John Yaremko supported Ukrainian education at York

John Yaremko (LLB ’44), York benefactor and former Ontario politician, has died. Mr. Yaremko was three days short of his 92nd birthday. He died in his sleep on Aug. 7 at the Ukrainian Canadian Care Centre in Toronto.

Born in Hamilton to a family of Ukrainian immigrants, Mr. Yaremko was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 1951. His subsequent 25 years of service representing the riding of Bellwoods (now the ridings of Trinity-Spadina and Davenport) stands as the longest period of service in the legislature.

Right: An early photograph of John Yaremko

During his career as an elected member of the legislature, Mr. Yaremko served as the minister of public welfare, minister of social & family services, minister of citizenship and minister of transport. However, it is his dedication to multiculturalism for which he is best known. Mr. Yaremko played a crucial role in developing Canada’s multicultural policies and is even said to be responsible for coining the term “multiculturalism”.

Mr. Yaremko is also known and respected for his philanthropic activities, including generous support for education and scholarship.

In 2009, a $150,00 donation from Mr. Yaremko, through the John and Mary A. Yarmeko Foundation, established an endowment fund at York University to support academic programming relating to Ukraine and to promote the study of topics related to Ukraine.

Mr. Yaremko also established the John Yaremko, Q.C. Scholarship, which is awarded to an Osgoode Hall Law School student entering the second or third year of the Juris Doctor Program. The scholarship is awarded to a student who is in need of financial aid and who, in the course of her/his studies, has exhibited the highest degree of interest and academic excellence in the study of human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law.  

Upon his retirement in 1975, the Toronto Star wrote: "His career exhibited a distinct concern for social justice, as minister responsible for legislation which improved the lot of persons with physical or developmental disabilities, the aged, the poor and ethnic and cultural minorities."

Recognized by many Canadian groups, he was awarded the Latvian Medal Pro Merito, the Freedom for Hungary Medal and life membership in the Polish Alliance of Canada. He was an honourary life member of the Canadian Italian Business & Professional Association of Toronto, the Pisticci Club of Toronto and the Abruzzi Club of Toronto, and an honourary member of the Hungarian Freedom Fighters Association of Canada and the Toronto Greek community’s Canadian Arcadian Association. He received the Metropolia Award on the 75th Anniversary of St. Volodymyr Cathedral in Toronto.

For his community work in Canada he was awarded the Order of St. Andrew and for his support of democratic governance in Ukraine, the President’s Medal. In 2009, he received the Paul Yuzyk Award for Multiculturalism, which was established by Citizenship & Immigration Canada to recognize individuals from communities across Canada who have achieved excellence in promoting multiculturalism. 

Predeceased by his wife Mary and parents, Mr. Yaremko leaves his extended family. Funeral services have taken place. Online condolences can be made on the Cardinal Funeral Home Web site. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Ukrainian Canadian Care Centre, 60 Richview Rd., Toronto M9A 5E4 .