New Canadian Media
Saturday, 11 March 2017 14:47

A Tradition of Thrift

by Lucy Slavianska

Victoria Bechkalo, a social worker from Ukraine, and Aleksandr Aksenov, a bank analyst from Russia, had only five guests at their Toronto wedding — the groom’s brother, his wife and children, and a family friend. Since their home countries were at war with each other, dividing their friends, and their parents couldn’t make it to Toronto due to visa issues, Bechkalo and Aksenov couldn’t plan a big wedding.

Still, they say their ceremony at Christ the Saviour Russian Orthodox Cathedral was the happiest moment of their lives, because what mattered to them was not the number of guests, a drive in a limo, or a lavish reception, but the decision to create their family in peaceful, tolerant Canada and their ability to do this by blending traditions from their respective homelands with those from their new home.

One of these traditions is affordability.

There is a long history of church weddings in eastern European communities, not just because of the opulent atmosphere — the candles, richly decorated altars, clerical vestments, murals, and iconography — but because the churches make a point of keeping costs down.

Many churches, for instance, charge more than $1,000 for wedding ceremonies (the Metropolitan United Church in Toronto charges $1,500 for a wedding, and the Anglican St. Clement Church charges $1,725), but eastern European churches tend to have much lower fees. Some, like the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church and St. Mary’s Polish Roman Catholic Church, charge between $100 and $500, but if a couple cannot afford to pay, even those charges may be waived. Others don’t charge for weddings at all, though couples often make a donation. 

Elena and Joseph Peccoreli chose to marry in the same Russian Orthodox cathedral as Bechkalo and Aksenov. Before the ceremony, Elena bought a small icon and her wedding ring from the cathedral’s shop. “These things are cheap [there] and everybody can afford them,” she says. “I chose a white gold ring that was brought to Canada from a Russian monastery. But in general, the crosses and the rings don’t have to be golden. The idea is that nobody should be stopped from getting married because of money.”

Aliaksei Androsik, originally from Russia, and Julia Gorbunova, from Belarus, had been wanting to get married for more than a decade. “We met when I was 13 and she was 14 years old,” Androsik says. “At that time we were both attending school in Poland, and she told me to wait till we grew up. We lived in different countries for years, keeping in touch over the internet, and we finally decided that she [would] come to me to Canada.”  They married in a small Belorussian church in Toronto, with 40 guests in attendance. After the ceremony, there was a party in the church hall with cake and vodka, and then the couple hosted a barbecue at home.

This is very much in keeping with cultural beliefs shared throughout eastern Europe. Salaries are significantly lower there than in western countries, so frugality is generally valued. Eastern European priests here presume that young couples, and especially new immigrants, might not have much by way of savings. There is also a widespread belief that couples should use their money for more practical purposes, such as buying a home or providing for future children. Priests emphasize that saving is righteous, and they discourage couples from going into debt over a day of celebrations.

Archpriest Vasily Kolega, from Christ the Saviour Russian Orthodox Cathedral (which doesn't charge for weddings), considers the overspending that's so common unwise: “In Canada, we see a lot of couples who use up their savings or borrow money and spend a lot on big weddings, and then spend years paying [it] back.”

By contrast, he says, couples like Bechkalo and Aksenov (whom he married in the summer of 2016) have a different perspective when it comes to celebrating their wedding. “Such couples who come to us believe that the wedding ceremony is much more significant than a big wedding party or than going to Mexico or somewhere else to spend money. They start their family life. They declare their love for each other, take their vows very seriously, and believe this more important than the material sides of the weddings.”


Lucy Slavianska is a Toronto-based journalist and editor who has lived and worked in Canada, Japan, Bulgaria, Venezuela, and the Netherlands.

This story is the product of a partnership between TVO.org and New Canadian Media.

Published in Arts & Culture
Saturday, 22 October 2016 10:26

One Year In, Big Shift in Foreign Policy

Commentary by Bhupinder Liddar

Did the seismic shift in Canada's political landscape, a year ago, following the election on October 19, 2015, also trigger a shift in Canada’s diplomacy, defence and development agenda? To a large extent, yes, and for the most part for the better.

The first strong signal of change in policy came immediately after the election when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared Canada’s intention to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees by Christmas 2015. The former Conservative government of Stephen Harper had been dragging its feet on this issue and most of Western Europe was devising ways to block their entry.

Canada re-surfaced at the United Nations – the world family of 193 nations. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s disdain, disrespect and disapproval of anything to do with the UN was well-known, resulting in Canada’s isolation at the UN, including losing its bid for a seat at the Security Council, the ultimate decision-making body on world affairs. While Harper rebuffed the UN, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embraced the world body, and addressed the General Assembly in September declaring, “Canada is back” on the international scene.

Good money after bad

In re-emerging at the UN, Canada also pledged financial assistance to various UN agencies that was withdrawn by the previous Conservative government. One must, however, caution against throwing good money after bad, in the case of UN agencies, as they are rife with inefficiency. The previous Conservative government was adamant in demanding accountability before approving funding for any UN requests for financial assistance.

A country the size and strength of Canada can leverage its influence effectively and efficiently through multilateral organizations. Hence, Canada seems to be enhancing its role in various international and regional organizations, including, the G-20, NATO, and the African Union, among other forums. While pursuing the Canadian agenda through multilateralism remains an essential part of Canadian diplomatic strategy, bilateral relations are also playing an important part, as with Prime Minister’s state visit to China in September and various foreign heads of government knocking on Ottawa’s door.

Pursuit of free trade agreements goes on with the same vigour as under the Conservatives. The Canada-India Free Trade agreement seems to have died with the defeat of the Harper Conservative government. Much too much energy was wasted on this agreement, which at the end was designed to appease Canadian voters of Indian origin, most of whom were not too impressed or thrilled with the blatant and transparent vote-getting antics.

Canada’s relations with the United States of America are foremost on Canada’s diplomatic agenda. Trudeau has restored much needed personal diplomacy with U.S. President Barack Obama, who addressed the Canadian Parliament in June. And, Trudeau was the first Canadian Prime Minister to be hosted at a White House State Dinner, in March, in almost two decades.

Within a year of coming to power, the Liberal government has kept its commitment to climate change agenda, by signing the Paris Agreement on controlling carbon emissions.

Canada has resumed an active role in defence matters, too, with a promise to participate in UN peacekeeping operations. The problem is that while Prime Minister Trudeau committed to providing 600 Canadian Armed Forces troops, we have not found a place to deploy them. The government seems to have put the cart before the horse. 

Showcase our pluralism

Consistent with the previous government, Canada is actively monitoring Russian jockeying in the Baltics and Ukraine. It has pledged to contribute more troops, as part of NATO’s efforts to protect and ensure sovereignty of the Baltic states.

Whereas the Harper government was hostile to an international development agenda and inflicted serious financial cutbacks to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Liberal government has resumed Canada’s role in providing humanitarian and development assistance, be it immediate help in the aftermath of the recent hurricane in the Caribbean or funding women’s education and literacy programs to furthering gender equality, under the aegis of UN agencies.

As for the future, the volume of consular matters will continue to increase and become more challenging, both because of changing demographics and dealing with countries that have different value and legal systems.

Instead of indulging in cost-cutting exercises, Canada needs place more diplomats in foreign missions. We should end the practice of replacing Canadian diplomats with locally-engaged staff.

One hopes that the year-old Trudeau government will continue to make Canada’s presence felt on the international scene, as it has in the past year, and showcase the Canadian experiment in building a pluralistic and multicultural society.

Bhupinder S. Liddar, is a former Canadian diplomat and publisher/editor of “Diplomat & International Canada” magazine. He can be contacted at bsliddar@hotmail.com or visit www.liddar.ca

Published in Commentary

Canada's commitment to send troops to Latvia to strengthen NATO in its stance vis-à-vis Russia has reverberated in the ethnic media with at least 55 stories over the last two weeks. Most reports were in the Chinese (12) and Punjabi (9) media, which is to be expected because these language groups have numerous high-frequency media (daily papers and full-time radio stations in the language). Interest in this issue was over-proportionally high in the Tamil media (12 stories) and naturally, the Russian media (6 stories). Multiple mentions were also found in the Italian and Spanish media (3 stories each), but interest in the European media was relatively low. One news item was reported in an Urdu paper. Most reporting was neutral in tone, with a few showing a slight positive or negative slant.

- Mirems

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Moscow (IANS): India and Russia on Thursday signed 16 agreements, including in areas of helicopter and nuclear reactor manufacturing, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited business leaders to be a partner of India’s prosperity. “As I look to the future, I see Russia as a significant partner in India’s economic transformation and in shaping […]

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INDIAN Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a major embarrassment, had to be pulled back when he started walking just as the Russian band started playing the Indian national anthem. He was supposed to step forward and stand at attention for the playing of the national anthems of India and Russia, but he thought he […]

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Published in India

by Jane Lytvynenko (@JaneLytv) in Kiev, Ukraine

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Stephen Harper signed a free-trade agreement between the two countries Tuesday. Meeting in Chelsea, Quebec, the two politicians solidified the deal which is largely seen as a political gesture of goodwill from Canada while Ukraine faces a war with Russia and a nation-wide recession.

The finalization of the free trade agreement comes months before a federal election campaign is set to begin in Canada. Over 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent live in the country, making for the largest diaspora in the world outside of Ukraine itself.

The agreement will drop nearly all tariffs on Ukrainian imports and 86 per cent of tariffs on Canadian goods. Five years in the making, both Ukrainian and Canadian politicians are excited about the support.

This is increasing economic opportunity for Canadians and Ukrainians and the ability to create jobs in both our countries,said Harper during the announcement.

This is a step toward helping Ukrainians realize the future that they want,he said. Ukrainians do not want a future based on oppression and a Soviet past. Ukrainians want a Western future, a future of prosperity and democracy. In completing this trade agreement we are taking one small step in competing that transition.

Ive never noticed Canadian products here before. I would buy them to show my support if I knew.

Politically, the deal is meant to be a gesture to Russia and the rest of the world of Canadas faith that Ukraine can clean up corruption and get back on its feet. But Ukrainians are not as optimistic about the agreement, which is yet to be implemented. Speaking to New Canadian Media in the streets of Kiev, Ukraines capital, many were unsure about concrete benefits of the agreement.

Small, but symbolic

You could say its a small step forward but its a symbolic one. I doubt it will make a difference,” said Oleg Sokolov. He said he understood the political significance on top of the other help Canada already provides to Ukraine but does not know what, if any, benefits it will bring.

Its an interesting situation but I dont know which of our products will interest Canada,” said Sokolov.

Canada will get duty-free access to meats, grains, canola oil, processed foods and animal feeds, according to the press release issued by the Canadian government. In turn, Ukraine will benefit from forestry and industrial goods, and fish products which have grown in price since the annexation of Crimea.

Political significance

The negotiations for the agreement began in 2010.

This deal has been in the works for longer than our government has been ruling,” said Egor, who works for a financial institution in Kiev and asked his last name not be published. It has a political significance and Im glad Canada is still helping Ukraine but I dont know if it will affect day-to-day life. I guess we will have to wait and see.

The Canadian PMO says trade between two countries averaged $347 million in 201113. It is expected to increase by 19 per cent as a result of the deal and Ukraine could see an additional $23.7 million in exports. Ukraines current annual GDP is $181.71 billion.

The potential increase in the amount of trade did not impress Sokolov, who said he is in the know about Ukrainian business.

It would be a good number for a company but when it comes to a country, that's a very small number [of trade],” he said. When put in the context of Ukraines GDP, that number does not make a difference.

Ukrainians also wonder whether they have products that interest Canada on a larger scale and where the projected 19 per cent grown will come from during time of war.

The agreement will drop nearly all tariffs on Ukrainian imports and 86 per cent of tariffs on Canadian goods.

Canadas a big country and have their own products and trades, Im not sure what Ukraine has to offer,” said Lyudmila Mihailik. Ive never noticed Canadian products here before. I would buy them to show my support if I knew.

The trade agreement is the latest of Canadian measures helping Ukraine. Earlier this year Canada provided a $200 million low-interest loan to Ukraine for a total of $400 million in financial help over the last two years. Its aim is to help stabilize the country, which is about $50 billion in debt. Canada also provided non-lethal military supplies to Ukraine and participated in the training of its new police force.


This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Economy

After its sold-out 2014 run of Eugene Onegin last June in Toronto, the esteemed Vakhtangov Academic Theatre of Russia returns with a new theatrical spectacle, Smile at Us, Oh Lord, an inspiring universal parable about the basic good in every human being. It runs Tuesday June 16 and Wednesday June 17 for two shows only at the historic Elgin Theatre, presented by Show One […]

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Canadian Immigrant

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Published in Arts & Culture

THE Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced on Wednesday that it is initiating investigations into the alleged injurious dumping and subsidizing of certain hot-rolled carbon steel plate and high-strength low-alloy steel plate originating in or exported from the Republic of India (India) and the Russian Federation (Russia). The investigations follows a complaint filed on April […]

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Published in National

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Published in Books

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Published in National
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Poll Question

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The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

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