To say Canada’s “star diplomat,” Chyrstia Freeland, has skeletons in her closet, is a grave understatement. The country’s foreign affairs minister had a Nazi collaborator as grandfather — a fact she knew for decades, but didn't stop her from peddling her way to a top government post.
As the revelation came to light this week, Freeland has dismissed the facts as part of a “Russian disinformation campaign,” raising questions among some about the prospects for Canada’s role in Ukraine. On Monday, Canada extended its military training mission to the Eastern European nation, supporting a government that has ties to extreme, far-right nationalist elements and anti-Semitic militias.
While Freeland dismissed the news as Russian propaganda, it was actually Ukrainian Canadians who unearthed the information by digging through provincial archives in Edmonton, Alberta. Alex Boykowich and his colleague, through their own independent research, found that Michael Chomiak, Freeland’s maternal Ukrainian grandfather, was chief editor of a Nazi newspaper in Krakow, Poland called Krakivski Visti, which translate to Krakow News. In his post, Chomiak published anti-Jewish diatribes that supported the Nazi's regime of terror that later became known as the Holocaust.
“We saw photographs of Chomiak with Nazi officials, swastikas with Ukrainian nationalist symbols,” Boykowich, a member of the Communist Party of Canada, told teleSUR.
Chomiaks standing behind and to the left of Emil Gassner, the head of the press department of the Generalgouvernement (Nazi-occupied Poland). | Photo: Province of Alberta, courtesy of Alex Boykowich
He explained that he and his colleague became interested in Freeland after the media gave undue attention to the rising diplomat. They began researching about her in December 2016, before Freeland was offered post as foreign minister in January, as Boykowich — of Ukrainian heritage — became intrigued to learn that Freeland, too, was Ukrainian.
“We found a profile of her that said her mother was born in a camp for displaced peoples in Germany,” Boykowich explained, adding that there were only two reasons Ukrainians would be in Germany at that time: if they were enslaved laborers or Nazi collaborators.
Pouring through the archives’ 25 boxes on Chomiak, they discovered his bonafide links with the ethno-supremacist movement.
Krakivski Visti was established by the German Army and was supervised by Nazi intelligence, after it was taken away from its Jewish owner Moishe Kafner, who later died in the Belsen concentration camp in 1942. Like many publications at that time that were seized by Nazis from their Jewish owners, the paper functioned as a Nazi propaganda outlet.
“The editorial boards carried out a policy of soliciting Ukrainian support for the German cause,” the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum states about Krakivski Visti and a similar newspaper, Lvivski Visti. “It was typical, within these publications, to not to give any accounts of the German genocidal policy, and largely, the editions resorted to silencing the mass killing of Jews in Galicia. Ukrainian newspapers presented the Jewish Question in light of the official Nazi propaganda, corollary to the Jewish world conspiracy.”
Boykowich and his colleague surveyed files on Chomiak in the Province of Alberta's Ukraine Archival Records, discovering details of his role as editor. The files noted that Chomiak edited the paper first in Krakow, then in Vienna, Austria, where he fled from Poland with his Nazi colleagues as the Soviets advanced there.
“I don’t think it’s a secret. American officials have publicly said, and even (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel has publicly said, that there were efforts on the Russian side to destabilize Western democracies, and I think it shouldn’t come as a surprise if these same efforts were used against Canada,” she said.
At the conference, she evaded questions about her grandfather being a Nazi collaborator.
What perhaps is most befuddling, however, is the fact that, over the years, Freeland has touted the narrative that her grandfather was a political refugee from Soviet-occupied Ukraine, describing him as simply a “journalist and lawyer” before World War II. According to a report by Canada's The Globe and Mail, Freeland knew about her father's Nazi connections and position at the newspaper.
Chomiak, standing farthest to the left, with Nazi officials. | Photo: Province of Alberta, courtesy of Alex Boykowich
Boykowich confirmed through his archival research that Chomiak harbored the same politics even after he arrived in Canada.
“He read (other Nazi papers), fascist ones that had anti-Semitic columns,” he told teleSUR.
Conservatives in Canada have come to Freeland's defense, parroting her Russian propaganda line.
“It is unacceptable. It seems they are trying smear a minister with historical detail that has probably been misrepresented,” Conservative foreign affairs critic Peter Kent said, as reported by The Globe and Mail. “It is unfair and it is typical of what we have seen in other countries and it has nothing to do with her ability to represent Canada.”
Ukrainian nationalists in Canada have come to her defense too, also blaming Russia for the information being revealed.
“It is the continued Russian modus operandi that they have. Fake news, disinformation and targeting different individuals,” said Paul Grod, president of the Canadian Ukrainian Congress, a close confidante of Freeland, who has also made statements in the past skeptical of the Holocaust. “It is just so outlandish when you hear some of these allegations — whether they are directed at minister Freeland or others.”
In response to the revelations, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Ottawa, Kirill Kalinin, denied Russian involvement, adding, “While we cannot deny or confirm particular news stories, it’s our principled position that Nazism and Nazi collaborators, their hateful ideology, that took tens of millions lives, must be unanimously condemned.”
For Boykowich, the reality that the directorate of Canadian foreign policy is supporting the armed forces of a fascist regime, should not be disconnected from Freeland’s family’s history.
“This shows the ideological connection that carries on,” he warned. “Chomiak supported Nazis then, and (Freeland) too is supporting Nazis in Ukraine. The purpose of that support, from Nazi Germany, to the Cold War, to today, is the same: imperial aggression against Russia.”