Earlier this year, John Yaremko – a staunch advocate of education, multiculturalism and human rights – made a $2-million gift to the university’s Chair in Ukrainian Studies. The donation will support an internationally distinguished scholar to teach and conduct research at U of T in the history and politics of Ukraine and Ukrainian-Canadians.
Yaremko, who died in August just shy of his 92nd birthday, was Ontario’s first Secretary and Minister of Citizenship. In that role, he advocated strongly for Canada to become the first country to adopt an official multicultural policy.
Born in Welland, Ontario, Yaremko worked on farms and in steel mills to put himself through U of T, where he earned a BA in 1941 while attending University College. He also graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School, and was called to the bar in 1946. Five years later, Yaremko became the first Ukrainian-Canadian to be elected to provincial parliament.
For the next 24 years, he was a passionate voice for social justice and multiculturalism in the Ontario legislature.
Yaremko and his wife, Mary, were generous supporters of many organizations in Canada. At U of T, they funded various scholarships and awards, as well a program in multiculturalism and human rights at the Faculty of Law. In 1981, Yaremko became a founding member of the University of Toronto Chair in Ukrainian Studies Foundation. The chair, which now bears his name, is symbolic of Yaremko’s deep connection to his heritage and a testament to his leadership within the Ukrainian-Canadian community.