||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2009)|
|Left to right: Yuri Shymko, with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, and Yuri's daughter, Lisa Shymko|
|Member of Provincial Parliament|
|Preceded by||Ed Ziemba|
|Succeeded by||David Fleet|
|Federal Member of Parliament|
|Preceded by||Stanley Haidasz|
|Succeeded by||Jesse Flis|
September 6, 1940 |
Cosel, Province of Silesia, (Germany) modern Koźle, Poland
|Political party||Progressive Conservative Party|
Yuri Shymko (Cyrillic: Юрій Шимко, born September 6, 1940) is a former politician, human rights advocate, social activist, and community leader in Ontario, Canada. He served in the Canadian House of Commons from 1978 to 1979, and in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1981 to 1987. Shymko was a member of the Progressive Conservative Party.
Shymko was born in Cosel, Province of Silesia, Germany (modern Koźle, Poland). He is the grandnephew of the renowned Ukrainian poet and social activist, Ivan Franko, relating to daughter of Franko, Hanna Klyuchko, who has moved to Canada. Shymko's family moved to Belgium, where he received his early education in a private school operated by the Catholic Redemptorist Fathers. He moved to Canada as a teenager and was educated at the University of Toronto graduating with an Honour BA in Modern History and Modern Languages. He headed the Modern Languages Department at Victoria Park S.S. before entering political life. He is the author of "For This Was I Born", a book that addressed the violation of human rights in the former Soviet Union.
Appointed by the then Premier of Ontario, Bill Davis, Shymko established and became Chairman of the Ontario Advisory Council on Multiculturalism and Citizenship, coordinating policy in consultation with over 35 ethno-cultural groups in Ontario.
As Secretary-General of the Ukrainian World Congress from 1973 to 1978 and President of the Ukrainian World Congress (1988 to 1993), he played an instrumental role in persuading Canada to become the first Western nation to recognize Ukraine's independence in 1991.
Shymko first ran for the Ontario legislature in the 1971 provincial election, as a candidate for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, in the High Park electoral district. He ran against, and lost to, the incumbent New Democrat Party Member of the Provincial Parliament (MPP), Morton Shulman, Toronto's former chief coroner. He ran again in the same electoral district during the 1975 election. Shulman retired as the area's MPP, and this time Shymko narrowly lost to the New Democratic Party candidate, Ed Ziemba.
Shymko was elected to the House of Commons in a by-election held on October 16, 1978, defeating future cabinet minister Art Eggleton by 1,038 votes in Parkdale. He was a member of the official opposition, serving as the Human Rights critic until the next federal election. For the 1979 federal election, his riding was redistributed into the newly formed Parkdale—High Park electoral district. On May 22, 1979, following a highly contested race, and an electoral re-count, he lost to Liberal Jesse Flis by 74 votes.
With the backing of the Canadian Government, he personally launched a historic initiative before the United Nations for the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union. On November 21, 1978, he presented to the President of the UN General Assembly and its member missions a Memorandum on the Decolonization of the USSR which he coordinated on behalf of the Baltic, Bielorussian, and Ukrainian World Congresses.
Shymko was elected to the Ontario legislature in the 1981 provincial election, defeating Ed Ziemba by 2,680 votes. For the next four years, he served in the legislature as a backbench supporter of the Bill Davis and Frank Miller administrations. In February 1985, he supported Larry Grossman's bid to succeed Davis as party leader. He was narrowly re-elected in the 1985 election, defeating Elaine Ziemba by 330 votes.
Shymko was a member of the official Ontario Government Delegation to the First Ministers' Conference on the Constitution (1980) and First Ministers' Conference on Aboriginal Rights (1987). Shymko Chaired the Ontario Government's Legislative Hearings on Battered Women and Child Abuse (1981–1983)and subsequently authored a major, ground-breaking Report on Battered Women. He was also the author of numerous Private Member's Bills. Shymko also championed the rights of the physically challenged. Following a concerted effort launched by Canadian academics, Lubomyr Y. Luciuk and Bohdan S. Kordan, aimed at having Stalin Township renamed, Mr. Shymko successfully initiated a Private Member's Bill that resulted in it being renamed Hansen Township in honour of paraplegic athlete Rick Hansen.
Shymko chaired several Legislative Committees and served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Community Services. In 1985, Shymko headed the official Ontario Trade Delegation to Europe (Basel, Switzerland- 1985).
The Progressive Conservatives were reduced to a minority government in the 1985 election, and were defeated in the legislature in June 1985. After initially supporting Grossman, he endorsed Alan Pope for the party leadership in late 1985 (Toronto Star, 6 November 1985).
During his career as a Member of the Ontario Legislature, Shymko served as President of the International Association of French Speaking Parliamentarians (Ontario).
In 1988, Shymko was appointed by the Government of Canada to serve on the Federal Immigration and Refugee Board (1988–1993). In 1995, he founded a private consulting company, Shymko International Consulting, in Toronto.
Shymko has remained an outspoken human rights activist, representing a number of NGO's before the UN General Assembly, the Council of Europe, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the UN Human Rights Commission. He has been the keynote speaker at a number of international forums on human rights and nationalities policies.
Shymko is the recipient of a number of Canadian and international awards, including the Outstanding Service Award from the Reena Foundation (1985), which serves the needs of the Jewish community's handicapped children. In 1997, Shymko's support for the francophonie was recognized when he was officially inducted as an Officer of the Order of La Pléiade by the International Assembly of French Speaking Parliamentarians (1997). Shymko was inducted into the Ordre de la Pléiade together with Canadian astronaut Marc Garneau and Ontario Court of Appeal Justice, Roy McMurtry.
In 2007, Shymko was appointed for a three year term by the Stephen Harper government to the Employment Insurance Board of Referees. In 2010, his appointment was extended until June 26, 2013.
In 2006, Shymko was given one of Ukraine's highest awards, the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, by the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko. Shymko thereby joined a list of eminent international recipients of the award including Javier Solana, Lech Wałęsa, and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
Yuri Shymko is married to the former Stephanie Kowal. They have two daughters, Lisa Shymko (MA Political Science, University of Toronto) and Natalie Shymko (MA Fine Art History, University of Toronto).