The official body representing the Estonian community in Canada recently presented former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney with an award in recognition of his service to Estonians in Canada. Mulroney was prime minister when Estonia's independence was restored in 1991 and was instrumental in keeping the issue on the table internationally.
The Estonian Central Council in Canada honoured Brian Mulroney, 82, with its Award of Merit for service to the Estonian community in Canada, in an event in Montreal on Thursday, which also marked the 30th anniversary of the reestablishment of Canadian-Estonian diplomatic relations.
Brian Mulroney, prime minister 1984-1993, was a key figure in advocating for the recognition of Baltic independence among world leaders in the west, the Estonian Central Council says.
Estonia's Honorary Consul in Toronto, Laas Leivat, said: "Mr. Mulroney injected our community with hope and inspiration and helped motivate us to continue our fight for freedom."
Estonian Central Council in Canada President, Kairi Taul Hemingway said that: "Today's Canadian political leaders should look to Mr. Mulroney's leadership as an example of how Canada can truly shine and lead on the world stage."
Central and Eastern European Council in Canada President Marcus Kolga noted that: "We are deeply grateful to Mr. Mulroney's for his leadership and principled decision to quickly recognize Baltic independence which emboldened other leaders to the same and helped ensure that the Baltic states would never again fall under Russian occupation."
Canada and the U.S. were and are home to significant expat communities of Estonians who had to flee their home country in the teeth of the Soviet occupation of 1940, World War Two, and the reestablishment of the Soviet occupation in 1944.
Brian Mulroney, as Canada's head of government, was able to use his position to give hope to thousands of Estonians who had congregated from around the world for the World Estonian Festival in Toronto in 1984, the council says.
At that event, Mulroney committed to support a free and independent Estonia.
Mulroney, who is of Irish Canadian stock, stood as a true ally and champion for freedom and democracy in the Baltic States and around the world, during his time in office, and resolutely refused to recognize the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States, despite significant pressure from the Soviet leadership of the time.
An August 27 1991 joint press conference with U.S. President George H.W. Bush in Kennebunkport, Maine, saw Mulroney announce that Canada take the lead among western nations and "would begin the process of establishing full diplomatic relations with the Baltic states."
This decision by Prime Minister Mulroney and his government paved the way for other western nations and allies to follow suit, the council says. The U.S. recognized Baltic independence on September 2, 1991.
The Estonian Central Council in Canada was established in 1952, as the elected representative organization for all Canadians of Estonian heritage.
Editor: Andrew Whyte