Juneau, Ushiku, Lancieux … Chortkiv? Whitehorse mulls sister city relationship in Ukraine
The city of Chortkiv, Ukraine, has asked the city of Whitehorse to enter a sister city relationship — and it’s finding warm feelings from its intended.
Mayor Laura Cabott put forward a motion to Whitehorse City Council on Monday, saying the request “dovetails or matches quite well” with the city’s sister city policy.
The goal, Cabbott said, would be “to promote mutual partnership and exchange of experience between the two cities, including economic development, cultural tourism, art, sports and education.”
Chortkiv is a 500-year-old city of about 36,000 people in western Ukraine. In a letter received by council last month, the city’s mayor wrote that Chortkiv has welcomed and assisted 3,400 people who have been displaced from areas of active fighting, and that the city has been struck by cruise missiles itself.
If approved, Chortkiv would join Whitehorse’s three other sister cities: Juneau, Alaska; Ushiku, Japan; and Lancieux, France.
Jeff Sloychuck, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Association of the Yukon, spoke to council in favour of the idea, which he described as “a little bit too serendipitous.”
The Whitehorse resident, who has travelled to Ukraine delivering aid in recent months, said he himself will pass through Chortkiv next week to deliver medical supplies to a nearby city.
He also said Chortkiv is just half an hour away from the ancestral village of his family, and that of paleontologist Grant Zazula, who was also at the council meeting.
Sloychuk offered his endorsement of Chortkiv Mayor Volodymyr Shmatko, whom he described as “young” and “ambitious.” Sloychuk said Shmatko has a master’s degree in ecology and conservation and has vowed to make Chortkiv’s power generation 100 per cent renewable by 2050.
“Mayor and council are very well thought of, not only because of the support they’ve delivered to local residents but also to displaced Ukrainians from the east — the occupied territories,” he said.
Sloychuk offered the opinion that “the request is genuine,” noting cities in France and Slovenia had both recently approved requests to twin with Chortkiv.
And he said it would mean a lot of Chortkiv.
“It means another city in the west stands of the people of Chortkiv. It means another city of the west stands with Ukraine.”
‘I think it says a lot’
Coun. Kirk Cameron spoke in support of the motion.
“We are incredibly influential when it comes to our statement about fairness and human rights around the world,” he said. “For us to step up and give our connection and allegiance and statement of support to that community, I think says a lot.”
Coun. Dan Boyd said 50 or more Ukrainians have come to the city in recent months to “escape the violence … and I know businesses that are so thankful to have them.”
He said the sister city request is “only logical,” and something he’s excited to learn more about.
Coun. Ted Laking described himself as a Canadian of Ukrainian descent, and said he too supports the motion.
“This is just another small way that the City of Whitehorse can show support.”
The motion, which was passed by council, asks city staff to investigate whether such a relationship fits with the city’s current sister city relationships and make recommendations to council.