EDMONTON—Ukrainian Canadian students across Canada are demanding that the University of Alberta fire a lecturer who called the Holodomor genocide a “myth.”
Holodomor — Ukrainian for “death by hunger” — was a yearlong, famine-genocide in Soviet Ukraine in 1932. It is estimated that between three million to 12 million Ukrainians lost their lives. Apart from Canada, the genocide is recognized by several countries and international bodies, including the General Assemly of the United Nations and European Parliament.
On Nov. 19, Dougal MacDonald, an assistant lecturer at the University of Alberta made a detailed post on his private Facebook page denying the existence of Holodomor, calling it a “myth” and “phony,” as reported first by The Gateway.
The post states that every year Justin Trudeau repeats the “the same lies; that it was systemic genocide committed by the Soviet government.”
In a statement emailed to Star Edmonton, MacDonald called it a freedom-of-speech issue and said his post is his contribution to the debate and that making it is his right.
On Monday, the post was sent to the Ukrainian Canadian Student Union, a national body that represents all Ukrainian-Canadian student clubs across Canada. On Tuesday, they wrote to the university’s president, calling for the immediate termination of MacDonald’s employment.
“The Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union calls upon the University of Alberta to immediately terminate and censure Assistant Lecturer Dougal MacDonald for anti-Ukrainian hate speech, Holodomor denial, as well as libel and defamation of a community and a former Chancellor,” the letter reads.
“Anything less will tarnish the impeccable reputation of the University of Alberta and embolden other bigots and genocide deniers.”
Roman Grod, a student at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., and president of the national student union, said he was shocked to see the post when it was first sent to him.
“I think it’s ridiculous that, in this day and age, somebody would say something like that, considering that Holodomor is a recognized genocide,” he said.
He said he was especially alarmed that the post was made during the annual Holodomor Awareness Week.
“So at the heels of our commemoration, Dougal MacDonald had the audacity to deny Holodomor’s existence,” he said.
“It is absolutely ridiculous that somebody would go and say such comments.”
Megan Brownlee, president of the Ukrainian Student Society at the University of Alberta, said she is concerned for students in the assistant lecturer’s class.
“We are worried that students in his courses may likely be in danger of mistreatment, even if he doesn’t blatantly mention these views in his lectures. We are worried that their grades and marks and evaluations are at risk.”
In his emailed statement, MacDonald said that he had investigated the “historical issue” for “a number of years.”
“I have presented my position on it. As even Wiki says, there is an ongoing debate on the issue,” he wrote.
“Others may disagree with me … but that is their right. However, what they are now doing is not their right, (that is), to name call, hurl insults, and threaten to get me fired from my job.”
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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney took to Twitter on Thursday, posting his speech during the 2018 Holodomor Awareness Week.
“I discussed how the Communists, and their ‘useful idiots’ in the West, covered up the famine-genocide,” he tweeted. “Sad to see some in Canada still engaged in this genocide denial.”
The University of Alberta did not respond to Star Edmonton’s request for comment but posted on Twitter that they had received “expressions of concerns” regarding the Facebook post.
“We take feedback from the community very seriously and are actively assessing the situation. We are committed to an inclusive learning and working environment and free and open debate,” the tweet read.
Correction — Nov. 28, 2019: This story has been edited from a previous version that stated Megan Brownlee is the president of the Ukrainian-Canadian Student Society at the University of Alberta. In fact, the name of the group is the Ukrainian Student Society.