The Estonian Central Council in Canada has had an extremely busy 2018-19 advocacy year, with several major achievements reported at it’s Spring National Congress meeting.
EKN’s primary 2018-19 community and advocacy goals and achievements:
- The creation of an Estonian Government parliamentary committee for the coordination and support of the Global Estonian community and identity;
- The stationing of a fully accredited Canadian diplomat to the Canadian Embassy in Tallinn;
- Formally registering EKN federally, completing reforms and clearing inherited issues in order to ensure compliance with regulations;
- Leading efforts to honor the late Russian pro-democracy and human rights leader, Boris Nemtsov, by naming a Toronto street in his honor;
- Working with the Central and Eastern European Council in EKN’s new leadership role at CEEC;
- Creating an outreach and succession strategy to ensure long term sustainability of the organization and ongoing advocacy and leadership of the Estonian community in Canada as well as a process of ongoing renewal;
- Strengthen relations with municipal, provincial and federal Canadian politicians and their counterparts in Estonia;
- Inform Canadian-Estonians about important issues, including organizing a global Estonian pre-election townhall, which was live streamed on Estonia’s national broadcaster, ERR and Postimees;
- Organize major Toronto event with embassies of all CEE nations to mark the 80th anniversary of the signing of the Moltov-Ribbentrop Pact in September 2019.
- Advocacy to remove Soviet symbols from major retail outlets such as Amazon and Walmart, as well as public advocacy against Kremlin attempts to falsify Estonian history, including denial of the occupation and the political repression of Estonians.
Government Committee For Global Estonian Affairs
In 2017, EKN adopted a resolution to advocate for the creation of an Estonian government committee, composed of government Ministers and the elected leaders of the largest Estonian communities around the world, to regularly meet, discuss and help coordinate the sustainability and growth of the global Estonian community. Through regular high level dialogue, EKN believes that a greater understanding between Estonians living in Estonia and those abroad can be fostered, as well as cooperation and solidarity between all Estonians, around the world. In addition to this, EKN proposed the creation of a ew Estonian minister for Global Estonian affairs, who would help lead this effort, as well as an ambassador dedicated to the full time coordination of the global Estonian community.
EKN reached out to several Estonian parliamentarians and staff at various ministries, and was thankful for the leadership Minister Urmas Reinsalu took in making this a priority for him and the government.
EKN presented this proposal, to be adopted by the World Estonian Council, in May 2018, in Tallinn. While the idea was resisted by some of the delegates at the World Council (some thought it too ambitious), the resolution passed, with the support of a majority of delegates.
In August 2018, Urmas Reinsalu introduced the creation of the government global Estonian cooperation committee to cabinet, which adopted it as a government priority, including funding of its activites.
During the February 2019 an extremely well attended, pre-election global Estonian town hall, organized by EKN, and live streamed by ERR and Postimees, all political parties agreed that the Global Estonian committee must remain a priority and that the coordination of the 200 000 Estonians living abroad is critical to the sustainability of our global community.
In May 2019, EKN representatives travelled to Tallinn for the inaugural meeting of a non-profit organization created to direct the funding of the government Global Estonian Committee's activities, and the new minister, charged with leading this effort, Riina Solman. Discussion about implementation were held with staff from ministries who have long supported the Global Estonian effort, including Culture, Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
EKN, along with the Swedish Estonian community, is leading the organizing of a Global Estonian Congress at ESTO in July to continue this discussion. Among the participants in the Congress will be The President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid. Canadian Estonians have also created and contributed a new global Estonian portal to support the committee’s activities, globalestonian.com, to the Estonian people, as an EV100 gift.
Canadian Diplomatic Representation to Estonia
Currently, the Canadian Ambassador to Estonia is resident in Riga, and serves as the ambassador to all three Baltic States. Unfortunately, Canada has no accredited diplomat resident in Tallinn. EKN has advocated for the stationing of a fully accredited diplomat to Estonia over the past three years, with the Canadian government, Global Affairs, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland. EKN has also coordinated these efforts with the Baltic Federation of Canada, currently led by Andris Kesteris, President of the Latvian Federation in Canada.
At a community event, co-organized by EKN, with the new Canadian Ambassador to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Ambassador Kevin Rex, stated that Canada would be expanding its presence in the Baltic Region including Estonia.
In late May, the Ambassador announced that a new Canadian Trade Commissioner, would be stationed in Tallinn as the full-time Charge d'affaires for Canada.
Cooperation with Canadian Communities and Advocacy
EKN was asked to take leadership of the Central and Eastern European Council in Canada in January of 2019, with Marcus Kolga, becoming its president for the coming two years. The Central and Eastern European Council in Canada represents the interests of 4 million Canadians of Central and Eastern European heritage, and includes the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Polish Canadian Congress, the Latvian and Lithuanian communities among others.
The CEEC, under EKN leadership, is currently in the process of having a Toronto street named in honor of the late Russian opposition leader and pro-democracy advocate, Boris Nemtsov, in cooperation with Russian opposition activist, Vladimir Kara-Murza, former Canadian Justice Ministers Irwin Cotler and Peter MacKay. The naming project has cleared initial municipal hurdles and has earned the support of local councilors and the Mayor. Nemtsov was a close ally of Estonia and was a staunch supporter of its sovereignty.
In 2018, EKN launched a campaign with CEEC to have shirts and other items that glorify Soviet symbols of repression and occupation, such as the hammer and sickle, removed from major retailers, both online and in stores. The campaign went viral, world wide, and Walmart committed to removing Soviet items from its stores - including Walmart Canada, which thanked EKN for its efforts. Unfortunately, these items remain on sale at other retailers including Amazon and EBay.
Groups supported by the Russian government organize annual parades in Canadian cities that celebrate Soviet terror - including the glorification of Stalin. EKN has helped lead efforts to raise Canadian awareness of this cynical and hateful neo-Soviet
propaganda that seeks to marginalize the millions of victims of Soviet terror, and deny their suffering.
A Culture of Ongoing Renewal and Succession
EKN has adopted a culture of ongoing renewal and succession, to allow all interested Estonian community members to participate in the development and execution of policies and initiatives to help our community and to advocate on its behalf.
Broad, meaningful participation by both older and younger community members is the only way that we can ensure the long term sustainability of our community.
EKN has spent considerable time and resources to ensuring proper federal registration of the organization and the updating of its constitution to conform with modern requirements. Legacy governance issues have been systematically eliminated by EKN’s constitutional and governance committee.
EKN hopes that all interested Canadian-Estonians will consider submitting their names as candidates in the upcoming EKN elections as we seek to continue our process of renewal and succession.
Over the past four years, EKN has, through hard work and active global cooperation, has helped achieve historic improvements in Estonian relations with our community and Estonia’s relations with Canada. Our community has much to be proud of, and we hope that we can all continue to contribute to a brighter Estonian future in Canada over the coming years.
For more information: See e-posti aadress on spämmirobotite eest kaitstud. Selle nägemiseks peab su veebilehitsejas olema JavaSkript sisse lülitatud. / www.estoniancouncil.ca