LNFC Vice-President Ingrīda Zemīte
August 10, 2022
This coming Saturday, August 13th, the Latvian Girl Guides of Canada are holding their very last campfire, as the Canadian Latvian Guide organization ceases operation as a separate entity. I can’t help but be nostalgic. Growing up, there was nothing that I looked forward to more than Latvian Guide and Scout camp. We got to sleep in tents! The Rovers always constructed these amazing kitchen structures in the woods, and I couldn’t wait to see what they had built. Even though hiking in the rain at night and then dangling your running shoes over a fire hoping that would dry them (that was at Saulaine), or sleeping under a lean-to you had made yourself and then watching these brightly coloured worms dangling above your head aiming to fall in your face wasn’t exactly anyone’s definition of fun, the memories were irreplaceable and unforgettable. When I was home from camp, especially as I was entering my teens, I would laze about in the backyard, and mentally reconstruct and relive the whole week of camp minute by minute. Of course, by that age, it did have something to do with boys as well.
I know I am not the only one with fond memories of Latvian summer camp, be it Sidrabene, Saulaine, Tērvete or some other camp. Praise be to our parents’ generation, who organized camps, schools, Guides and Scouts, folk dance groups, etc.
Fortunately, today we still have Latvians and their family members in Canada, who put their hearts and souls into organizing camps, schools, groups and various events so that Latvian kids and youth can meet, learn, and celebrate their heritage.
But things have changed – there aren’t as many of us, our Latvian language skills are not what they used to be, and we are all pulled in many directions. We have become more flexible and open-minded in our expectations. We want everyone to feel welcome. Yes, our Latvian identity is inextricably linked with the Latvian language, and we need to do everything in our power to ensure that our language survives. At the same time, anyone who identifies as a Latvian or supports our community is ‘one of us’.
Since Latvia regained its independence in 1991, and with the advance of technology, we now have opportunities and resources like never before. We can spend time in Latvia. We can watch Latvian TV and movies, listen to multiple Latvian radio stations, find news and information in mass and social media, order books from Latvia, and instantly videochat with our friends and relatives in Latvia.
LNFC’s role as an umbrella organization is to be inclusive, and to harness the resources available to support all Latvians living in Canada.
I really liked the Zoom events organized by the previous executive committee, marking important dates like November 18, Christmas, and May 4, because we had the opportunity to see and hear Latvians from all parts of Canada. I also appreciate the efforts that were made to try to improve our communications with the use of modern technology. I am happy to be a part of the new LNFC executive committee, and I look forward to continuing these initiatives. A few of my fellow committee members are old friends, with whom I worked together during my LNJAK (Latvian Canadian Youth Association) days; others I am working together with for the first time. It’s been great to get to know the LNFC Office Manager Ilze Maksiņa and our technical “guru” Arni Miķelsons. They are both super helpful and always there when I need something.
As the LNFC vice-president, I have been trying to understand and organize all our challenges, opportunities and to-dos, and to facilitate moving things forward. One of my focus areas is to work to improve communications with LNFC members and Latvian Canadians across the country. I was surprised when I discovered that there is a Facebook group called “Latvians in Canada”, with 1,400 members, of which only 12 are my own Facebook friends. The group’s discussions mainly revolve around questions about moving to Canada, how to find work, what visas are required etc. How should LNFC best respond to the diverse needs of Latvian Canadians – those who speak Latvian, and those who don’t, Latvians who have recently moved to Canada, youth, middle-aged Latvians and seniors too, those who live in the west, those who live in the east? This is our challenge.
One of LNFC’s roles is to urge Latvian Canadians to take an active role in supporting Latvia. Here then are two assignments for you:
1. Write a letter to your MP
Let’s say thank-you to the Canadian government for Canada’s June 29 agreement with Latvia at the NATO summit in Madrid to expand the NATO group in Latvia from a battalion to a brigade. At the same time, let’s urge the government to do everything in its power to support Ukraine in face of the Russian invasion, including military support, equipment and unwavering sanctions. Here is a sample letter: Sample Letter
2. Vote in the 14th Latvian Saeima (parliamentary) elections, that take place on October 1
If you are a citizen of Latvia, you can vote. This year the process is easier than ever. To vote in person, you need a valid, unexpired Latvian passport or eID. But if your passport has expired, or you can’t or don’t want to vote in person, you can apply to vote by mail. See the article in this edition of LNFC News for more details. Don’t wimp out by saying “I don’t know anything about Latvian politics”. Find out what each party stands for. It’s not that hard to research the basic facts. The current coalition government has been in power longer than any previous government. Cast your vote, and help elect a new Saeima that is strong, stable, productive and that is working for the good of Latvia and Latvians.
If you would like to share your perspectives or if you have any suggestions for LNFC, please send them my way!