Winnipeg Free Press | 25Mar2011 | Lubomyr Luciuk

Museum editorial misleading, uninformed

I am writing to complain about the editorial Museum complaint parochial (Winnipeg Free Press, March 24, 2011).

This editorial contains misleading and inaccurate statements intended to expose the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA) to public ridicule, so as to undermine our legitimate calls for a review of the governance and proposed content of a taxpayer-funded national institution, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR).

The editorial says, "The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association has been demanding that if the Holocaust gets favoured treatment in the museum, then it wants a special gallery for the Holodomor." We have never made any such request. We have called for all 12 of the 12 museum galleries to be inclusive, comparative and thematic.

As for the dismissive reference to the term "hierarchy of genocides" (the basis for our principled objection to the ordering of exhibits/galleries at the museum) we are only reflecting the opinion of Gail Asper and Moe Levy, who in the pages of the Winnipeg Free Press (Jan. 9, 2004) wrote that they would never countenance "a hierarchy of suffering" in this museum.

Your gratuitous remarks about the Nanos Research poll question and the credibility of that company I will leave to their representatives to address. But allow us to ask how you know we paid a "small fee" for our question to be added to a national survey.

The tone of this paragraph seems intended to dismiss the results of the survey by besmirching the professionalism of Nanos Research while mocking our efforts to determine what the public wants in a national museum that taxpayers are being called upon to sustain, in perpetuity.

You have reported that 60.3 per cent of Canadians, men and women of all ages, from all regions and of all political persuasions, rejected (in the Nanos poll) the notion of a gallery being set aside permanently to cover just one genocide. Yet the editorial questions why we did not specifically reference the Holocaust as such a gallery's subject.

The reason we did not was simply because, as stated above, the association's position has always been, and remains, that no one community's suffering, however great, should be elevated above all others in a national museum funded by all taxpayers, which includes the Holodomor.

There are other errors of fact in the editorial. For a newspaper that was distinguished with an award from the Winnipeg-based Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko for its coverage of the Holodomor I am surprised, for example, that you get the Holodomor's dates wrong (it was 1932-33 not 1931-32).

Finally, on the issue of surveys, allow me to introduce the results of a poll conducted by the Ministerial Advisory Committee for the CMHR. The former, chaired by Arni Thorsteinson, tabled its report with Josee Verner, then minister of Canadian Heritage, on March 31, 2008. Table 7 of that document details how Canadians rank-ordered the subjects they wanted addressed in the museum, as follows:

Aboriginal (First Nations), 16.1 per cent; Genocides, 14.8 per cent; Women 14.7 per cent; Internments, 12.5 per cent; War and Conflicts, 8.7 per cent; Holocaust, 7 per cent; Children, 5.9 per cent; Sexual Orientation, 4.9 per cent; Ethnic Minorities, 3.8 per cent; Slavery, 2.9 per cent; Immigration, 2.6 per cent; Charter of Rights, 2.3 per cent; Disabilities, 2 per cent; Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1.8 per cent.

You will note the Holocaust ranks sixth in this list.

The association had nothing to do with this survey and yet the above-cited results demonstrate what the Canadian public believes are issues the museum should focus on: Aboriginal stories, all genocides, the War Measures Act and the several incidents of internment operations that have occurred in Canadian history, women's rights and themes arising out of war and conflict -- those are all of more interest than the particular story of Jewish suffering in the Second World War, the Shoah.

The association has stated publicly, more than once, that in a genocide gallery at the museum the Shoah (Holocaust) must be included, treated alongside other crimes against humanity like the Holodomor, the Rwandan genocide, the Armenian genocide, the "killing fields" of Cambodia, "ethnic cleansing" and the Maoist terror, which took the lives of some 40 million Chinese in the politically engineered famine of 1958-1962.

Such a thematic, comparative and inclusive gallery would have both pedagogical and commemorative value. There's nothing "uninformed" about that.

This editorial is itself an example of the uninformed defaming of a group of Canadians who have done nothing more than legitimately question what's going on at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Lubomyr Luciuk is director of
research for the Ukrainian Canadian
Civil Liberties Association.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 25, 2011 A15

Winnipeg Free Press | 24Mar2011 | Editorial [Luciuk response]

Museum complaint parochial

The campaign against a separate place for the Holocaust in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has always seemed parochial, but it has lost credibility with its latest effort to reduce the destruction of European Jewry during the Second World War to just another genocide.

The Ukrainian Civil Liberties Association has been demanding that if the Holocaust gets favoured treatment in the museum, then it wants a special gallery for the Holodomor, the man-made famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in 1931-32. They are opposed to being part of a separate zone devoted to mass atrocities while the Holocaust gets its own gallery. The Ukrainian group has since received support from Canadian associations that represent Poles, Germans, Latvians, Estonians, Lithuanians, Hungarians and Slovaks, which reject what they call a "hierarchy of genocides."

In support of their drive to either eliminate a separate Holocaust gallery at the Winnipeg museum or get their own special place, the Ukrainian association and another group called Canadians for Genocide Education recently paid Nanos Research a small fee to add a single question to an omnibus poll.

Do you want one gallery for all genocides, the pollster asked, or one gallery for "a particular genocide permanently, while the others are grouped together in a separate exhibit?"

It was one question in a series of unrelated queries that could have asked about favourite breakfast cereals, pizza preferences, travel plans and, finally, genocide. There was no context or background information and no mention of the Holocaust. It's not even clear that the respondents had heard of the human rights museum or understood its mission.

The question was slanted to guarantee a negative response -- who wouldn't support equality for all? -- and it does not represent responsible or reliable research.

Despite the overwhelming odds in favour of getting the answer they wanted, however, the poll actually reported that nearly 25 per cent of Canadians support the idea of one gallery that highlights a particular, unnamed genocide. It's impossible to know, but this group might represent those who are familiar with the issues and who knew all atrocities are not the same, that some are qualitatively different and that one in particular, the Holocaust, stands out as the most educational.

Unlike all other genocides, the Holocaust was global in its reach. The Nazis killed Jews in all the nearly 30 countries they occupied in full or in part during the war. Unlike the Soviets, who wanted to end Ukrainian nationalism and were indifferent to Ukrainians elsewhere, the Nazis wanted to eliminate Jews wherever they could find them.

The hatred of Jews, moreover, was worldwide and continued even after the Second World War. Canada, in fact, had a policy against accepting Jews after the war and Jews in Poland continued to be killed by gangs of roving anti-Semites.

The Jews of Germany were fully integrated and, for the most part, barely recognizable as a minority. They were targets of prejudice, to be sure, but they attended the same schools as non-Jews and worked in the civil service, the military, the arts, business and the professions. They had legal rights and enjoyed the protection of the courts and police.

So what happened? How did they lose those rights and what did individual Germans do to stop it? Was resistance impossible, or were the Nazis masters of subterfuge who fooled everyone until it was too late?

The suffering of individual Jews was no greater than the pain of Ukrainians or others who have been targets of hatred, but the story of how they lost their rights, and how their neighbours -- ordinary people -- turned against them, is a unique cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy and human rights.

Why does the Holocaust get a place in the front seat? Only the uninformed ask questions like that.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 24, 2011 A12