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The Importance of Black Ribbon Day

Posted by Bob Rae on August 23, 2012 | No Comments

Parliament passed a solemn, unanimous resolution calling on all Canadians to recognize the significance of August 23 as the anniversary of the infamous agreement between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

To the astonishment of the rest of the world, these two totalitarian dictatorships united in the summer of 1939 to carve up the whole of Eastern Europe. As a direct result, Hitler felt secure to attack Poland a few days later, thus starting the Second World War. The Soviets advanced on the Baltic countries, only to be invaded themselves once Hitler’s ambitions led him to feel safe to blow up the Pact and attempt the drive on Moscow.

But the long shadow of the Pact did not end in 1945. The USSR strengthened the grip of dictatorship, in Churchill’s words, “from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic,” and thus the Iron Curtain enslaved hundreds of millions for another half century.

Black Ribbon Day is now commemorated around the world as a reminder of the pain and suffering of generations – in all the countries of central and Eastern Europe. The arrogance of two malevolent superpowers destroyed the national and personal freedom of millions. Refugees from these countries have strengthened the democracies of many countries, including Canada, and many Canadians will be wearing a black ribbon on this solemn day.

I am proud to have been the sponsor of this unanimous House of Commons resolution, and want all Canadians to understand the importance of this day.

Thank you.

Bob Rae

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  1. Profile photo of Leila Paul Leila Paul said on

    That Pact was devastating for much of the world. Just as the Sykes Picot agreement, signed in secret on May 6th, 1916, ultimately resulted in the series of catastrophic events for the middle east.

    In fact, another important date is coming up soon. It’s a date that has been neglected globally for far too long.

    On September 17, 1948, Count Folke Bernadotte was ambushed and assassinated by terrorists who did not want Jerusalem to remain under international control.

    Count Bernadotte was the very first mediator appointed by the fledgling United Nations. Had Bernadotte lived to see through his peace proposal, decades of misery around the world might have been averted, and certainly minimized. Ironically, Jerusalem remains the pivotal issue in that tragic dispute. Jerusalem remains the enduring centre of longing for so many peoples and it is the enduring bitter core around which the dispute still rages.

    Of course, the Sykes Picot agreement initiated much of many subsequent catastrophic wars.

    Let’s remember and honour the men, like Bernadotte, whose lives were cut short because of their desire for peace.

    And let’s mourn the actions of military powers whose conspiracies, such as the Molotov-Ribbentrop, and those like Sykes Picot who – in secret – disdainfully inflict agonies upon the innocents who may never know who or what caused their sorrows and losses.

  2. Profile photo of Leila Paul Leila Paul said on

    In addition to stipulations of non-aggression, the treaty [Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact] included a secret protocol dividing Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland into German and Soviet spheres of influence, anticipating potential “territorial and political rearrangements” of these countries. Thereafter, Germany and the Soviet Union invaded, on September 1 and 17 respectively, their respective sides of Poland, dividing the country between them. Part of eastern Finland was annexed by the Soviet Union after the Winter War. This was followed by Soviet annexations of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina and the Hertza region.

    The summary above is more succinct than I could be and the Black Ribbon Day jogged my memory of the 1916 Sykes Pict Agreement.


    I cannot help but wonder: From 1916 to 1939 – when military powers are permitted to carve up the lives of other peoples, and these stand as creditable, do they inevitably set a precedent?


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