeated by Conservative candidate Ted Opitz by a margin of just 26 votes.[11] A judicial recount subsequently confirmed Opitz's victory.[11]

Nearly a year after the election, allegations of an election dirty tricks campaign linked to the Conservative Harper government persists.[12][13][14] At a news conference on 25 February 2012, interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said that Wrzesnewskyj will be going to court on 2 May 2012 to call for a by-election.[15] Wrzesnewskyj will be alleging that there were irregularities at ten polls in the riding of Etobicoke Centre.[16]

On May 18, Justice Thomas Lederer of the Ontario Superior Court declared the election results of Etobicoke-Centre null and void.

After the 2011 election[edit]

Despite the narrow loss in the May 2011 election, Wrzesnewskyj has continued dedicating himself to public service. This includes the closure of the immigration case of Arjan Tabaj, championed by Wrzesnewskyj and immigration lawyer Scott McDonald. Tabaj is a partly paralyzed survivor of an assassination attempt during elections in Albania.[17] In September 2011, Tabaj, his wife Anilda, his daughter and twin sons returned to Canada after Jason Kenney had the family deported in 2009.[18] Later, a Canadian federal court ruled that the family was wrongfully deported.[19] Lorne Waldman, a leading immigration lawyer said that stark reversals like the Tabaj case "are rarer than hen’s teeth”.[20]

After the arrest of Ukrainian politician Yulia Tymoshenko in August 2011, Wrzesnewskyj participated in demonstrations at the Ukrainian Consulate in Toronto, calling for the support of democracy in Ukraine and release of all political prisoners. International organizations, representatives of the European Union and the United States called Tymoshenko's arrest "selective prosecution of political opponents".[21]

In August 2011, Wrzesnewskyj lead the Ukrainian Canadian community’s fundraising effort for famine relief in Somalia, i.e. 2011 Horn of Africa famine, with $100,000 committed, mostly from one donor, entrepreneur and Northland Power founder Jim Temerty, "whose family roots go back to one of the regions that was worst affected in the Holodomor".[22]

In December 2011, Wrzesnewskyj participated in a demonstration outside the Russian consulate in Toronto. He spoke against election fraud in the 2011 Russian parliamentary elections, advocated for democracy in Russia, warned against Putinism, and called for the government of Canada to state that "Canada stands 'shoulder to shoulder' with the people of Russia, and not with Putin or the Kremlin."

Potential Liberal leadership campaign in 2013[edit]

After the Liberal Party suffered their worst defeat in history under Michael Ignatieff in the May 2, 2011 federal election, and the previous defeat of Stéphane Dion in 2008, party loyalists have objected to Liberal Party decision makers who reflexively promote and support high profile or star leadership candidates. Supporters have quietly urged Wrzesnewskyj to run for the Liberal Party of Canada leadership election, 2013.

Wresnewskyj's appeal for a successful leadership bid includes his refusal to play "back room politics", seen as a key factor in rejuvenating the Liberal Party. Referring to Michael Ignatieff and inner Liberal party circles at his annual general meeting in January 2011, Wrzesnewskyj said "They can't buy me, they can't silence me, so I remain a pain in their side." In his first major interview since the May 2011 election, Wrzesnewskyj stated "it would be such a shame to lose the Liberal Party of Canada as a consequence of being highjacked by a so-called party establishment."[23]

Tackling the RCMP pension scandal wide open in early 2007 through the Public Accounts Committee when "fellow MPs had warned him it could cost him his career"[24] is seen as another example of Wrzesnewskyj's leadership appeal.

Previously, Ignatieff stopped Wrzenseskyj "from calling witnesses and submitting evidence in a parliamentary hearing... that would have pointed to Chinese influence on Canadian politicians."[24]

In 2005, when Paul Martin served as Prime Minister, Wrzesnewskyj supported a Conservative MP Daryl Kramp's private members bill for mandatory minimums for gun crimes. He described the events in a Virtual Town Hall meeting on 20 March 2011. Initially, Wrzesnewskyj was instructed by the Liberal leadership to oppose the bill. He refused on a matter of principle stating "If you use a gun, you're done. The moment you become a risk to the security of our neighbourhoods and communities, that's it".

He eventually convinced his Liberal colleagues on the merits of the bill and cast the deciding ballot for the Conservative bill to go forward.

Wrzesnewskyj stated that "Party elite needs to be ousted" and that he "is hoping to “unwedge the backroom boys” and open the party up through a grassroots effort to sign up new members. If all goes according to plan, it could lead to a run for the Liberal leadership."[23]

Etobicoke Centre election result of May 2, 2011 ruled 'null and void'[edit]

Wrzesnewskyj challenged the election results of May 2, 2011 in the Etobicoke Centre. Early in 2012, he launched his case in the Ontario Court of Justice, arguing voting irregularities, including ballots cast by people who did not live in the riding, the possibility that at least some people voted multiple times, and mistakes made in the conduct of the election by Elections Canada.[25]

On May 18, Justice Thomas Lederer agreed with Wrzesnewskyj, declaring the election results null and void, and ordered a by-election in Etobicoke Centre.[26]

Despite Justice Lederer's decision, Ted Opitz appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada and has refused to step down as MP from the House of Commons and run again against Wrzesnewskyj in a by-election. Opitz continues to vote in the House of Commons. Wrzesnewskyj has stated Opitz should sit out votes in the House of Commons: "It undermines ... our confidence in the democratic system that we have if we don't know who the actual member of Parliament is."[27]

If Wrzesnewskyj’s court victory isn’t overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada, the Harper government would have six months to call a by-election in the riding.

Supreme Court of Canada case[edit]

On 10 July 2012 the Supreme Court of Canada interrupted its summer break to hear appeals from Ted Opitz and to decide whether a by-election is required. "The Supreme Court will likely make its decision quickly since by law, it has to expedite the case. If the court rules this summer, there could be a by-election in Etobicoke Centre early in the new year, or sooner."[28]

Instead of accepting the Ontario judge’s decision and calling a by-election, the governing Conservatives decided to fight it, becoming the first party to take such a matter to the Supreme Court. Judge Lederer’s May ruling was only the sixth time since 1949 that a Canadian court has set aside federal election results in a riding.[29]

While the Tory party is paying Opitz’s legal bills, the Liberal Party of Canada refused to pay for Wrzesnewskyj's legal costs. Wrzesnewskyj has spent over $300,000 of his own money to bring the case to court.[28][30]

On Thursday October 25, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a split decision in favour of Opitz, allowing him to remain as MP for Etobicoke Center and once and for all putting an end to Wrzesnewskyj's dispute.[31]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko awarded Wrzesnewskyj the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, one of Ukraine’s highest honours, during a special May 26, 2008 ceremony on Parliament Hill, for distinguished services to the state and people of the Ukrainian nation.

In recognition of his public service in Canada–Poland relations, the Canadian Polish Congress awarded him the Gold Honorary Award on January 23, 2010. For his work with Ukrainian Canadian community, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress awarded him its highest honour, the Shevchenko Medal, on October 27, 2010.

On February 25, 2011 Wrzesnewskyj was awarded the Estonian Canadian Medal of Merit for his outstanding contribution to Canadians of Estonian heritage.

Electoral record[edit]

Etobicoke Centre - Canadian federal election, 2011
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Ted Opitz 21,661 41.2% +3.7%
Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj 21,635 41.1% -7.8%
New Democratic Ana Maria Rivero 7,731 14.7% +6.4%
Green Katarina Zoricic 1,454 2.8% -5.5%
Marxist–Leninist Sarah Thompson 149 0.3% -
Total valid votes 52,630 100%
Turnout 52,630 65.3%
Etobicoke Centre - Canadian federal election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj 24,537 48.9% -3.5% $72,089
Conservative Axel Kuhn 18,839 37.5% +4.3% $83,207
New Democratic Joseph Schwartz 4,164 8.3% -1.3%
Green Marion Schaffer 2,688 5.4% +1.6% $352
Total valid votes/Expense limit 50,228 100.0% $85,584
Total rejected ballots 247
Turnout 50,475 62.7%


Canadian federal election, 2006: Etobicoke Centre
Party Candidate Votes % ∆% Expenditures
Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj 29,509 52.44 -5.84 $78,982
     Conservative Axel Kuhn 18,702 33.24 +4.85 $77,310
     New Democratic Party Cynthia Cameron 5,426 9.64 -0.27 $1,391
Green John Vanderheyden 2,111 3.75 +0.54 $1,087
     Progressive Canadian Norman Dundas 402 0.71 n/a $18
Marxist–Leninist France Tremblay 117 0.21 - none listed
Total valid votes 56,267 100.00
Total rejected ballots 220
Turnout 56,487 71.95 +4.67
Electors on the lists 78,511
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.


Canadian federal election, 2004: Etobicoke Centre
Party Candidate Votes % ∆% Expenditures
Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj 30,441 58.28 $76,192
     Conservative Lida Preyma 14,829 28.39 $72,841
     New Democratic Party John Richmond 5,174 9.91 $4,977
Green Margo Pearson 1,676 3.21 not listed
Marxist–Leninist France Tremblay 112 0.21 not listed
Total valid votes 52,232 100.00
Total rejected ballots 249
Turnout 52,481 67.28
Electors on the lists 78,007
Percentage change figures are factored for redistribution. Conservative Party percentages are contrasted with the combined Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative percentages from 2000.
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Polish pronunciation: [ˈbɔrɨs vʐɛsˈnɛfski]; Ukrainian: Бори́с Вжесне́вський, IPA: [boˈrɪs wʒɛsˈnɛwsʲkɪj]
  2. ^ Canadian philanthropist donates $1.2 million to Lviv Catholic University. Kyiv Post, November 13, 2011.
  3. ^ Borys Wrzesnewskyj’s gift to Polish Studies at U of T honours father. University of Toronto Faculty of Arts & Science, January 13, 2011.
  4. ^ Granic, Stan (15 July 2011). "A Strong Voice for Croatian Canadians: The Legacy of Borys Wrzesnewskyj". Croatian Chronicle Network. Retrieved 11 November 2011. 
  5. ^ PARLINFO - Parliamentarian File - Federal Experience - WRZESNEWSKYJ, Borys, B.Comm
  6. ^ Andrew Mills, "MPs tour Lebanon areas," Toronto Star, 21 August 2006, A01.
  7. ^ Jeff Sallot, "Hezbollah to stay on banned list," Globe and Mail, 22 August 2006, A7.
  8. ^ Campbell Clark. Divisions on Mideast alarming Liberals. Globe and Mail. August 23, 2006. pg. A4.
  9. ^ Borys Wrzesnewskyj appointed Special Advisor to the Liberal Leader on Emerging Democracies. Liberal Party of Canada news release. October 8, 2009.
  10. ^ Ukraine’s Vanquished Jews: Daunting struggle to preserve Jewish heritage. Kyiv Post, July 14, 2011.
  11. ^ a b "Recount confirms Tory win in Etobicoke Centre". Toronto Star, May 23, 2011.
  12. ^ Opposition parties slam election dirty tricks. The Record, February 23, 2012.
  13. ^ NDP question 2011 election results amidst robocall investigation. Global News, February 23, 2012.
  14. ^ "Robocalls Scandal: Harper Denies Involvement In Dirty Tricks Campaign Linked To Racknine Inc.". Huffington Post, February 23, 2012/
  15. ^ "Rae claims 'robocalls' contributed to Liberal candidates' defeat". CBC News. 25 February 2012. 
  16. ^ Defeated Liberal takes rare court action to contest election results. Global News, February 28, 2011.
  17. ^ "Family wrongfully deported to Albania returning to Canada". The Globe and Mail. 22 September 2011. 
  18. ^ Gillis, Wendy (23 September 2011). "Video: Joy and tears as family arrives in Canada after deportation overturned". The Star. 
  19. ^ Family wrongfully deported to Albania returning to Canada. CityNews, September 22, 2011.
  20. ^ "Deported family of refugee claimants allowed back into Canada". The Globe and Mail. 22 September 2011. 
  21. ^ "Q&A: Ukraine's Yulia Tymoshenko on trial". BBC News. 11 October 2011. 
  22. ^ Infantry, Ashante (18 August 2011). "Ukrainians unite for Somali famine relief". Toronto Star. 
  23. ^ a b Rogue Liberal Readies Leadership Bid. Epoch Times, September 29, 2011.
  24. ^ a b Former MP Says Ignatieff Quashed Chinese Influence Questions. Epoch Times, September 27, 2011.
  25. ^ "Toronto riding's election result tossed by judge". CBC News. 18 May 2012. 
  26. ^ "Toronto residents receive robo-calls after judge throws out election results". The Globe and Mail. 18 May 2012. 
  27. ^ SCOC to hear overturned election case this week. Global News, July 8, 2012.
  28. ^ a b Stakes high in Etobicoke Centre Supreme Court hearing. CBC News, July 9, 2012.
  29. ^ Canada’s voting system at the heart of Etobicoke elections case. The Globe and Mail, July 9, 2012.
  30. ^ Supreme Court to interrupt summer break to hear tossed election case. The Globe and Mail, June 14, 2012.
  31. ^ Conservative MP Ted Opitz keeps his seat in Etobicoke Centre after split Supreme Court ruling. National Post, October 25, 2012.

External links[edit]