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Winnipeg Free Press | 30Dec2011 | Staff writer

Museum's bold idea worthy

Is it possible that Canada doesn't need a human rights museum, particularly one that will cost $351 million?

[W.Z.  The only "right" bequeathed by God to all living entities is to struggle for survival for itself and its offspring. All other "human" rights have been created by humans -- often in conflict with each other.]

After all, Canada is already a land of ubiquitous rights for individuals and groups, not just minorities, but employees, tenants, patients -- all of us, actually. The country is also recognized around the world as a strong advocate for human rights, and Canadian jurists are consulted regularly on legal and human-rights issues. South Africa's Bill of Rights, for example, was modelled after Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The further the argument is carried, however, the clearer it becomes that Canadian history and identity are defined by pluralism, tolerance, and, above all, human rights, however imperfect their definition, application or acceptance.

If liberty defines Americans, human rights have become Canada's national myth. But unlike the United States, Canada has no Liberty Bell, no Statue of Liberty, which give human and architectural form to the predominant theme of American life.

And that's why the late Izzy Asper envisioned a bold building with iconic architecture, something worthy of Canada's heritage and the importance of human rights. Anything less wasn't worth doing. Indeed, when the budget for the museum soared to $315 from $265 in 2008, many private donors, including the Aspers, were prepared to withdraw their money rather than downsize and erect a red-brick warehouse for human rights.

[W.Z.  To suggest that Israel Asper was interested in human rights is an oxymoron. His directives to his journalists at CanWest -- not to write critical articles concerning Israel, which was/is abusing the human rights of Palestinians since 1948 -- was a direct attack on the human right of free speech. Mr. Asper was a charter member of the Holocaust Industry and was only interested in the Jewish right to promote the Holocaust. As president/owner of CanWest he had tremendous power to do so and was at the forefront of subverting the human right of researchers to question the details of the Jewish experience during WWII. He -- along with other members and supporters of the Holocaust Industry -- was at the forefront of establishing the Deschenes Commission, passage of Bill C71 in 1985 and, when criminal prosecution of alleged [imagined] Nazi war criminals failed, in establishing the denaturalization and deportation policy in 1995, which is a direct attack on the human right of Canadians to be considered innocent until proven guilty in a criminal court of law before a 12 person jury.]

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is being built in Winnipeg because this is where the idea originated and where the deal was cobbled together. Moreover, Manitoba donors have contributed 80 per cent of the $120 million raised so far. Prime Minister Stephen Harper also liked the idea of building a national museum outside the Capital Region in a city and province that have fought many battles over human rights.

There was no agreement that the private fundraisers, known as the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, would be responsible for cost overruns, but their only choice -- since Ottawa refused to increase its $100-million stake, which thus discouraged the province and city from also contributing more -- was to raise more private cash.

They were $20 million short of their goal of $150 million when the budget increased again, to $351 million. The building alone, which is nearing completion, cost $265 million. The Friends now need $60 million, an enormous burden that could delay the museum's opening for five or six years and thus create new budget problems, unless the government offers a loan or new money.

[W.Z.  Once again, the Winnipeg Free Press is attempting to blackmail Stephen Harper to pour money into a black hole.]

The controversies over budgets, government intransigence, and the place of the Holocaust, however, have distracted attention from the museum's truly national and international ambitions.

One of its central goals is to bring thousands of school children to the museum every year, but before they arrive here, they will have completed a program on human rights in their home schools. The museum has been negotiating agreements with the 12 provincial and territorial departments of education to prepare a human-rights curriculum in co-operation with the Winnipeg facility. Other partnerships are also being developed, including airlines that have agreed to offer special rates to fly students to Winnipeg.

[W.Z. A perfect opportunity to "brainwash" our children to uncritically accept the agenda of the Holocaust Industry.]

This is a completely new concept in Canada and, hopefully, it will be an inspiration for Ottawa, which has no similar program for its great national institutions. Eventually, the museum could be a training ground for police officers, soldiers, foreign affairs workers and others. (Some of the museum's crudest critics should be given life-long passes).

The museum is also developing relationships with universities across Canada for programming and professional support. World-class intellectuals, writers and famous thinkers will grace the museum's corridors. In fact, it will more closely resemble an educational institution than a museum, which is usually associated with dusty artifacts and relics from the past.

This is an idea museum. It will challenge not only the bullies, racists and bigots in our midst, but also the apathetic, the bystanders, those who don't vote. It will encourage introspection and self-examination. Ultimately, its goal is to educate, create good citizens and promote action at home and abroad.

[W.Z. If the Aspers and Friends of the "Holocaust Museum" were truly interested in human rights and pedagogical discussion, they would include a section designed by Ernst Zundel, Robert Faurisson and other researchers demonized as "Holocaust revisionists".]

These are big ideas and lofty goals, and there will be more challenges and bitter controversies along the way, but that's the risk in pursuing greatness. And that's why Izzy Asper urged Canadians to reach for the stars -- as he put it -- in creating a great national institution that would be recognized around the world as Canada's Statue of Liberty.

That's what Prime Minister Harper understood when he decided to make it a Crown corporation. He liked the boldness of the concept and, as a leader who has strived to promote history at home and freedom abroad, he also recognized that human rights are as Canadian as maple syrup.

[W.Z.  More motherhood statements followed by more blackmail of Mr. Harper.]

And that's why he should brush aside the petty controversies and take a stronger stand for what will become a great national monument for all Canadians.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 30, 2011 A12

Selected Comments:

LL53:  7:47AM on 2011/12/30
While many of the points raised in this unsigned editorial may be valid, the fact remains that the contents of this "idea museum" are what matters, not the shell, and the central "idea" of its boosters is that one community's suffering is more important than that of all others. That's not an "idea" a majority of Canadian taxpayers want to support in perpetuity, nor propagate by subsidizing the travel of students and others to what is supposed to be a "national museum." Unless the board of trustees of this museum is made more representative of Canadian society, and the CMHR's contents are revised significantly, this museum will remain divisive and contentious and undeserving of public and private support.

Peter 12:  1:27PM on 2011/12/30
How can there be any doubt who is responsible now that his project is in the ditch when that possibility was broached at Senate hearings with the CMHR officials and they were given assurances not too worry. The CMHR board told the Senate committee they were responsible for bringing project under budget as you can read from Senate minutes below. Time for these people if they have any integrity to step up take the blame and correct the situation without throwing the ball in someone else's court. Ms. Sherwood: The board of trustees will be accountable for bringing this project in on budget and making decisions with respect to the building design and the contingency fund set aside that allow it to bring the project in on budget. Senator Cowan: Is the current expectation that, if this were approved in the near future, the $265 million would be sufficient including a generous contingency provision? Ms. Sherwood: Yes, it includes a 15 per cent contingency provision. Delete

Peter 12:  1:39PM on 2011/12/30
"One of its central goals is to bring thousands of school children to the museum every year" Now the planners of this financial boondoggle are going to strap the Canadian taxpayer with millions more dollars to subsidize the dragging of thousands of school children to the museum. You can be sure that thousands of school children will not make that a priority for their own funds so they will attend for the most part under protest and if someone else is picking up the tab. Flying children in from all over Canada, food and lodging adds up to tens of millions of dollars - one could only hope they are not dragged there kicking and screaming.

earl tunnley1:  2:32PM on 2011/12/30
"And that's why the late Izzy Asper envisioned a bold building with iconic architecture, something worthy of Canada's heritage and the importance of human rights."===========What he envisioned and what was soundly rejected, was a private, Asper-run museum, created with millions of tax dollars in addition to some of his own, to feature one topic and one topic only -- the Holocaust. Once this topic was rejected, he attempted to save face by championing a "human rights" museum with the largest gallery devoted to the subject of the Holocaust in Canada. The Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre in Toronto may now be able to claim having the largest gallery. http://www.holocaustcentre.com

Binadamu:  4:09PM on 2011/12/30
The Editorial claims that the controversy over the place of the Holocaust has "distracted attention from the museum's truly national and international ambitions." But the problem is that contrary to denials from the museum management, the memorialization of the Holocaust has always been and continues to be what the organizers are trying to promote as the "national and international ambitions" of the whole Canadian population. Angela Cassie, the museum’s director of communications and external relations, was interviewed by the current Canadian Jewish News. Here is an excerpt: "Many in the Jewish community have expressed concern that the Holocaust gallery will be downsized or merged into a gallery that includes other large-scale atrocities. Cassie said the confusion may stem from discussion about a second gallery that shows how Canada has discriminated against minorities, including how it prevented Jews who were escaping the Holocaust from entering Canada. She said a standalone Holocaust gallery is still in the plans." (www.cjnews.com/node/89049) There is no justification for building a CANADIAN HUMAN RIGHTS museum around a particular human wrong that did not take place on Canadian soil and was not committed or suffered by Canadians. The survivors of that genocide found refuge in Canada, as did the survivors of other genocides. There is no ethical reason why equal remembrance should not be accorded to the victims of all genocides -- if the CMHR were a Canadian Museum of Genocide. As it is promoted, the CMHR is supposed to be a human rights museum. If we want a UNIQUE human rights museum then we should put a notable example of humanity’s achievement in human rights legislation (the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) and not one of the most horrific instances of human wrongs (the Holocaust) in the conceptual and physical centre of the museum.
[See article appended below]

Rob R:  8:08PM on 2011/12/30
'many private donors, including the Aspers, were prepared to withdraw their money rather than downsize and erect a red-brick warehouse for human rights.' This building is a monument to human ego not human rights. It represents what the elites and politically connected of this country can accomplish if they set their minds to it. That’s what this is truly about. If they want to build a nice building then they should just say so rather than using the guise that this is about human rights. For anyone actually interested in advancing the cause of human rights go here: www.hrw.org, click on the donate button and give money to those that will actually put it to good use. They do real work on the current human rights abuses going on around the world. Oh and they apparently have no qualms about working out of a regular office building, red-brick or not.

Canadian Jewish News | 05Jan2012 | Myron Love

Cash shortfall delays human rights museum

WINNIPEG -- The Canadian Museum for Human Rights has announced that a funding shortfall will delay its opening for another year or more.

While the physical structure will be completed next year as planned, the museum won’t open in 2013, as had been previously announced. Due to a cash crunch that’s reportedly as high as $45 million, the museum won’t open until at least 2014, and possibly later.

“We are looking to our capital campaign to make up the shortfall,” said Angela Cassie, the museum’s director of communications and external relations.

“We are exploring all options in trying to determine what is feasible or achievable. We will have a better idea of how much we need in a few months time. We don’t want to move ahead with the interior work until we can be sure that we can pay the contractors.”

The three levels of government are most likely not the answer. On Nov. 30,2011, Ottawa turned down a request from the museum’s board for more funding, and the province is close to $1 billion in debt. The City of Winnipeg approved an additional $3.6 million for the project last spring after repeatedly turning down earlier requests.

Thus far, the federal government has contributed $100 million for construction of the first national museum to be built outside Ottawa, and it has pledged to cover $21.7 million a year in operating costs. The province has provided $40 million for construction costs, and the city has given $20 million.

The Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights -- led by Gail Asper, daughter of media mogul Israel Asper, who first proposed the project in 2003 -- has generated $130 million in private donations. The group’s goal was $150 million.

And although the museum is still two years or more away from opening, Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck reported on Dec. 20, 2011, that staff salaries are already costing $11 million a year.

Bernie Bellan, owner, publisher and editor of Winnipeg’s Jewish Post & News newspaper, isn’t surprised about the current situation. He first reported on the museum’s cost overruns in November 2010.

“When Israel Asper first proposed this project in 2003, the plan called for a $200-million structure to be completed in three or four years,” he said. “Now it is $310 million and rising, and the opening date is still unknown. This project is out of control.”

Cassie put a positive spin on the delayed opening, saying it buys museum staff more time to fine-tune the facility’s content and get it right. “This delay isn’t a bad thing,” she said. “We are working toward exceeding expectations.”

Cash shortages aren’t the only issues dogging the museum. Both its COO and chief knowledge officer resigned in 2011, and the chair of its board -- prominent Winnipeg businessman Arni Thorsteinson -- is resigning as of Jan. 1, 2012. Cassie noted, however, that he’ll remain involved as a board member of the Friends group.

Then there is the ongoing question of where the Holocaust fits into the new museum. The original plan was for a separate gallery for the Holocaust, based on the role it played in the postwar development of international human rights bodies and legislation.

But from the beginning of the project, the uniqueness of the Shoah has been challenged by a number of different Canadian ethnic groups, in particular by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Many in the Jewish community have expressed concern that the Holocaust gallery will be downsized or merged into a gallery that includes other large-scale atrocities. Cassie said the confusion may stem from discussion about a second gallery that shows how Canada has discriminated against minorities, including how it prevented Jews who were escaping the Holocaust from entering Canada.

She said a standalone Holocaust gallery is still in the plans.

 “The galleries [including a standalone aboriginal gallery] will unfold like the chapters in a book,” Cassie said. “The journey needs to be seen as a whole. The Holocaust is an example of what happens when a society abandons the concept of universal human rights and dignity.”

On a positive note, on Dec. 9, 2011, the museum and the government of the Netherlands signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate for the promotion of human rights through joint projects and education.