Memorable Manitobans: Paul Yuzyk (1913-1986)

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Paul Yuzyk
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Historian, Senator.

Born at Pinto (near Estevan), Saskatchewan on 24 June 1913, of pioneer Ukrainian parents. He was an excellent pupil in public high school, receiving 100% on the final exam in Grade 11 mathematics and physics. After attending the Saskatoon Normal School (Teacher’s Training College) from 1932 to 1933 where he graduated with distinction, he taught public and high school from 1933 to 1942 in Hafford, Saskatchewan. In 1942 he enlisted in the Canadian Army where, as a non-commissioned officer, he trained officers until discharged in 1943 to return to university.

At the University of Saskatchewan, he completed a BA in Mathematics and Physics in 1945, BA Honours in History in 1947 and an MA in History in 1948 on “The Ukrainian (Greek) Catholic Church of Canada.” He was then offered a fellowship from the Manitoba Historical Society to write a history of the Ukrainians in Manitoba. This work was published in 1953 as The Ukrainians in Manitoba: A Social History. In 1949 he entered a PhD program in history at the University of Minnesota completing his course work in 1951 and his PhD thesis in 1958 on “The Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada 1918-1951.”

His academic career began in 1951 with an appointment to the University of Manitoba as Assistant Professor of Slavic Studies and History. In 1958 he was elevated to Associate Professor of History and Slavic Studies. During his tenure at the University of Manitoba he co-authored The Ukrainian Reader with Honore Ewach which was used as a text in public and high schools in the prairie provinces. He also served on the Manitoba Historical Society as Treasurer, Secretary, Vice President and President (1952-1963); Editor of the Society’s annual Transactions of historical articles (1953-1958); Co-Editor on the Editorial Board of the Manitoba Historical Society’s quarterly historical magazine Manitoba Pageant (1956-1963); and Chairman of the Ethnic Group Studies sponsoring histories of Manitoba’s Mennonites, Jews, Poles, Icelanders, and Hutterites.

He continued to teach after his appointment to the Senate (1963) as full professor on a part-time basis at the University of Ottawa from 1966 to 1978. There he taught courses on Central and Eastern Europe, Russian and Soviet History, and Canadian-Soviet Relations. He became Director of a seven-year major research project culminating in the publication in 1980 of a large 840-page volume, A Statistical Compendium on the Ukrainians in Canada 1891-1976 and was a Co-Editor with William Darcovich.

Alongside his academic pursuits Yuzyk played an active role in numerous community organizations. To highlight a few:

His profile in Manitoba as historian and community leader earned Yuzyk an appointment to the Senate on 4 February 1963 by the Right Hon. John Diefenbaker whom he had known since 1935. Yuzyk’s activities in the Senate have been primarily In the areas of multiculturalism, human rights, external affairs and national defense. For his role in shaping the policy of multiculturalism, he has been called the “Father of Multiculturalism.”

He was also active in a variety of parliamentary committees as well as parliamentary delegations, particularly delegations to the United Nations, the North Atlantic Assembly (NATO) and the Review Conferences of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in Belgrade, Madrid and Ottawa. As Rapporteur of the Subcommittee of the Free Flow of Information and People, 1977-1981, he was responsible for reports on the implementation of human rights on an international level and was editor of “The Bulletin” published by North Atlantic Assembly.

In the Senate Yuzyk was closely associated with cultural and human rights organizations particularly the following:

As a Senator, his publications included The Ukrainian Canadians: Their Place and Role in Canadian Life, published in English, French and Ukrainian in 1967, For A Better Canada, a compilation of Yuzyk’s speeches in the Senate, published in 1973 and The Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada, 1918-1951, published in 1981. He was a member of the editorial boards of 18 investigative Senate reports published by the Queen’s Printer since 1970 and has numerous articles published in magazines and newspapers.

Honours and medals awarded to Yuzyk include Keys to the Cities of Detroit, Buffalo and Rochester USA, the Canadian Centennial Medal, Manitoba Centennial Medal, the Shevchenko Gold Medal, Ukrainian Canadian Committee (Toronto) Gold Medal, Knight-Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great and the Grand Cross of Knights of Malta.

Posthumous recognition: Senator Paul Yuzyk Scholarship, since 1991, Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program(CUPP) sponsored by Chair of Ukrainian Studies Foundation; Nation Builders Award 2003, Ukrainian Canadian Congress - Saskatchewan Provincial Council; Paul Yuzyk Award for Multiculturalism launched in June 2009 and awarded annually, by the Honourable Jason Kenney, Federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. A micro-grant program, the Paul Yuzyk Youth Initiative for Multiculturalism, was launched on 22 February 2018 by the Honourable Melanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Multiculturalism.

He was married to Mary Bahniuk (1914-2005, born in Hafford, Saskatchewan) and they had four children: Evangeline Paulette Yuzyk, Victoria Irene Yuzyk, Vera Catherine Yuzyk and Theodore Ronald Yuzyk, who reside in Ottawa. He has six grandchildren: Tanya, Larisa, Paul, Thea, Lukash and Paula and three great grandchildren: Gabriel, Danin and Maya. He is survived by his sister Mary Brown.

He donated an extensive collection of personal papers to the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) in Ottawa. Called the Paul Yuzyk Papers (MG 32 C 67, Finding Aid # 1592), they consist of 139 volumes of correspondence, publications and other printed materials associated with his family, education, organizational, academic and Senate life.

His articles for the Manitoba Historical Society:

The First Ukrainians in Manitoba
MHS Transactions, Series 3, 1951-52 Season

The Ukrainian Canadians
Manitoba Pageant, April 1956

A New Monument on the Legislative Building Grounds
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 7, Number 1, September 1961

Distinguished Descendant of the Selkirk Settlers
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 8, Number 2, January 1963

See also:

Paul Yuzyk Award for Multiculturalism


This page was prepared by Vera Yuzyk, MA.

Page revised: 18 November 2022

Memorable Manitobans

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