A response to Ambassador Bálint Ódor’s “Hungarian tribute to Canada”

Hungarian Ambassador Bálint Ódor published a piece entitled “A Hungarian Tribute to Canada” in a publication called National Newswatch. In this piece, Ambassador Ódor writes:

“Canada is a nation that understood the message of 1956 clearly, and also extended helping hands to a large number of Hungarians who were forced to flee their homeland…By its rare display of heroism and solidarity, the revolution unmasked communism once and for all…When the martyrs of 1956 finally received the burial they deserved on June 16 1989—after more than 30 years—it led to free elections in 1990. Communism in Hungary was finally over. The revolution was a rude awakening to many Western European idealists who were previously convinced that the Soviets were trying to build a fairer society…The story and images of the Hungarian Revolutionstrengthened the determination of the politicians in the free world; it became very clear that communism must be contained and eventually defeated…After the revolution, almost 38,000 Hungarian refugees found freedom and the opportunity to prosper in Canada, an ocean away from home. After the long months of waiting in camps in Austria, they arrived to Canada, with five dollars in their pockets and with the wish to work and establish a new life. They were successful in doing so. The new Canadian-Hungarians quickly adapted to the lifestyle and the rules of the new homeland and managed to find their ways around…Canadians’ generous welcome, and the newcomers’ contributions to their new country have shaped the Canada of today, and connect Canadians and Hungarians in a bond of gratitude and friendship.”

Ambassador Ódor’s narrative of 1956 is quite misleading. The 1956 Revolution, the uprising in the streets, which the revolutionary government of Prime Minister Imre Nagy found exceedingly difficult to contain and quell, was characterized by very disparate groups with divergent ideals and political philosophies. In fact, part of the justification used during the Soviet re-invasion of Hungary was the revolutionary government’s inability to restore order on the streets of Budapest for the first week of the uprising. But the driving factor, certainly on October 23rd, was less anti-communism and much more so a desire for freedom from political and economic tyranny, as well as a desire for independence from the Soviets. At its most basic level, there was a shared yearning to return to the liberalizing economic and political reforms that Imre Nagy implemented two years prior, during his first short term in power. Anti-communism was one stream or direction during the days of the 1956 Revolution, but it most certainly was not the only one, and it was not even a dominant thread in the initial days and hours of the revolt.

Regrettably, Hungary’s government today, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and an inner circle of oligarchs and political operatives in the Prime Minister’s Office, is an example of tyranny, systemic economic and political intimidation, the marginalization, demonization and state-led abuse of the vulnerable and a regime bent on dismantling what little remains of media freedom in Hungary. While Ambassador Ódor may celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of 1956 with Canadians and while Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion may speak of “Canada and Hungary’s shared history and strong people-to-people ties, prosperity, inclusion and international security” in his meetings with his Hungarian counterpart, Péter Szijjártó, the Orbán government has trampled on nearly every ideal of 1956. It destroyed the Third Hungarian Republic, declared with great symbolism on October 23rd, 1989, as the successor and guarantor of the legacy of 1956.

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Dion (third from the left) meets with Péter Szijjártó. Bálint Ódor is on the far-right.

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Dion (third from the left) meets with Péter Szijjártó. Bálint Ódor is on the far-right.

12 Comments

  1. What a shame! What could be Mr. Dion’s false agenda about this? Pretending he is not aware of any Hungarian foreign affairs just can not be true… Is it not too late to talk about the developing friendly relations of the 315 K (??) Hungarians and co-operations with them? Like we came here yesterday..

  2. This is not the first time Stephan Dion has put his foot in his mouth, and the probability, that this will not be the last time, is quite high.

    Mr. Dion has the distinction of having driven the popularity of the Federal Liberal Party to its historically lowest level when he served as Party leader. We may recall, that he was the fellow who contemplated forming a coalition with the Quebec separatists – who are the sworn enemies of federalism – to defeat the Conservatives. He now is advocating that Canada should get in bed with a sworn enemy of Liberalism, a government, that both the UN’s High Commissioner on Human Rights and the European Council’s Human Rights commissioner have labelled as a human rights violator.

    It is a mystery why the bright and able Justin Trudeau chose this man as Canada’s foreign minister. It is also a mystery why Mr. Dion is unaware of the Hungarian government’s self proclaimed goal of exterminating Liberalism in Hungary, or its practice of decorating people who preach hatred against Jews, Roma, Muslims or Homosexuals. In case he needs a reminder, here is a direct quote from the Hungarian PM, Viktor Orbán. „Liberalism is an enemy of freedom, especially freedom of speech.”

    It’s said that politics makes for strange bedfellows. Mr. Dion’s interpretation of this saying is simply a sick joke. It’s time for him to return to the values and principles that put him in office. It’s time Mr. Trudeau clears up the mess created by Mr. Dion regarding his government’s stand towards regimes, such as Hungary’s that are systematically violating the rule of law, and values, that tens of thousands of Canadians have sacrificed their lives defending during the course of two world wars.

  3. It destroyed the Third Hungarian Republic, declared with great symbolism on October 23rd, 1989, as the successor and guarantor of the legacy of 1956.

    Rubbish.

    From the Fundamental Law of Hungary:

    We agree with the Members of the first free National Assembly, which proclaimed as its first decision that our current liberty was born of our 1956 Revolution.

  4. Charlie London says:

    “Hungary’s anti-refugee rhetoric dishonours its history – my grandmother could tell you”

    Yes, Christopher – well said.

    The above Guardian title adds to your theme.

    Here it is:

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/24/hungary-anti-refugee-viktor-orban

    And exposes this Orban dictatorship with its evil hypocrisy, for what it is.

    Enough said.

  5. Minister Dion is a disgrace. It is his stance that allows the little fascists to ridicule and despise the “weak” liberal democracies which are outsmarted by the “strong” leaders who get what they want. Munich 1938 was a tragic mistake; today’s fascist buds should have been nipped, not tolerated and facilited by the gestures and policies of Mr. Dion or Chancellor Merkel.
    These mistakes or petty political deals are coroding the EU and weakening democracies everywhere.

  6. If anyone has any doubts re what has been cultivated in Hungary, sometimes under the wing of Fidesz, look at this link and around there.

  7. A little feedback for Chris:

    “Regrettably, Hungary’s government today, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and an inner circle of oligarchs and political operatives in the Prime Minister’s Office, is an example of tyranny, systemic economic and political intimidation, the marginalization, demonization and state-led abuse of the vulnerable and a regime bent on dismantling what little remains of media freedom in Hungary.”

    In a country where I live those people I know and who know about Hungary at all say the same. 🙁 hmmmm

    “It destroyed the Third Hungarian Republic” It was painful, he was not elected to do that. Anyhow…

  8. I agree 100% with Dr. Adam and Professor Gollner about Orban and the damage he has done to Hungary and beyond.

    But I do not agree at all that Professor Dion is a disgrace, nor that he is a separatism sympathizer.

    The Canadian government (which Professor Dion represents) is at least as aware of the machinations of Orban as is the US government, which has not hesitated to criticize and (diplomatically) warn Orban of consequences that the US is perfectly capable of meting out to him once the time is judged right if he does not mend his ways.

    Canada has less leverage; and our diplomacy is even more genteel.

    But Professor Dion is no one’s fool (and young Mr. Trudeau is lucky to have him and other senior Liberals helping him).

    • S. Harnad

      The political gesture of “business as usual” or praising the budding fascist that is a disgrace.
      The Minister is surely briefed and his personal qualities may be high, but the gesture is what counts. Quebec is OT here.

  9. Even the best and the brightest among us are capable of making a mistake. Wisdom resides in our ability to demonstrate, that we can learn from our mistakes.

    I concur with Stevan Harnad, that Stephane Dion is no fool, nor was Mr Ignatieff. Neither should be portrayed as a separatist. Academically both are more qualified than young Justin Trudeau. But as a political leader, Trudeau was able to achieve what his more learned elders were unable to: learn from their mistakes and win the hearts and minds of a majority of Canadians.

    We do not serve Liberalism well if we remain silent when Liberals say or do things that do not help the cause of Liberalism. The failure to say anything, publicly or privately, about the destruction of Liberal values within one of the members of the Euro-Atlantic community, is a tragic mistake. Mr. Dion should do the right thing, and learn from his mistake. He should not only listen, but give moral encouragement to those, who are in a desperate struggle to preserve justice, democracy, Liberal values and free speech in Hungary. Hungary’s Civil Liberties Union, Helsinki Committee, along with more than 20 non-partisan civil rights groups have addressed a desperate plea to the world weeks ago about the Orbán regime’s human rights violations. This paper has reported on their cries for help. The UN’s Human Right’s Commissioner, the Council of Europe’s Human Right’s Commissioner, Barack Obama, the Prime Minister of Italy, Luxemburg’s Foreign Minister, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and many others have responded to their cry for help. It is time, our Liberal leaders did the right thing as well rather than follow the path of Stephan Harper’s government, which chose to embrace rather than express it’s displeasure with the anti-Liberal Orbán government, and its rule of law violations.

  10. “After the revolution, almost 38,000 Hungarian refugees found freedom and the opportunity to prosper in Canada,…”

    Good old days. Today it’s different. But one no need to be a dictator or xenophobe if you have the money. They all do the same, the difference is whether you can do it in style or not.

    “Canada pays thousands of Roma to abandon refugee appeals, leave country
    And data Global News obtained under federal access-to-information laws indicates most of these refugee claimants are Roma. Citizens of Hungary, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia make up 61 per cent of the total of people in the program – more than 1,800 by March of this year.”

    If hypocrisy could kill there would be no need for population control.

    In Hungary I had many Roma friends, it’s a lie what they say about them, some were beautiful women everybody were in love with them speaking 3 languages, the others with high education and speaking languages, many of them hard working nice people. The rest lived in poverty, uneducated so when they try it they get payed to get off and die somewhere else. Orban can’t feed even them let alone thousands of illiterate rapefugees. Who’s xenophobe here?

    If hypocrisy could kill. Sure they accuse Orban and the Hungarians with racism (sadly Hungarians are discriminating Romas indeed) and when the Romas seek refuge at the good hearted democratic accusers of the Hungarians they generously pay them the money to f..k off and go die somewhere else. O.K. I understand but at least please be silent and don’t point fingers to others. And the Romas are even happy for that.

    http://globalnews.ca/news/1618256/canada-pays-thousands-of-roma-to-abandon-refugee-appeals-leave-country/

  11. Just as we we’re discussing responses here came the commemoration organized by Prof Charles Gatti. The US officials, acting and former, attended that one, but not the Hungarian embassy one.
    A great gesture.

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