As Estonians in Canada prepare for holidays, summer camps, cottages and trips to Estonia to celebrate ESTO and the song and dance festival, we should also take a moment to appreciate our community’s recent achievements and face our concerns.
Despite the challenges that have developed in our community over the past few years, our future is bright and the incredible opportunities that it holds for our community in Canada and Estonians around the world, are perhaps greater than ever before.
Canadian-Estonians are blazing new trails for our global community.
The Canadian-Estonian vision of a Global Estonian identity, that unites our communities beyond any borders, from Montreal to Auckland and Helsinki to Johannesburg, is being enabled by the Estonian government and will bring all Estonians, around the world, closer together. A council of senior government ministers, including the Prime Minister, will meet regularly with the elected representatives of our communities worldwide, to help foster greater mutual understanding and cooperation in efforts to build and strengthen a global Estonian identity and movement.
Our schools and camps are teeming with Estonian activity as more and more young Canadians of Estonian heritage, embrace their identity and culture in hopes of passing that gift to their children. Their future depends on what we do today, and this must remain the single most important focus for our community. Our community must ensure that these youth organizations continue to receive our support, and that the funding that allows them to provide these critically important programs for our youth, is not reduced.
We can also look forward to the promise of an elaborate and beautifully designed new Estonian Center, which embodies Estonian entrepreneurship. The Center is close to becoming a reality, and will house much of our Toronto community activities in the coming decades. Other centers and camps in Vancouver, Hamilton, Montreal, Elora, Udora and elsewhere, also deserve our attention, and the volunteers who tirelessly maintain and support them, our sincere thanks.
Challenges remain, but can they can be overcome through respectful, friendly cooperation and a unified community.
The new Estonian coalition government has generated significant discussion here in Canada and in many other parts of the world. The voices of praise and accolades that we grew accustomed to over the past decade have become less rosy and more critical in nature over the past few months.
It’s no secret that the positions of certain members of the current Estonian coalition government, conflict, often deeply, with our own Canadian and western values. Our Canadian neighbours and friends may ask us, what’s happening in Estonia. As difficult as it may be to answer this question, we should answer it honestly, without betraying our own principles. The governing Center Party does maintain an agreement with Vladimir Putin’s United Russia, and members of EKRE, whom they invited to join as equal partners of the coalition, have publicly supported racist and homophobic positions.
However, they do not represent the majority of Estonians, who are otherwise tolerant and empathetic. Most Estonians continue to reflect the pioneering and progressive policies their nation embraced during the first period of independence, when minorities were granted broad cultural autonomy and rights under the Estonian constitution.
To those cynical Estonian politicians and media blowhards, who tell tolerant and liberal Estonians that they should move to Canada - we say, you are welcome here.
As Canadians we are well aware, that the small number of refugees that Estonia could provide shelter and safety to, pose no threat to Estonian culture, language or heritage. And we should not be shamefully intimidated into remaining silent about this.
Our experience, as Estonian-Canadians whose families fled terror and repression and who were given the opportunity to live peacefully and contribute to the building of our Canadian community and a greater society, could help inspire a more tolerant and empathetic Estonian policy towards newcomers and refugees. Similarly, Estonians who believe in equality and tolerance, deserve our support and should not be made afraid to speak out in support of these values.
Estonian language is of course an important pillar of Estonian culture but this small global nation, cannot afford to reject those whose Estonian is not perfect, nor those Estonians with different skin tones, sexual preferences, religions or heritages. We must embrace all those who share our Estonian identity and ensure that they never lose that feeling of being Estonian, just as we should not allow anyone to ever feel ashamed for being Estonian.
One serious challenge we face is the active and ongoing attempts by the Russian government, to distort our history and who we are as Canadian-Estonians. The glorification of Soviet symbols and Stalin by Kremlin supported groups are intended to make Canadians and others forget about Soviet terror and the occupation of Estonia and most of Central and Eastern Europe. As unpleasant or tiresome as it may be to some in our community, we must continue to tell our story to our friends and neighbors, so that the world will never allow such terror to threaten our free nation again. In September our community will lead the organizing of a large national event to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which enabled the coordinated start of WWII by both the Soviets and Nazis. All Estonians in Canada should participate and wear the Black Ribbon made famous by Canadian-Estonian Markus Hess.
As we prepare for our holidays, I hope that we can all take a moment to reflect on how much we benefit from being Estonians in Canada. We can all make our community better, by participating, listening and supporting each other - regardless of language, how we look or who we love.
Eesti meeles, elagu meie kogukond Kanadas. Olgu Võidupüha tähindusrikas kõigile.
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.
MAY 31, 2019
TORONTO - The Estonian Central Council in Canada warmly welcomes the Canadian government’s decision to expand its diplomatic presence to Estonia later this summer and deeply appreciates the support of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland and Ambassador Kevin Rex for this historic decision.
In addition to frequent reminders about the need for a permanent Canadian diplomatic representative in Tallinn; The Estonian Central Council in Canada co-authored a letter with the members of the Baltic Federation last fall asking the Prime Minister and his government to expand Canada’s diplomatic presence to all three Baltic states to strengthen Canada’s bilateral relations with them.
The presence of a Canadian Charge d'affaires in charge of trade in Tallinn demonstrates Canada’s commitment to expanding relations and trade in Estonia and the region.
25. mai 2019
TORONTO - Eestlaste Kesknõukogu Kanadas (EKN), kes esindab Eesti päritolu kanadalasi, ühineb üleilmse eestlaste kogukonnaga, et tänada Eesti Vabariigi valitsust toetuse ja aktiivse osalemise eest valitsuse komisjoni loomisel Globaalse Eesti küsimustes ja koostöös.
Algatust selle komisjoni loomiseks toetasid kõik Eesti poliitilised parteid, kellede osalusel, enne viimaseid Eesti Vabariigi parlamendivalimisi, korraldas Eestlaste Kesknõukogus Kanadas ka valimiste teemalise rahvakoosoleku.
Eestlaste Kesknõukogu Kanadas võttis vastu resolutsiooni Globaalse Eesti komisjoni loomise toetamiseks 2018. aasta sügisel ning on regulaarselt kohtunud erinevate Eesti Vabariigi ministrite ja opositsiooniparteide juhtidega, et arutada seniseid saavutusi ning edasisi samme. ECC / EKN on tänulik kõigile Eesti Vabariigi parlamendiliikmetele nende toetuse eest, eriti välisminister Urmas Reinsalule tema ettevõtlikkuse eest ning rahvastikuminister Riina Solmanile, kes lisas komisjoni oma panuse.
MAY 25, 2019
TORONTO - The Estonian Central Council in Canada (ECC), representing Canadians of Estonian heritage, joins the global Estonian community in thanking the government of Estonia for supporting and actively joining the initiative to create an Estonian government committee of global Estonian affairs and cooperation.
The initiative to create this committee was supported by all Estonian political parties at an Estonian Central Council in Canada organized election town hall before the recent Estonian parliamentary elections.
The Estonian Central Council in Canada adopted a resolution to advocate for the creation of the global estonian committee in the Fall of 2018, and has regularly met with various Estonian ministers and opposition party leaders to discuss the effort. ECC/EKN is thankful to all Estonian parliamentarians for their support, and in particular, to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Urmas Reinsalu for his leadership and Minister of Global Estonian affairs, Riina Solman, for adding the committee to her portfolio.
MAY 2, 2019
TORONTO - Today on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Estonian Central Council in Canada remembers all those who have lost their lives and loved ones to tyranny, fascism, and totalitarianism everywhere - especially the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.
“The Estonian Community in Canada stands with the Jewish community in Estonia, Canada and around the world to remember the 6 million victims of the Holocaust”, said Estonian Central Council President, Marcus Kolga, “to honour them, we must recommit to promoting tolerance and fighting anti-Semitism, xenophobia and all hate.”
Remembering the Holocaust and learning from this dark period of human history is critical for all. Unfortunately, its lessons of intolerance, violence, ethnic nationalism and abuse of power remain relevant today. These, including anti-Semitism, must always be loudly and sharply denounced to ensure that such tragedy is never again repeated.
Kallid kaasmaalased ja sõbrad,
It is with bittersweet emotion that I write this, my final Independence Day greeting to Estonians across Canada, in my role as President of the Estonian Central Council in Canada.
The past three-and-a-half years have passed extremely quickly, yet EKN has achieved much more than I could have dreamed of when we started our work in 2016.
During that time, the presence and profile of our community in Canada has grown in leaps and bounds. We work closely with federal politicians from all parties on both sides of the Atlantic.
Estonian politicians and policy makers also have great respect for EKN and its leadership on some of the most important issue facing the Estonian diaspora communities around the world. Thanks to EKN’s leadership, the Global Estonian movement has taken root in Estonia and in communities around the world: an identity that we can be proud of, is borderless and embraces all who feel Estonian.
DIGITAL Estonian Life No. 9 - March 5, 2021
All issues with table of contents available here: https://issuu.com/estonianlife
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