This column is a part of a series of articles about Ukrainian culture and history. Our mission is to be your guide to the language, culture, and history of your Ukrainian ancestors. So follow us and learn more about your roots.
Ukraine gives a lot of talented people to the world. Some of them were born and/or raised in Canada. So who famous Ukrainian Canadians?
John Sopinka (Іва́н Сопі́нка)
John Sopinka, (1933-1997) was a Canadian lawyer and puisne justice on the Supreme Court of Canada, the first Ukrainian-Canadian appointed to the high court.
Sopinka was born in Broderick, Saskatchewan in a Ukrainian family. He earned Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees at the University of Toronto.
In 1986 he represented the Civil Liberties Commission of the Ukrainian Canadian community and argued against the deportation of suspected war criminals to their native lands, particularly the Soviet Union.
A noted trial lawyer, he was appointed directly to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1988 without ever having been a judge what was unusual for that time.
In 1999, a new courthouse in downtown Hamilton was named in his honour. Also, in 1999, the Sopinka Cup was established. It is a national mock trial competition open to law students from law faculties all over Canada.
John Sopinka always supported Ukraine and fought for Holodomor (1932-1932) recognition in Canada.
Luba Goy (Лю́ба Ґой)
Luba Goy is a Canadian actress, comedian, and member of a comedy troupe “Royal Canadian Air Farce”.
Goy was born in Germany to Ukrainian parents and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. They were war refugees and immigrated to Canada in 1951.
She studied at the National Theatre School of Canada, then went on to act in theatre productions in Stratford, Ontario. In 1971, she joined “The Jest Society”, a comedy troupe, which evolved into the Royal Canadian Air Farce in 1973.
Luba was among the first Canadians to be inducted into the International Humour Hall of Fame.
She has also done voices for various animated TV series featuring The Elephant Show, Babar, AlfTales, My Pet Monster, and others.
Luba was raised in a traditional Ukrainian household. She speaks fluent Ukrainian and is active in Ukrainian community life.
In May 2012, Luba Goy debuted her one-person show about her life, “Luba, Simply Luba”, in Toronto.
Listen to an interview where Luba Goy tells a lot about her Ukrainian roots, childhood, and career.
Alex Trebek (Олекса́ндр Тре́бек)
George Alexander Trebek was a Canadian-American game show host and television personality. He hosted the quiz game show “Jeopardy!” for 37 seasons, from its revival in 1984 until his death in 2020.
Trebek also hosted many other game shows.
He received the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host eight times for his work on “Jeopardy!”.
Trebek was born in 1940 in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. His father, George Terebeychuk, emigrated from Ukraine as a child, and his mother, Lucille Marie Lagacé, was a Franco-Ontarian.
Trebek graduated from the University of Ottawa with a degree in philosophy in 1961.
In 1973, Trebek moved to the United States and started his career as a TV host. He also made appearances, usually as himself, in numerous films and television series.
Katheryn Winnick is a Canadian actress. She is known for her starring roles in the television series Vikings (2013–2020), Wu Assassins (2019), Big Sky (2020–present).
She has also starred in the films Amusement (2008), Choose (2010), A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (2012), The Art of the Steal (2013), Polar (2019), and The Marksman (2021).
Winnick was born in Etobicoke, Ontario in a Ukrainian family. She spoke Ukrainian as her first language and did not begin speaking English until she was eight years old.
As children, she and her siblings attended Plast (Ukrainian scout organization) in Canada. Katheryn calls herself Katrusia Vinnytska and is a proud Ukrainian.
Eugene Melnyk (Євге́н Ме́льник)
Eugene Melnyk is a businessman, philanthropist, and current owner, governor and chairman of the National Hockey League (NHL)’s Ottawa Senators and AHL’s Belleville Senators. He is the founder, former chairman, and CEO of Biovail Corporation, once Canada’s largest publicly traded pharmaceutical company.
Melnyk was born in Toronto, Ontario, in 1959 and is of Ukrainian heritage. His father was a doctor, and Eugene followed in his footsteps. Melnyk is on a list of Canada’s 100 wealthiest people.
Eugene Melnyk is involved in many charity organizations and projects in Canada and Ukraine. He also openly support Ukraine in their conflict with Russia.
Can you add someone to this list? Who is your favourite Ukrainian Canadian? Share with us in the comments.