UMD Canada Holds Successful Gala Banquet; Honors Greek Helsinki Monitor’s Panayote Dimitras

TORONTO, CANADA – October 28, 2009 – Over 350 Canadian-Macedonians gathered at the St. Clement Macedonian Orthodox Cathedral Banquet Hall for the 1st United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) Gala Banquet in Toronto on October 24, 2009.  Proceeds from the event will go towards funding UMD Canadian Operations and the establishment of three UMD Macedonian Heritage Scholarships for Canadian-Macedonian students.  At the banquet, UMD honored Greek Helsinki Monitor Founder and Executive Director Dr. Panayote Dimitras in recognition and appreciation of his lifelong dedication to civil and minority rights in Greece. 

UMD’s second largest membership base in the world is in Canada.    “United Macedonian Diaspora’s branching out in Canada is viewed quite positively by our community; we need a strong united voice in Canada for the Macedonian community and UMD can fill that void,” stated the Director of Canadian Operations Jim Daikos. 

Senior Regional Advisor to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Major Ted Opitz attended on behalf of Minister Jason Kenney.  In his letter, Minister Kenney extended his “warmest greetings to all those attending the inaugural celebration of the establishment of the United Macedonian Diaspora.”  “I am proud to live in a country that embraces diversity and champions the Canadian values of democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law.  These are values that I know the Macedonian community in Canada value as core to your community,” read the letter. (To read letter, click HERE.) 

Macedonian Consul-General to Toronto, Ambassador Martin Trenevski, in his remarks, noted the success of UMD and urged Macedonians in Canada to offer their support to its continued success.  He expressed hope that the United Macedonian Diaspora will become the umbrella organization of Macedonians worldwide. 

The keynote address, delivered by Dr. Dimitras, was extremely well-received by the audience and provided for a thought-provoking question and answer session.  Dr. Dimitras, an ethnic Greek, has committed his life to improving the civil rights of the Macedonian, Turkish, and Roma minorities, among others, in Greece.  As a result of his work, Dr. Dimitras currently is facing charges of “high-treason” in Greek courts (which is punishable by life in prison).  The Greek state during the government of former Prime Minister Karamanalis cut all funding of the Greek Helsinki Monitor, thus reducing his position to an all-volunteer basis.  Dr. Dimitras, in his address, cited unbiased reports published this year by the United Nations and the Council of Europe urging Greece to not question the existence of a Macedonian minority within its borders but rather work to implement the recommendations of these reports.  Earlier in the week, Dr. Dimitras joined UMD President Metodija A. Koloski and UMD Canada Liaison Officer Goran Saveski for meetings in Ottawa with members of Canadian Parliament.

UMD Board Chairman and Vice President Aleksandar Mitreski and UMD President Metodija A. Koloski delivered remarks regarding the mission and vision of UMD.  UMD Board Members Stojan Nikolov and Boban Jovanovski also traveled from the United States to be part of the evening.  UMD Voice Editor Mark Branov emceed the evening and announced that the 2nd United Macedonian Diaspora Global Conference will be held on June 3-5, 2010 at the Sheraton Centre Hotel in Toronto, Canada.  John Bitove, Sr., a prominent Canadian-Macedonian businessman and philanthropist will receive the 1st UMD Lifetime Achievement Award at the Global Conference.  “It is a privilege that UMD has selected Toronto for the location of its 2nd Annual Global Conference, and we have an important task ahead of us in preparing for this event,” stated Branov.

Boys from Bouf, a Hamilton-based Macedonian orchestra entertained Gala Banquet guests throughout the remainder of the program.  UMD wishes to thank Wimpy’s Diner, Inc., Canadiana Flowers, Nestle Canada, and Delo Logic Arts, among others for their important sponsorship of the banquet.  In addition, UMD is grateful to the Macedonian Heritage Hour Makedonski Koreni, Macedonian Edition TV program, Makedonija newspaper, United Macedonia radio program, Maknews.com, and MakedonskaKafana.com for their promotion and coverage of the 1st UMD Gala Banquet.

To view pictures from the evening, click HERE.

Founded in 2004, United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) is the leading international non-governmental organization addressing the interests and needs of Macedonians and Macedonian communities throughout the world.
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