Home > Holodomor | Ukrainophobia | Demjanjuk | d&d (Furman, Odynsky, Katriuk) | Zuzak Letters |

Blogspot | 12Apr2012 | blackrod

The CMHR boondoggle is not my sister's fault, says David Asper

They say animals can detect natural disasters before they happen. Well, we, too, can detect disaster in the making and we say "head for the hills, there's some bad s...t coming."

The latest clue is David Asper's op-ed in the Winnipeg Sun telling people to stop picking on his baby sister, Gail, for the debacle known as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

David A. devoted so much space to rewriting the history of the CMHR that it set off alarms that only dogs can hear. It's obvious that there's some very, very bad news about the museum on the horizon and the Aspers want to put as much space between themselves and doomsday as possible.

We first spotted this tactic in December when the Winnipeg Free Press, the propaganda arm of the CMHR, published an editorial writing the Aspers out of the museum narrative and replacing them with P.M. Stephen Harper. That's right. According to the FP circa late 2011, the Aspers were only bit players in the story, and the unfinished museum was "his (Harper's) project", not Izzy Asper's, or, after his death, his daughter Gail's.


Brother David expands on this theme, only in carefully chosen lawyer talk, each word meticulously selected to say what's true, but less than what's really true.

"The federal government assumed ownership and operational control of the museum more than five years ago, when it was formally designated as a national institution under the Museums Act. The federal government and its appointees are responsible for the project."

He fails to note that, according to daughter Gail, Izzy Asper always intended his human rights museum to be a federally funded institution, he made a private deal with fellow Liberal and then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien for $100 million in federal funding, and after his death his daughter lobbied the Conservative government endlessly to give the museum a federal designation.

By the time they agreed, Gail Asper had hired a Toronto firm, Lord Cultural Resources, to develop the concept of an "ideas museum" and write a three-volume Master Plan which the government adopted. And she had conducted a competition for an architect and had selected an "iconic" design which was considered inviolate. And the project came with a budget of $265 million which was affirmed to the Senate without a word of objection from Gail Asper.

Or, in short, he's written Gail Asper out of the story.

"My sister is a member of the board of directors, but has no other role with the museum itself. She volunteers and gives up most of her life to fundraise in order to fill the gap between the amount of funding promised by the federal government and the cost escalation that occurred, as happens with many other projects of this scale."

As the primary fundraiser, she is the chief board member. While she pretended to surrender her power over the major decisions to the government appointed board in 2008, that proved to be an illusion when a debate broke out over whether the Holocaust would be the most prominent element of the whole museum.

Suddenly it was clear that that there was to be no debate among board members, that any decision by the board to reduce the prominence of the Holocaust would go against her daddy's wishes and millions in donations would disappear as a result, and she was hinting detractors were anti-Semites, with no challenge from anyone else on the board, especially hapless CEO Stu Murray who ostensibly works for the federal government and not the Aspers.

As for cost escalation, it was kept a closely guarded secret until The Black Rod crunched the numbers and blew the whistle. Gail isn't doing anybody a favour by fundraising for her father's pet project; she's doing it for herself (as a board member she gets to travel the world) and her father's legacy. Not to mention that the fundraising has collapsed and there is no hope they can raise the $67 million they need simply to finish the shell of the museum, exhibits are extra.

In short, go ahead and rewrite history. Who's going to check, right?

David Asper made sure to write that "the federal government and its appointees" are responsible for the project. It's those "appointees" that are being set up for the blame when the project collapses amid fierce public recriminations. (Note that he obviously doesn't mean this sister, an appointee as well.) Think about it.

We already know the project has run out of money and is nowhere close to being finished. They have no money for utilities or taxes. The cost of the building alone has climbed from $265 million to $356 million. Add another $50 million for the project for an endowment fund to bring 20,000 students per year to the museum, an absolutely vital, non-negotiable element of the project.

If that's not the worst of it, what could be lurking on the horizon?

What did clients think when they heard about the arrest of Bernie Madoff? "Gee, how bad could it be?"

The campaign to disconnect Gail Asper from the Canadian Museum of Human Rights is gathering steam for a reason. We smell that its because there's bad news on the horizon. Real bad. Worse than the public has been told so far. Gee, how bad could it be?

Will we soon hear of even more overruns? FP columnist Dan Lett has already floated the idea of a possible lawsuit against the project engineer. Are the contractors being paid? Are cheques bouncing? There's a reason so many Museum execs have walked away before seeing the project of a lifetime to completion.

How do dogs predict earthquakes? They just know.

And while we're on the topic, did you read the delusions of Winnipeg lawyer David Matas in last Saturday's Free Press?

Matas was on a panel at a public discussion conflating the Holocaust with residential school experience. His bizarre opening remarks were printed in full.


According to Matas, the "Holocaust was an experience unique in human annals" because "never before or since has a group of people attempted to conquer the world so they could kill all and every member of another group."

"The Holocaust was a crime in which virtually every country in the globe was complicit...."

"The Holocaust happened not because there were racists in power in Germany, but because ordinary people around the world shared the views of Nazis and were eager to co-operate with them in carrying out their plan to extinguish all Jewish life."

"Without the active collaboration of thousands and the passive indifference of millions, the Nazis could not have accomplished their mission of death."

Ummm. There isn't a reputable historian in the world that believes Adolph Hitler wanted to conquer the world. That's comic book thinking.

Hitler wanted to dominate Europe, overthrow the Communists in Russia and expand Germany, eventually, east into Ukraine and Russia. He wasn't planning on invading Canada, or the United States, or Mexico, or Jamaica, or the Philippines, or pretty much anywhere else.

And, yes, the Holocaust DID happen because there were racists in power in Germany. They weren't asking for anyone's permission or help; they did it on their own initiative.

The passive indifference of millions aided the Nazis? Would that be the millions who had no idea of what the Nazis were doing until after the allies overran the death camps?

After blaming everybody in the world for helping Hitler kill the Jews of Europe, Matas concludes that the Holocaust was "the starting or tipping point for our current concept of human rights", which, as it turns out, is exactly the argument for why the Holocaust gets a permanent gallery in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and none of the rest of the world's genocides do.

And, just like that, Matas' paranoid fantasies of the entire world out to get the Jews provided the catalyst to understanding what Gail Asper has been saying about the CMHR all along.

She's said that the museum was never intended to be a Holocaust museum, as critics claim. It was, she says, envisioned as a human rights museum from the start.

But, David Matas has put that into perspective. It's a game of semantics. The story of the Holocaust is the story of human rights, see? They're synonymous, one and the same. You can't have one without the other. So a museum highlighting human rights has to highlight the Holocaust.

In other words, it WAS always intended to be a Holocaust museum. Just not the kind people were used to seeing.

And you need to understand that David Matas was on the museum's Content Advisory Committee.

Is it any wonder now why the CAC's final report had barely a breath about any genocide other than the Holocaust?

Or why the museum completely ignored its own polling of Canadians which said the Holocaust was NOT the main topic they wanted to see in the museum? Or an independent poll that showed Canadians were opposed to giving the Holocaust a stand-alone gallery?

Instead of Never Again, the museum should ask Why Ever? Why did Hitler launch the Holocaust?

A single thematic gallery would answer that question----because he thought he could get away with it. Turkey got away with the Armenian genocide. Russia got away with the Ukrainian genocide. Why should Germany be different? The Germans just prided themselves for being more efficient.

The CMHR looks to be playing to the paranoid delusions of the David Matases of the country, and promoting an us-versus-them world view. Remember, says Matas,"The Holocaust was a crime in which virtually every country in the globe was complicit...."

Is this how they intend to indoctrinate the children they expect to bring to the museum?

Is this false history to be part of the "lesson" taught in the CMHR?

Just another reason, along with the blatant out-of-control spending, for the federal government to step in, replace the board, and review the whole boondoggle.

Winnipeg Free Press | 07Apr2012 | David Matas

Human rights born of Holocaust's horror

The following are the introductory remarks made by David Matas at the start of the Voices of Survival panel discussions held in March at Winnipeg's Etz Chayim Synagogue. Other speakers were Robbie Waisman, a Holocaust survivor who spoke about his experience, and Justice Murray Sinclair, chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, a commission charged with telling the truth about the aboriginal residential school experience. 

Introducing the topic is not so easy. Introducing either the Holocaust or the aboriginal residential school experience is a difficult enough task. Introducing them in juxtaposition is daunting indeed.

Why do we have these two topics together on the same panel? There is, to be sure, a parallel of human suffering, the impact the suffering of children has on their adult lives. Yet, there is more than that.

The Holocaust was an experience unique in human annals. We must beware of false analogies, equating other atrocities with the Holocaust. Yet, we must not isolate the Holocaust from the rest of human experience.

The genocide of the Jews was unprecedented in its scope, the attempt to kill every single Jew, no matter how old or young, no matter how able-bodied or disabled, no matter how distant from Judaism and the Jewish community. Conversion to Christianity or even to Nazism, inter-marriage, friends in Nazi high places, adoption of Jewish children by non-Jewish parents did not stop the Nazi killing machines. Nothing could.

Other mass killings both before and after the Second World War were local, territorial, national. The Holocaust was unprecedented not only in its unlimited scope, but also in its unlimited reach.

Never before or since has a group of people attempted to conquer the world so they could kill all and every member of another group. The Holocaust was a crime in which virtually every country in the globe was complicit, either by participating in the killings or by denying refuge to those attempting to escape or by granting safe haven to Nazi mass murderers. The Holocaust was not just a crime against humanity. It was a crime of humanity. The Holocaust was an act of insanity in which the whole world went mad.

The Holocaust was unique in its disconnection from reality. Other genocides grow out of political and ethnic conflicts. While the killing of innocents is always irrational, one can see with other genocides, the politics which led to the genocide. In contrast, with Nazi Germany, there was no such context or explanation. Historian Yehuda Bauer writes:

"For the first time in history, the motivation (of the genocide) had little, if anything, to do with economic or social factors, but was purely ideological, and the ideology was totally removed from any realistic situations."

Despite the unique nature of the Holocaust, I welcome the juxtaposition this panel represents. Isolating the Holocaust from the rest of human experience is a form of Holocaust denial, not denial the Holocaust happened, but denial the Holocaust was inflicted by ordinary human beings acting in ordinary everyday ways.

The Holocaust happened not just because there were racists in power in Germany, but because ordinary people around the world shared the views of Nazis and were eager to co-operate with them in carrying out their plan to extinguish all Jewish life. It is misleading to think of the Holocaust as a tale of devils and angels, of monsters and heroes. It is above all a tale of ordinary people. It was ordinary Germans who were primarily responsible for the Holocaust. However, they were far from solely responsible.

Of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, only 210,000 were Germans and Austrians. In the other places the Nazis went, they did not know the languages, the places or the people. Wherever they went, they relied heavily on local police, administrative personnel and home-grown fascists organized into militias to round up Jews for the death camps. Without the active collaboration of thousands and the passive indifference of millions, the Nazis could not have accomplished their mission of death.

In Canada, the government denied refuge to Jews fleeing Europe in response to popular anti-Semitic sentiment. If governments for decades did nothing to bring Nazi war criminals in Canada to justice, it was a reflection of public indifference to justice for the Holocaust.

The story of the Holocaust is, to be sure, the death of the Jews. But it is also the death of the illusion of the limits of evil. Because of the Holocaust, everything has changed. Our view of humanity can never be the same. Yet, if we put the Holocaust to one side nothing will change.

The Holocaust was the product of an advanced civilization, at the forefront of humanity's culture, technology, medicine, legal and administrative structures. Even during the midst of the Holocaust, many of the most highly educated of the day were among the most enthusiastic supporters of anti-Semitism. The Holocaust tells us that neither education, nor culture, nor intellect can immunize us from evil.

The progress of European civilization made the Holocaust easier, rather than harder, to perpetrate. The elaborate organization and systematic execution of the plan to extinguish the Jews -- the identification, the ghettoization, the trans-shipment, the death camps, the ovens, the gas chambers -- were the product of an advanced technological and industrial society. The Holocaust teaches us that industrial (and) technological development -- while they increase our material well-being-- also increase our capacity for evil. In an advanced civilization, murderers can kill an entire world.

Anti-Semitism wherever the Nazis went was not just an attitude, a policy and a behaviour. It was a legal structure, legislated by local parliaments and enforced by the local courts. Nazi laws stripped Jews of citizenship, forbade marriages and sexual relationships between Jews and non-Jews, stripped Jews of property, denied Jews access to the professions and the civil service. Many mass crimes are spasms of violence outside of any legal framework. The Holocaust was cosseted within an anti-Semitic legal framework. This experience teaches us the difference between the tyranny of law and the rule of law, the difference between law and justice.

While the concept of human rights existed before the Holocaust, its popular penetration and its global sweep, the notion of individuals as subjects with rights as against states are all directly linked to the Holocaust. The starting or tipping point for our current concept of human rights was the Holocaust. Indeed, though human rights is a general term untied in form to any particular violation or time or geographical location, in substance -- when we are referring to human rights -- we are referring to the global reaction to the Holocaust and the consequences of that reaction.

Seeing the problems aboriginals faced as human-rights problems and seeing the solutions as human-rights solutions arrived only after the Holocaust, because of the Holocaust. Before the advent of the human-rights revolution in reaction to the Holocaust, aboriginals were seen as different and treated differently.

The Holocaust was an exogenous event with an endogenous impact. Revulsion to the Holocaust generated a paradigm shift from the stratification of humanity to the equality of humanity. The notion of aboriginals as equals became prevalent. The shift to human rights meant discriminatory and abusive practices inflicted on aboriginals either ended or lessened. Nonetheless, the problems the aboriginal population faced from past discrimination have been far from resolved.

Though aboriginal populations, as such, were completely absent from the drafting conventions which produced the international human-rights instruments, the result was an ethic which resonated with the global aboriginal community. Aboriginals have their own human-rights tradition. The welcome aboriginals gave to the arriving colonial powers, a better welcome in retrospect than they deserved, came from the aboriginal human-rights tradition. Human rights here, as elsewhere, became a common language, a bridge over the divide between culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

For aboriginals, human rights has not been a panacea. The advent of human rights does not mean we have solved all problems, healed all wounds, cured all defects.

This failure is attributable to three different causes. First, the human-rights revolution is incomplete. There is still need for the development of both standards and mechanisms to promote respect for the human rights of aboriginals.

Second, even where we have standards and mechanisms, we do not necessarily have respect for human rights. People still discriminate against aboriginals, not as systematically as they used to do, but still in sufficiently large numbers for it to be a real problem.

As well, the issue of respect for economic, social and cultural rights remains. The right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing and housing and the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health are, for aboriginals, honoured in the breach.

Third, the end to human-rights violations is not to the end of the consequences. The effects of discrimination can be felt for generations.

That is certainly true of aboriginal residential schools. When children are taken away from their parents, it means they cannot draw on the role modelling of their parents in raising the next generation. When children are not taught the language and culture of their parents, they can not transmit that language and culture to their children. So, the next generation suffers.

The value of the juxtaposition in which we are engaged this evening I see is this:

A Holocaust-derived human-rights optic gives us a lens through which non-aboriginals can see the harm they have inflicted on aboriginal communities. When we hear that in some parts of Canada, 90 per cent of children were taken away from their parents, that the ones who escaped were those who hid in the bush, that the children once taken away were barred from contact with their parents for years, that siblings who were taken away together were then split up in the schools, that the children were not allowed to speak their own language or learn their own culture, that they were physically abused for disciplinary reasons, and all this was done by people who thought they were acting in the best interests of these children, we reel back in abhorrence.

Yet, without a human-rights sensibility derived from the Holocaust experience, we would not feel that abhorrence. Indeed without the commitment to human rights generated by the Holocaust experience, non-aboriginals might be continuing those abusive practices to this day.

The atrocities of the Holocaust experience sensitize us to the horrors of the aboriginal experience. Because of the Holocaust, we are no longer naive enough to think that what happened to the aboriginals in Canada could not have happened. As well, the human-rights lessons of the Holocaust give us the standards, the mechanisms and the commitment to remedy the victimization of the aboriginal experience.

David Matas is an international human-rights lawyer based in Winnipeg. He is senior honorary counsel to B'nai Brith Canada.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 7, 2012 J12


bogey1: 12:56 PM on 4/7/2012
Matas seems to have conveniently forgotten that the director of the Asper Foundation signed a letter promising the Ukraianian Canadian Congress that the Holodomor would have an equal and permanent exhibit to that of the Holocaust.
Promise broken.

Also, he forgets that the late Justice Jules Deschenes (head of the war criminal inquiry) requested that Sol Littman present his evidence for his claim of "60,000 Ukrainian war ciminals in Canada"
Littman refused to do so and his "punishment" for his hate mongering is a high ranking position at the Weisenthal Center in LA.

Canadians have shown in polls that they, by a majority, support EQUAL reprentation for all the genocides to be presented at the CMHR

As for Matas's premise that the Holocaust is unique, ask someone who lost family in the Holodomor or other genocides. I notice how Matas refuses to even use that word "genocide" about others, instead using "mass killings" as if to diminish the horrors of other genocides. The Holodomor and Armenian genocides both had millions of victims.

Shame on Matas for being so narrow minded and exclusive.
Luckily the majority of Canadians are not. They are a open minded, inclusive people believing that by raising the suffering of one group above all others is not ony unfair, but it's un-Canadian as well.

Darlene Varaleau: 1:28 PM on 4/10/2012
What a beautiful and insightful article. Thank-you!

Corporal Punishment: 10:29 PM on 4/12/2012
"The story of the Holocaust is, to be sure, the death of the Jews. But it is also the death of the illusion of the limits of evil. Because of the Holocaust, everything has changed. Our view of humanity can never be the same. Yet, if we put the Holocaust to one side nothing will change."

Yes, I can see how the lessons of the Holocaust have been applied in Israel. Ask Palestinians and Semitic Jews what Holocaust survivors and their progeny have learned. They've learned how to treat everyone outside their clique like second-class citizens, that's what.

Things aren't any different in Winnipeg or at the CMHR. If this is the paranoid, delusional doctrine they intend to teach our children at the museum, I say, "Enough is enough!"

It's time to remove Gail Asper from the board of trustees and bring someone in who has a balanced, historically-grounded, Canadian perspective about human rights.