I was taken aback to see Matt Soprovich’s slanderous attack on University of Manitoba political studies professor Radhika Desai in the Manitoban, published Oct. 10, 2023. This “commentary” combined an ad hominem attack on the professor’s character with an array of clichéd, propaganda motifs about Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Soprovich found fault with Desai because she attended the Valdai Conference in Russia. This is a world-class forum. It is recognized and attended by geopolitical analysts, legal experts, economists, historians and philosophers from all over the world. Yet, Soprovich harped on the fact that Desai missed teaching a Thursday class to attend the forum, as if she was shirking her professorial duties to hob-nob with Putin. Attending such conferences is one of the duties of a good university professor.
Soprovich’s characterization of Desai is not only petty and slanderous, it is untrue. The mean-spirited characterization represents an inversion of the professor’s actual qualities. She is one of the few who has the courage and integrity, both moral and intellectual, to stand up and speak for what she assesses to be true. Now, more than ever, people like Desai are needed here in Canada.
Soprovich says little about the content of Desai’s question to Putin: what did Soprovich think of the incident in Parliament where all of Canada’s elected officials, irrespective of party affiliation, gave standing ovations to an old Ukrainian Nazi?
Yaroslav Hunka, the old Nazi honoured in Parliament, was a former volunteer for Hitler’s Waffen SS Galicia division, notable for its butchering of Jewish and Polish civilians in the Second World War.
We are supposed to accept that the honouring of this Nazi was all the fault of former speaker of the house Anthony Rota. Are Canadians really so gullible as to think that the speaker alone was responsible for inviting Hunka to Canada’s Parliament? Are we supposed to believe that the Liberal government’s pledge of $650 million of tax-payer dollars to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was not a planned event? Are we supposed to believe that no one else in cabinet or government knew anything about it? It doesn’t add up.
Who is guilty of manipulating public discourse here in Canada? It’s not Putin. In introducing Hunka as a “Canadian hero” for fighting “against the Russians,” Rota falsified a very basic historical fact, and misleadingly implied that Canada was fighting with Ukrainian Nazis against the U.S.S.R. during the Second World War. Did Putin force every single member of parliament to stand up and clap for the old Nazi and the speaker’s falsification of history? Did Putin force Liberal House leader Karina Gould to motion that the shocking affair be struck from Hansard? He did not.
Let’s support Desai’s right to freedom of speech and conscience, and let’s fight the creeping resurgence of Nazism here in Canada, for all our sakes.
Linda Christian is a University of Manitoba alumnus.