05/10/2012 07:52 EDT | Updated 07/10/2012 05:12 EDT

Ukraine's Braided Heroine is Being Beaten, Where's Canadian Outrage?

Today, Canadian Ukrainians should be thinking about the leader of the Orange Revolution, Yulia Tymoshenko, the braided once-prime minister of the Ukraine, who is currently on a hunger strike, and being beaten in her prison cell.


Next to Jewish Canadians, Ukrainian Canadians probably constitute the most effective lobby group in Canada.

I don't mean that in a pejorative way, but rather as a compliment. All ethnic and national groups in Canada have specialized interests beyond our country, and all, from time time, would like to influence various levels of governments on their behalf.

And there's nothing wrong with this. On the contrary, it adds to our cultural diversity and can be a positive factor, be it Greeks celebrating on the Danforth, Tibetans protesting China's genocidal barbarism in their homeland, Armenians protesting Turkey's slaughter of Armenians in 1915, or Turks opposing such condemnation.

And so on.

Canada's good fortune is that lethal old world disputes and vendettas tend to become mere controversies here, shorn of old world violence. The tolerance, or acceptance by those who are already here, also affects newcomers.

Some cultural or national groups are more cohesive and wield more influence than others. This is where Ukrainian-Canadians -- roughly 1.2 million of them -- are among the more dynamic and effective citizens in Canada, and partake in every walk of life They have adapted to Canadian culture without forfeiting Ukrainian identity, though they are sometimes assumed to be Russian, and perhaps vice-versa.

Among issues that upset Canadian Ukrainians is our apparent failure (and the failure of human rights museums) to adequately recognize the Holodomor -- the 1932-1933 man-made Ukrainian famine imposed by Stalin to bring Ukraine to heel. The result was some seven million deaths by starvation, and everlasting hatred of Stalin.

Ukrainians are right. If the Holocaust should never be forgotten, at least the Holodomor should be remembered.

A more current issue that should bother both Ukrainians and the Canadian government is the imprisonment, and apparent beating for political purposes, of Ukraine's former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko. For what's it's worth, she's arguably the world's best looking PM who wears her blonde hair in an unusual braided twist; her trademark.

A leader of the Orange revolution with former President Victor Yushenko, she became PM until there was a falling out. When Victor Yanukovich won the presidency, Tymoshenko was charged with "abuse of power," and sentenced to seven years in prison.

The European Union, Amnesty International, Britain, the U.S. (and, one hopes, Canada) protest what the Toronto Star has called "the prosecution -- and persecution" of Tymoshenko, now in hospital following alleged beatings.

Nina Karpochova, Ukraine's human rights commissioner (since replaced), has confirmed Tymoshenko being beaten in jail. Other defeated Ukrainian politicians have also been jailed -- again for "abuse of power."

Yulia Tymoshenko is an unusual person. She's an economist-engineer who started a video-rental company which grew, prospered and was privatized. Then she and her husband formed the Ukrainian Petrol Company which was privatized, and subsequently became a middleman company that distributed Russian natural gas, and made her into one of the richest women in Ukraine.

Comfortable with power, she's met George Bush, had dealings with Hillary Clinton, and apparently has won the respect of Vladimir Putin. Today, she is being transported from jail to a hospital where she will seek treatment for chronic back pain.

Her imprisonment hasn't intimidated or subdued her, but is an indictment of today's Ukrainiam government. One hopes the outside world takes note -- as Canadians of Ukrainian heritage do.

To highlight Tymoshenko's plight, we could make her a Sunshine gal, or anoint her as one of columnist Mike Strobel's middle-aged chicks?

That might please Sun readers, but it's doubtful it would impress President Yanukovich.