Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean,
Governor General of Canada
Rideau Hall, 1 Sussex Drive,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A1
31 October 2008
On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Canada-Hungary Educational Foundation we are pleased to send you this update on the activities of the Foundation over the last two years and offer our assistance with your upcoming visit to Hungary.
The Foundation was established in late 2005 in order to mark in appropriate ways and in a coordinated fashion the 50th anniversary of the arrival to Canada of some 38,000 Hungarian refugees after the revolution of 1956. Canada received the largest number per capita of refugees in 1956-57; this was the first time in Canadian history that such a large number of refugees were accepted from a single source country. Subsequently, as you know, immigration and refugee policies were broadened and government and citizen sponsorship of refugees from trouble spots around the world became a Canadian tradition.
Our original goal was to create awareness, in partnership with others, for what Canada and Canadians did to receive the Hungarian refugees and what these refugees contributed to Canada. But beyond that, we wanted to use this opportunity to draw attention to the positive values associated with living in an open, tolerant, culturally diverse society, in a country where immigrants and refugees are welcome.
We were delighted when Your Excellency accepted our invitation to become Honorary Patron of the Foundation in October 2006 and hope that we have used this honour wisely.
We have attached a list of the major activities undertaken since our founding reception on Parliament Hill in the spring of 2006. We believe that we have successfully completed a number of projects that draw public attention to the benefits of living in an immigrant-receiving and pluralistic society.
During 2006 our main activities concentrated on the Hungarian anniversary and we are still working on developing a longer-term legacy project to the refugees and the Canadians who took them in. However, in 2007-08 we started to broaden our activities.
Our major project in 2007 and 2008 has been the development of a website for which we received funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage. The objective of the site (which can be found at: www.hungarianpresence.ca ) is to showcase the diversity of the Hungarian presence in Canada from its early beginnings and within a multicultural context. The website strives to display cultural pluralism’s best examples both in Canada and elsewhere.
Further, in order to engage young people in discussions around immigration and to have their contributions on our site, we announced a national competition for students of all origins to send us their personal experiences in the form of an essay, short story, or video. We hope to have a good selection of the entries on the site early in 2009. We have approached school boards, universities, the mainstream and ethnic media to promote the competition.
As you can see from the attached report, the Foundation has cooperated with a number of national and regional cultural agencies, academic and educational institutions as well as community members in undertaking joint programs and initiatives. In addition, we have supported with modest grants a variety of projects that fit within our objectives. We believe our success so far is the result of such partnerships as they have helped to raise our profile and create awareness for our public educational objectives. Members of our national advisory board, including some prominent Canadians, have also facilitated this task.
In general, we have acted as a resource for and collaborated with appropriate government agencies: recently, we have had discussions with the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Parks Canada with respect to recognizing the Hungarian refugee movement to Canada as an event of national historic significance.
Last but not least, we have maintained a good working relationship with the Embassy of Canada in Hungary and the Hungarian Embassy in Canada as well as our Department of Foreign Affairs with the shared goal of enriching Canada-Hungary relations. In this regard, our primary interest is to promote Canada and Canadian values in Hungary and the surrounding countries where the process of democratization has been slow and sometimes painful, especially with respect to diversity, minority rights, and tolerance in political discourse.
In this context, we were pleased to be informed of your upcoming visit to Hungary and would like to offer our assistance in making this visit as meaningful as possible. Indeed, we have been discussing with the Canadian Embassy and your office the proposed Canadian monument in Budapest to recognize the refugees and their contributions – and, together with the Rakoczi Foundation, are raising funds for it in Canada.
May I emphasize once more the value we place on your continued patronage of the Foundation. We hope to have an opportunity to involve you personally in an appropriate event during the coming year. We look forward to your forthcoming visit to Hungary and to any role we may play in making it a success. We plan to be represented at the unveiling of the monument and hope to have the opportunity of meeting with you.
Judy Young Drache