Winnipeg Free Press | 14Dec2010 | Carol Sanders

Rights museum called biased
Holodomor being overlooked: group
'It’s a very emotional issue for a number of people...We’ll only get one chance to make sure it’s done right' -- Taras Zalusky, Ukrainian Canadian Congress, on the museum’s final content advisory committee report

A national organization representing Ukrainian-Canadians wants the federal government to step in and switch some of the people deciding the content, layout and governance of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

In a report issued Saturday, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress says the museum's board and committees are "dominated by friends and supporters of the Asper Foundation" and lack objectivity.

The Winnipeg-based Congress posted its report after reading in the Free Press about the museum's final content advisory committee report. The committee calls for only two permanent galleries in the museum: one for the Holocaust and the other for Canada's indigenous people.

The Congress wrote to several cabinet ministers to complain that the genocide-famine in Soviet Ukraine and the national internment of Canadians during the First and Second World wars aren't getting permanent exhibits.

"It's a very emotional issue for a number of people," said Taras Zalusky, the UCC's executive director in Ottawa.

The Congress is urging people to write to their MPs and federal Heritage Minister James Moore and demand a change in the makeup of the museum's governance and advisory committees.

"We'll only get one chance to make sure it's done right," said Zalusky.

However, a museum spokeswoman said plans for the permanent exhibits haven't been finalized. "The content of the museum is not set in stone," said Angela Cassie.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights has received a copy of the Ukrainian Canadians' report: Canadian Museum for Human Rights -- A call for inclusiveness, equity and fairness, she said.

The national umbrella group that represents 1.2 million Ukrainian-Canadians said it supported the new museum politically and its members have donated to it. But when the final content advisory committee report was made public this fall, members of the Congress were disappointed.

"It makes only one minor, passing reference to Canada's first national internment operations,'' the Congress report said. The Congress is also upset there is only one reference to the Holodomor. Survivors of the Holodomor shared some horrific recollections of the genocide with the museum committee as it elicited input across Canada, said Zalusky.

"There were some absolutely stomach-churning issues and events that took place," said Zalusky. None of the witnesses' information and input was included in the content advisory committee report, though, he said.

It makes no mention of a permanent exhibit of major civil and human rights violations that occurred in Canada, including the national internment of Canadians during the First and Second World Wars, he said.

"We don't believe their report is balanced," said Zalusky.

"Nor does it reflect a Canadian approach to human rights issues," he said.

Part of the Ukrainian organization's concerns are specific to the report by the content advisory committee whose mandate comes to an end in March, said Cassie. Those findings will be added to the mix of reports from meetings with Canadians across the country, and discussions that are continuing, Cassie said. "It's not a road map."

Congress members are meeting with museum representatives in the near future, said Zalusky.

They're still waiting for a meeting with the federal government to talk about their concerns about the nationally-funded museum, he said. Since 2003, the Congress has complained the museum's "various structures lacked objectivity and did not represent Canadian society, including the initial advisory board, the board of trustees, content advisory council, employees, advisors and consultants," the Congress report said. It proposed several "qualified persons" to serve but said the federal government didn't respond.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 14, 2010 A4

COMMENTS: (from 18Dec2010)

Reframing rights debate

Now that the German-Canadian congress has joined the ranks of those who are enraged at being unable to express their cultural tragedies via square footage and souvenir kiosks, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has finally shown its true purpose: to act as a catalyst for special-interest groups grasping for the golden ring of suffering (Rights museum takes another hit, Dec. 16, 2010).

I can only hope that somewhere in the museum there will be an exhibit informing visitors about the dangers of identity politics, and what happens when politically correct good intentions meet the brick wall of self-righteousness and entitlement that a sense of perpetual victimhood brings.


I read with dismay the increasing chorus of complaint about the permanent space set aside for a Holocaust exhibit in our human rights museum -- as if counting numbers or square footage was the yardstick to use.

A visit to the Imperial War Museum in London years ago left a very deep memory when I visited their permanent Holocaust exhibit. The noisy teenage schoolchildren around me slowly became mute as we moved through its unrelenting evil. Headlines became faces. A world reminder for the ages. I am in favour of a permanent Holocaust exhibit.


I was disappointed but not surprised to read that the Holodomor would not receive permanent representation in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

It seems that in all the rush to validate the "uniqueness" and "enormous value as a teaching tool," we are to believe that by contrast the intentional starvation of up to 10 million human beings is not sufficiently unusual or relevant to educate people.

Consequently, I have no plans to attend the museum. We do not need another tower of glass, steel and concrete to teach us that we are our own worst enemies. Instead, I will walk with my wife in the sun by the river, and reflect on the people who have not had the same opportunity for peace and prosperity that I have, and how that might be changed.


Re: The editorial All crimes are not the same (Dec. 14). The use of human rights as an ideological weapon began after the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939. Britain widely circulated the pamphlet The Rights of Man; Or What Are We Fighting For? by H.G. Wells in 1940. U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt upheld human rights in his 1941 State of the Union address with his idea of Four Freedoms. And both countries expressed their desire that post-war peace be established on freedom of speech, religion and the freedom from fear and want when they signed the Atlantic Charter in August 1941.

The timing of these events shows that the use of human rights as a weapon was not solely that of Nazi Germany, proving that we recognized the beastly tendencies of both dictatorships before, during and after their pact ended in June 1941.

During the Cold War the Soviets countered this by drawing attention to what they believed were the inherent evils of our "imperialism": racial discrimination, colonialism/cultural genocide and a neglect of social and economic rights. Their post-war rebuilding of Auschwitz, for example, together with their propagating the idea that our system produces tyrants like Hitler can be seen as an omen of that assault.

Thus, your claim that the Holocaust and, I presume, Canada's "cultural genocide of First Nations" are unique ignores the wisdom of our wartime leaders and champions a Soviet interpretation of world events.

Scott Insch

In a museum of human rights, the central idea should be the rights that we hold to be inalienable, and the focus should be on the human beings who are entitled to them. The crimes that deprive human beings of their rights, the criminal regimes and their perpetrators should not take centre stage.

Setting up a hierarchy of crimes is not the proper way to educate our children, it does not foster a strong and healthy Canadian, multicultural society. First, it is ethically wrong. Second, it creates resentment and hostility between communities.

If there is a special place that should be reserved in the human rights museum, it should be to show how human rights were withheld from the indigenous population of Canada. These injustices were committed on Canadian soil, against the country's first inhabitants; all the other crimes took place in far-away lands. Such an approach is the only one that is morally justified and that will do honour to our multi-ethnic society.

Roman Serbyn

My father, Dr. Edward Charles Shaw, had a secret: His was a name change, and he was actually Edjou Szefchuk, with a Polish father, Marjan Szefchuk, and his Ukrainian mother's name was Olga Kaczkowski. With my Slavic heritage under erasure due to the rampant racism against Poles and Ukrainians in Manitoba in the first half of the 20th century, I was raised as a little Anglo girl, a common story in the history of Manitoba. In mid-life, as I reclaim my Slavic roots, I find this erasure appalling, as I do the fact that I was never educated in mainstream Manitoban society about the Holodomor. We understand what we learned at university: The bias of history is shaped by those in power, by pen-wielding historians, and by those who disseminate history, the educators. Why would Ukrainians who so passionately desire a permanent record of the Holodomor be denied? Find the money and build another room in our Manitoban hearts!

Margaret Shaw-MacKinnon

The Jewish Perspective:
Winnipeg Free Press | 14Dec2010 | Staff Writer (editorial)

All crimes are not the same

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights has done -- and is still doing -- an exhaustive consultation with Canadians about the content and stories that will be featured in the new national institution when it opens in 2013.

It has always been clear, however, that the Holocaust and the aboriginal experience in Canada will have significant and permanent places in the museum. Other stories will be told -- in fact, in a digital world there is almost no limit to the narratives that can be presented -- but nothing will compare to the destruction of European Jewry during the Second World War and the cultural genocide of First Nations.

The aboriginal experience will be there because it is the most important Canadian human-rights story -- and this is a Canadian museum -- while the Holocaust stands out because of the pivotal role it played in the evolution of modern human rights.

Although these twin facts have been clear from the beginning, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress has continued to demand equal space for two of its stories: the famine-genocide of 1932-33 that could have killed 10 million in Ukraine, and the story of the internment of Ukrainian Canadians during the First World War.

These are important stories, too, and they will be available in the museum, along with hundreds of other accounts of what happens when the dignity of people is denied.

The Ukrainian organization, however, is not happy with what it considers second-class treatment. It is demanding that the famine be given equal space with the Holocaust, partly because more Ukrainians may have died at the hands of Stalin than Jews under Hitler.

This is an unfortunate demand that ignores the uniqueness of the Holocaust and its enormous value as a teaching tool. It could also reduce the museum to a grim chamber of horrors that emphasizes body counts over education.

The museum is not saying that individual Jews suffered more than Ukrainians, but it is saying that some crimes are more revealing and consequential than others.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 14, 2010 A10