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Winnipeg Sun | 09Apr2012 | Ross Romaniuk

Campaign targets human rights museum

A Ukrainian-Canadian organization wants the public to speak up about a lack of openness it says is a serious problem in the planning of Winnipeg’s developing human rights museum.

The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA) is using a postcard campaign directed at federal Heritage Minister James Moore to push its point that because the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is publicly funded, it should be far more transparent in its goals for its galleries -- and should not “elevate the suffering of any community above all others.”

Lubomyr Luciuk, the UCCLA’s director of research, said on Monday that no genocide -- including the Holocaust or the Holodomor famine in Soviet Ukraine in the early 1930s, both of which killed millions of people -- should stand out above other such crimes against humanity at Canada’s first national museum outside the Ottawa area.

“No community’s suffering should be elevated above all others,” Luciuk told the Winnipeg Sun from Kingston, Ont., where he lives and works as a university professor.

An institution so heavily funded by the public purse, he said, must equally focus on genocides such as those that devastated Rwanda, Cambodia and other countries.

“We question whether any tax money should be given to promoting any kind of prejudice,” Luciuk stressed, noting that the museum’s escalating development price tag means “it’s costing more, and more and more” with a projected total of $351 million.

The campaign by the organization -- which is not a member group of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress -- uses a postcard-style mailout that states the sender opposes “additional federal funding for the CMHR.”

However, the Harper government has stated it won’t spend more on the project than $100 million committed years ago for construction and $21.7 million annually for operations.

Also including a photograph of Gail Asper, national campaign chairwoman for the Friends of the CMHR holding a dirt-filled shovel at the project’s sod-turning ceremony, the card says: “There’s been enough shovelling and spreading.”

Staff in Moore’s ministerial office in Ottawa did not return a call for comment.

Angela Cassie, spokeswoman for the museum project, said the institution’s three goals are to “promote an understanding of human rights issues; encourage dialogue and reflection; and inspire action.”

In an e-mail, she added that the CMHR “will work to capture Canada’s unique human rights story” with galleries and programming that will “lead our visitors into a deeper understanding of the ongoing struggle to turn the vision of international human rights into a reality for all.”