Paul Yuzyk | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Paul Yuzyk

Paul Yuzyk, senator, scholar, historian and multiculturalism advocate (born 24 June 1913 in Pinto, SK; died 9 July 1986 in Ottawa, ON). A leader within the Canadian Ukrainian community, Yuzyk served in the Senate of Canada from 1963 to 1986 (see Ukrainian Canadians). He was the first person to use the term “multiculturalism” in Parliament, which was the subject of his 1964 maiden speech. Yuzyk has been called the “father of multiculturalism.”

Paul Yuzyk

Early Life and Education

Paul Yuzyk was the son of Ukrainian immigrants Martin and Katherine (née Chaban) Yuzyk, who came to Canada from Galicia in Austria-Hungary (see Ukrainian Canadians; Immigration to Canada). He was the eldest of four children (brothers John and Michael and sister Mary-Anne). From the summer of 1923, the family lived in Saskatoon, where the youngest of the siblings (Mary-Anne) was born. After attending Bedford Road Collegiate, Yuzyk enrolled in the Saskatoon Normal School, a teachers’ college. From 1933 to 1942, he taught in the farming community of Hafford in Saskatchewan.

Yuzyk pursued a BA Honours degree and a master’s degree in history at the University of Saskatchewan. In 1949, he embarked on a PhD program in history at the University of Minnesota. This resulted in his doctoral thesis, titled “The Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada, 1918–1951.” The thesis was later published under the same title in 1981.

Academic Career

Before graduating from the University of Minnesota (1958), Paul Yuzyk began teaching Slavic studies and history at the University of Manitoba (1951–63) and then courses on Central and Eastern Europe, Russian and Soviet history and Canadian-Soviet relations at the University of Ottawa (1966–78). Throughout his academic career, Yuzyk published a number of books and articles. Among them are The Ukrainians in Manitoba: A Social History (1953), Ukrainian Canadians: Their Place and Role in Canadian Life (1967) and A Statistical Compendium on the Ukrainians in Canada 1891–1976 (1980, co-edited with William Darcovich). Yuzyk further contributed to the development of historical scholarship by serving as treasurer, secretary, vice-president and president of the Manitoba Historical Society (1952–63) and as editor of its annual publication, MHS Transactions (1953–1958). He also served on many other boards in the larger community.

Community Work

Paul Yuzyk’s expertise in Ukrainian Canadian studies benefited from his active role in the development of Ukrainian community organizations in Canada. This included his participation in numerous leadership positions. He was the first president of the Ukrainian National Youth Federation (1934–35), national treasurer of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (formerly Ukrainian Canadian Committee) (1952–55), president of the Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre, Winnipeg (1955–71), chairman of the Human Rights Commission of the World Congress of Free Ukrainians, New York (1967–86). Yuzyk’s intimate knowledge of the evolution of the Ukrainian Canadian community —which according to the 1961 census was one of Canada’s largest ethnic groups, especially in the Prairie provinces — informed his thinking and understanding of Canadian society as being multicultural in character as opposed to bilingual and bicultural. (See also Ukrainian Canadians.)

Senate (1963–1986)

Paul Yuzyk was appointed to the Senate of Canada on 4 February 1963 by Prime Minister John George Diefenbaker as a Progressive Conservative for Manitoba. The concept of multiculturalism was central to his maiden speech in the Senate on 3 March 1964, which was titled “Canada: A Multicultural Nation.” In his speech, Yuzyk took the stand that the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism was relegating a large segment of Canadian society to the status of “second-class” citizens by focusing its attention on English-French relations. All other ethnic groups formed nearly “one-third of the population,” he declared, insisting that this “Third Force” be recognized as equal partners with British and French cultural groups. He pointed out that Indigenous peoples were in Canada long before the coming of the French and the British. It was his belief, Yuzyk declared, that “our citizens desire an all-embracing Canadian identity which will include all the elements of our population and emphasize unity.”

In the Senate, Yuzyk worked in multiculturalism, human rights, national defence and foreign affairs, among other areas. Multiculturalism, of which he was an early proponent and a prominent champion, was adopted as an official federal policy in October 1971. The Thinkers’ Conference on Cultural Rights (13–15 December 1968), which Yuzyk initiated, is considered an important contribution to the endorsement of the policy.

Personal Life

Paul Yuzyk married Mary Bahniuk in 1941 and, two years later, they moved to Saskatoon. They had four children: Evangeline, Victoria, Vera and Theodore.


Paul Yuzyk’s pioneering contribution to Canada’s direction away from a concept of biculturalism to multiculturalism has received recognition. In a 2000 article for the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Bulletin, historian Oleh W. Gerus wrote that Yuzyk was “a key figure” in the establishment of multiculturalism as an official policy of Canada and the “fact that such remarkable constitutional transformation of Canada was achieved has remained a great tribute to the proponents of multiculturalism, especially to Paul Yuzyk.”

In 1991, the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program was established to allow university students from Ukraine to observe and learn about parliamentary democracy in Canada. The Senator Paul Yuzyk Scholarship is awarded to a successful applicant of the CUPP internship. In 2009, the Government of Canada established the Paul Yuzyk Award for Multiculturalism, which “recognizes individuals in communities across Canada who have made exceptional contributions to multiculturalism and diversity.” The award was renamed the Paul Yuzyk Youth Initiative for Multiculturalism and repurposed by the Department of Canadian Heritage as a grant to support youth engagement initiatives. Also in 2009, the Paul Yuzyk Institute for Youth Leadership was founded by the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada and the Ukrainian National Youth Federation.

In 2013, a Canada Post Picture Postage Permanent Stamp was issued to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Yuzyk’s birth. It was first presented at the Senate of Canada on 24 October and then officially released by Canada Post on 26 October.

Senator Yuzyk’s papers (the Paul Yuzyk fonds) are kept at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa.

Select Honours and Awards

  • Canadian Centennial Medal (1967)
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Saskatchewan (1977)
  • Honorary Doctorate (Honoris Causa), Ukrainian Free University (1982)

Further Reading

External Links