Polish Canadians, Searching for a Voice (Part 6)
Mark Wegierski continues his analysis
The author maintains that the Polish Canadian community must build up significant infrastructures – or fade away. “Canadian Polonia” is a term by which Polish-Canadians refer to themselves, synonymous with “the Polish-Canadian community”.
Canadian Polonia has constantly complained about the lack of financial resources for its community endeavours. The place of the Polish-Canadian community in Canada is becoming attenuated, despite the figures of the 2011 Canadian Census which suggest that there are over a million persons of Polish descent in Canada.
Vast initiatives are indeed required to raise the saliency of Canadian Polonia. Some fairly obvious directions are to increase the pressures on all levels of government (federal, provincial, regional/municipal) to provide a more equitable share of multiculturalism and other cultural-related funding to the Polish-Canadian community. It would be helpful if some systematic, comparative research could be done in this area, so that Canadian Polonia could approach the various levels of government with some solid statistics. It should also be remembered that effectively writing grant proposals and putting together grant applications is a skill.
The proposals for establishing a “Polish-Canadian Defence Fund” which were made some years ago, have achieved comparatively little. In the current-day climate, the task of watching the main Canadian media for any anti-Polish comments has to be entrusted to competent, salaried, hopefully full-time, professional researchers. Along with writing letters-to-the-editor and letters to publishers and producers as needed, such persons could also take a “pro-active” role by trying to have Polish-friendly articles appear in various Canadian media. In the case of an institution like this, the funds can only come from the community itself.
In these days of “the Internet Two”, some attention must also be paid to social media strategies. There should be an attempt made to build up a reliable “cadre” of individuals that will put forth well-phrased, pro-Polish messages – and fight back against “Pole-bashing” on the various social media and major newspaper and magazine comment threads they participate in. For example, the community should raise a “Twitter storm” when faced by particularly egregious insults.
There should also be the encouragement of such helpful initiatives as “Poland in the Rockies”, and the QuoVadis conferences. After resuming in 2014, the “Poland in the Rockies” summer event had a mid-winter meeting in early 2016 (according to the website), but apparently no summer meeting in 2016.
A possible source of funding for the community is from the various cultural institutions of the Polish state, such as the Wspolnota Polska (Polish Commonweal), a Polish state body officially dedicated to Poles and persons of Polish descent living abroad. (The rhetoric on its website is certainly high-flown!) After all, it is over twenty-five years since the fall of Communism.
It is also an unfortunate fact that in today’s Poland, funds are all-too-readily found for rather dubious things – such as paying royalties for the radio-play of what is sometimes the worst of current-day American rap music, and the broadcasting of awful Hollywood films and TV series. Indeed, money is flowing out of Poland for all kinds of dubious things and undertakings, while the Polish overseas communities are sometimes left begging for relatively small funds.
Such support could be particularly efficacious in regard to the maintenance of Polish-Canadian archival, library, and museum-type institutions, such as the Polish Library in Montreal and the Canadian-Polish Research Institute in Toronto. Hopefully some support can be found for the very elegant Polish Combatants’ Association (SPK) building at 206 Beverley Street (located near downtown Toronto, and near the University of Toronto campus) – so that it could be held by Polish-Canadians in perpetuity as a permanent archival, library, and museum institution. Perhaps it could be eventually reconstituted as the Museum of Poland and the Poles in World War II.
Although there may eventually be some help available from Poland, the efforts of the community in regard to various levels of government in Canada should be the main focus. Unfortunately, one finds oneself frequently annoyed by the obsequious and servile attitudes of some people in Canadian Polonia towards the alleged munificence of the federal and Ontario governments. There has been comparatively little funding from those sources for the Polish-Canadian community, after what now seems like the glory days of the 1970s – when Stanley Haidasz was the federal Minister of Multiculturalism. However, things recently improved when the Conservatives actively courted various ethnic electorates. It is necessary to be extremely demanding and almost “shameless” in trying to obtain funding on behalf of one’s own group.
As far as private philanthropy, many of the more prosperous Polish-Canadians seem averse to offering significant bequests to any of the small, mostly impecunious Polish-Canadian foundations, usually preferring to leave their entire inheritance to children and grandchildren that in some cases care nothing at all about Polish matters. The track record of some major Canadian Polonia fund-raising initiatives has proven disappointing to the community; for example, the Chair of Polish History at the University of Toronto, Professor Wrobel is perceived as being cool to core community concerns.
As has often been averred, to be efficacious in politics it is essential to combine the cunning of the fox with the aggression of the lion.
Mark Wegierski was born in Toronto of Polish immigrant parents