Russian Pavilion Will Not Be Included in Edmonton Heritage Festival: Organizers

Russian Pavilion Will Not Be Included in Edmonton Heritage Festival: Organizers
A folklore dancing group from Russia performs during the International Folk Festival Is Pariglias 2012 in Assemini, Sardinia, Italy, on Aug. 1, 2012. (Angyalosi Beata/Shutterstock)
Isaac Teo

The Russian pavilion will not be part of the Edmonton Heritage Festival next month due to safety concerns, organizers say.

In a public statement on July 7, the Edmonton Heritage Festival Association (EHFA) said the decision came after a “long consultative process” with both the Ukrainian and Russian pavilions ended in a stalemate.

“Following a long consultative process that culminated in a meeting with both pavilions together in the same meeting space last week, it became very clear to the EHFA that it was not possible for the two pavilions to come up with a solution together despite best efforts,” the EHFA board wrote.

“As much as we do our best to stay out of the politics that are reflected in the countries that represent the cultures that make up our festival, conflicts do exist and can escalate to the point where they cannot be ignored.”

According to EHFA, Ukrainian organizations and community members had urged the association to bar the Russian pavilion due to the ongoing war between the two nations.


The board said it has also “received several threats” demanding the ban. It did not specify what the threats were and from whom, but added that the Edmonton Police Service has advised that “increased security” is needed should the Russian pavilion be included in the annual August festival.
Last year, the Russian pavilion organizers voluntarily pulled out of the festival, but the EHFA noted there were “incidents related to the war that festival security had to address.”

“While these incidents did not pose a safety threat, they did highlight the potential for safety risks if the Russian pavilion had participated last year,” it said.

“Despite our confidence in our ability to put on a safe festival we recognize that if the Russian pavilion were to participate in the festival this year there is a real potential for incidents and potential safety risk.”

Natalia Pociurko, president of the Friends of the Ukrainian Heritage Pavilion Society, says EHFA made “the right decision.”

“We feel it’s the right decision considering that the war is going on and every day, probably as we speak, innocent children and civilians are dying in Ukraine,” said the president in an interview with CTV News Edmonton on July 7.

“Providing the stage to celebrate this culture as the war is going on, and considering all the crimes that have been committed, it’s not the right thing.”

The Russian Heritage Cultural Development Association (RHCDA) responded shortly on the same day after EHFA’s announcement.

“It is embarrassing that the City is not able to guarantee safety at a public event, and that the only solution to the problem is to exclude a group of Canadians based on their ethnical background,” said the RHCDA in a public statement.

“We truly believed that the phrase ‘promoting inclusion and limiting discrimination’ copied from the festival website means something. Now we feel that it does not.”

There have been a number of cancellations of or attacks on Russian culture-related entities in Canada and other Western countries since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Early last year, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra cancelled concerts by a young Russian pianist, and several prominent orchestras or ballet companies cancelled the performances of classical Russian pieces or Russian artists. As well, the Russian Community Centre in Vancouver was vandalized in March 2022, and Russian businesses in Canada and the United States have been experiencing backlash.

The heritage festival will be held from Aug. 5 to Aug. 7.