The University of Victoria Ukrainian Students’ Society have added their voice to a host of groups calling for the dismissal of an associate professor in Alberta who denies the occurrence of the Ukrainian genocide of the 20th century.
Dougal MacDonald, an Assistant Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta, posted a message on Facebook on November 20th stating that the Holodomor is a “myth” and a “lie”.
Canada is one of the 17 countries in the world that recognizes the Holodomor as an act of genocide perpetrated against Ukrainians by the Soviet Union, and British Columbia is the last province to follow suit.
The Ukrainian Holodomor was a catastrophic famine in the 1930s whose effects were exacerbated by genocidal policies undertaken by Stalin’s regime to punish Ukrainians who resisted attempts at collectivization. This punishment resulted in the death of millions of people.
However MacDonald claims that the Ukrainian genocide was a myth created by the Nazi regime to discredit the Soviet Union, and that descendants of Ukrainians are guilty of perpetrating that myth after the Second World War.
These claims have sparked backlash from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), as well as various student groups across Canada, including the UVic Ukrainian Students’ Society.
A call to action issued by the UCC on Wednesday urges the University of Alberta to censure MacDonald and terminate his contract.
“Despite recognition of the Holodomor by the Canadian Parliament and provincial legislatures across Canada, this is a stark reminder that, even in 2019, we cannot afford complacency in Holodomor education and awareness,” reads their message.
These sentiments were echoed by students at UVic who penned their own letter to the President and Vice-Chancellor at U of A.
“We at the UVic Ukrainian Students’ Society are in the midst of our Holodomor Awareness Week (November 25-30, 2019) and have made local news for our efforts to commemorate and educate about the genocide,” reads the letter written by society president Devon Goldie.
“We have dedicated innumerable hours to educating ourselves and the wider Victoria community about this atrocity that so deeply affected our cultural community. As such, we cannot stand idly by when a University educator in our country is promoting such intolerable and hateful attitudes.”
Response to backlash
The Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta, Jennifer Tupper, responded to a similar letter from the University of Alberta Ukrainian Students’ Society with the following statement:
“The university is committed to an equitable, diverse and inclusive learning and working environment. At the same time, it is committed to the principles of free and robust expression, rigorous inquiry and discussion and debate of ideas, even where those ideas may be offensive.”
“…Also, based on the University’s understanding, it appears that Mr. MacDonald posted his views in his capacity as a private person and that his statements have not been made in a classroom setting, in the course of his duties as an employee of the University of Alberta.”
Screenshots of MacDonald’s original Facebook post have been shared by the UVic Ukrainian Students’ Society and various other sources, however his personal privacy settings prevent Victoria Buzz from verifying whether they are still present on his page.
The assistant professor ran for the federal elections earlier this year for the Communist Party of Canada.
His post and the ensuing backlash comes just weeks after the unanimous passing of Bill M225 or the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act in British Columbia.
This act declares the fourth Saturday of every November as Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day.