Board Chair Rev. Ilze Kuplēns-Ewart's Greetings

May 4, 2022

Let me begin with some words of appreciation. Taking on the role of Chair of the Board of the Latvian National Federation in Canada is quite the step, made possible only thanks to the active support and engagement of a great team.

I am particularly delighted at the opportunity this gives me to work alongside my long-standing friend and former colleague, Rev Dr Fritz Kristbergs. It is also good to experience that, as chair of the board, I have a seat at the table and can experience the open, positive relationships that are being fostered. From my perspective, the work done by the executive during these first weeks has been exemplary and even if the occasional glitch has emerged, this is only to be expected as the dynamic settles into place.

Immediately following the board meeting on April 2, I made my way to Rīga on a private visit.  While there, I had the opportunity to meet the staff at the World Association of Free Latvians (PBLA), Raits Eglītis and Jānis Andersons. Thanks to the introduction provided by the former ambassador of Latvia to Canada, Kārlis Eihenbaums, I also had the opportunity to meet with Sarmīte Ēlerte, who is the head of the office of the advisors to the President of Latvia, and a former neighbour and colleague Dr Rolands Lappuķe, also one of the president’s advisors. Our wide-ranging conversation covered the Latvian community here in Canada, and how we might further ties with Latvia. All of these conversations were very promising.

With respect to the work of the board, I am delighted to let you know that the constitution committee (Astrīde Sīle, Dr Jānis Lūsis, Viesturs Zariņš and myself) have held our first meeting. By the end of this month, we aim to have firmed up plans for our future work. We see this as exploring the identity and governance structure of the Federation, not simply revising our existing constitution (General Operating Bylaw No. 2) and creating bylaws. We anticipate engaging our community in Canada in conversation around the nature of the Federation and inviting them to advise us on how the Federation can further its work in terms of maintaining a sense of Latvian identity.  Baiba Bredovskis, one of the board’s vice-chairs, will be participating in these consultations. We will also be doing some in-depth exploration of how other national bodies of the World Association of Free Latvians do their work. The committee aims to have a finalized General Operating Bylaw and supplementary bylaws ready for the 2024 AGM. If this seems a long way ahead, please understand this reflects the breadth and depth of the work we intend to do in order to ensure that our membership, and future members all have a say in the process.

Baiba Bredovskis, Roberts Klaiše, the other Board vice-chair and I have also met to discuss matters of immediate concern.

I conclude by appealing to each of you, our members, and the wider Latvian community in Ontario. Provincial elections are upcoming in a few weeks (June 2), and municipal elections are taking place in the fall (October 24). This is your opportunity to approach your candidates to impress on them the wider significance of Russia’s war in Ukraine with all the horrors this has revealed. I will be meeting with my local councillor on May 5 and will be highlighting the rallies held in the past by members of the Russian community in Toronto and Thornhill on May 9. It has been shocking to see the flag of the Soviet Union being paraded and the victory of the “Fatherland” over "fascist" forces being glorified. This is precisely the language being used by Moscow to justify its attack on Ukraine and its attempt to annihilate Ukrainian sovereignty and identity.  There should never again be these kinds of demonstrations of glorification of the Soviet Union not in Toronto, not anywhere in Canada. I thank Matejs Kalns for his “elevator pitch” that will help frame my conversation. We will work at providing a set of guidelines for you to use to talk with your council representatives and provincial candidates.