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Winnipeg Free Press | 03Feb2012 | staff writer

Canadians support museum

It will probably be the end of March and the start of the new fiscal year before Canadians learn if the Harper government will do the right thing and increase its financial support for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. If the answer is no, then the future of the landmark at The Forks in Winnipeg could be in limbo for many years to come, despite the museum's tentative pledge to open in 2014, a year later than originally planned.

If the Conservatives are wondering which way the wind is blowing, they should examine a poll conducted for Sun Media and OMI Agency, apparently in a failed effort to discredit the museum. The poll shows a majority of Canadians (56 per cent) support the project. Only 11 per cent were opposed.

And incredibly, 15 per cent of Canadians said they would make a special trip to Winnipeg to visit the museum. That's potentially millions of people who feel strongly enough about human rights, they would get in their cars or hop on an airplane for a pilgrimage to the centre of the country.

The respondents were also asked what they would choose -- a Jets game or a visit to the museum -- if they were in Winnipeg. Some 54 per cent picked the hockey game, while 46 per cent preferred the museum. Nearly 65 per cent of women would go to the museum.

Liberals and New Democrats were more likely to support the museum than Conservatives, but hopefully such crass political considerations are not behind the cold shoulder Prime Minister Stephen Harper has of late given the museum, a Crown corporation that he has a duty to open in a timely manner.

The museum's new budget of $351 million (not including $6.5 million for a postponed theatre and temporary gallery) is short about $60 million, which private fundraisers will try to raise on top of the $130 million they collected so far. But unless the new chairman of the museum's board, Calgary accountant Eric Hughes, a close friend of Mr. Harper's, can tap into Alberta's oil wealth, it could be five or six years before the money is in the bank. The delay will just raise the costs even higher and create havoc with the museum's ability to hire or hold staff.

Four provinces -- Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia -- are directly funding the museum, while others are considering it. Like Canadians in general, they understand the power of human rights as a national symbol and the value the museum will provide in educating young people. It's your turn, Mr. Harper.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 3, 2012 A10

Selected COMMENTS:

Gordon Halushka:  7:25 AM on 03Feb2012

Fellow Canadians:"the rancor in states of the former Soviet Empire over their perception that, in the United States and Western Europe, Hitler's slaughter of the Jews is amply memorialized while Stalin's murderous crimes -- before, during and after World War II -- garner far less attention. Where, they ask, is the U.S. museum memorializing Stalin's terror? "--"The double Genocide wars that pit Stalin's crimes against Hitler's are raging in wide swathes of Europe." --Roger Cohen/1/30 2012--NYT.--This is my fundamental rift with the political left and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Grubfoot:  9:53 AM on 03Feb2012

Support for the CMHR is not analogous to support for human rights. Who isn't in favour of human rights? Some of us don't need a glitzy building to show how much we care about human rights. Presenting human rights by way of genocides invites criticisms of esteeming one people's suffering over another. Human rights are abstract anyway and human rights discourse devoid of adherence to human equality is more an exercise in repeating history than in preventing its repetition.

Building a better Animal Farm is missing the point.

Pseudonym:  10:32 AM on 03Feb2012

It's not about human rights at all, it's all about an expensive building -- an awful looking expensive building. The overpaid staff can't figure out what's going to be inside it -- something that should have been determined at square one. The WFP can spin this all they want -- it's not working. To all the people who are in favour of the CMHR -- get your wallets out. No more tax dollars!

Robert6:  1:25 PM on 03Feb2012

Liberals and New Democrats were more likely to support the museum than Conservatives, but hopefully such crass political considerations are not behind the cold shoulder Prime Minister Stephen Harper has of late given the museum. So the WFP gives accolades to the Left while Harper who has given everything to this museum of mass atrocities is set up to be the curmudgeon. If this is not an example of biased cheerleading, I do not know what is.

Murray Bonner:  1:28 PM on 03Feb2012

"a Crown corporation that he has a duty to open in a timely manner"

Harper's duty?

What happened to the founders' duty to keep their word to the Senate committee that the number was $265 million, which, they assured the committee, included a 15% contingency and that this was not one of those projects where, once started, the government would be expected to finish at any cost?

Many resent the fact construction was started with the belief the government would have to give them a blank cheque to finish the thing. This is naught but rank dishonesty. Certain individuals have zero credibility and the public now knows better than to believe anything that passes between their lips.

If you get your Holocaust museum on the public's dime then I suppose congratulations are in order. Recognize that those who have put us in this position, essentially at the wrong end of a shotgun, will ultimately pay a price that cannot be measured in dollars and cents.

Murray Bonner:  1:49 PM on 03Feb2012

The CMHR Paradox

If the Holocaust was happening right now, and Canada committed vast sums to a 'Human Rights Museum', with say the Armenian genocide or the Holodomor as the example used to illustrate the concepts, the Jewish community would rightly condemn us as anti-Semitic.

Now that we are committing vast resources to the same cause, with the Holocaust as the central theme, that makes us nothing more than garden variety racists.

Regardless of whose suffering we ignore and whose we edify, we are guilty of promulgating racism -- in a 'Human Rights Museum'.

As for the argument the museum will advance the cause of human rights more than direct expenditure of the capital and annual operating funds to address the needs of humans suffering in the here and now, what about the kid who just died for want of a cup of rice and clean drinking water? There will be millions more like him before this thing opens, and this would hold true whether the founders had been competent planners or not.

That's only thinking of the fundamental right to survive. Once we get everybody the basics of food and water, if we were not hypocrites, we would start on the myriad other rights denied to more people than we could possibly count in a lifetime.

I just do not understand how so many smart, wealthy, and intelligent people can reconcile this inherent contradiction.

NebulaStardust:  4:21 PM on 03Feb2012

With the Harper fiasco in the bombing of Libya and having killed around 30,000 civilians, ruined buildings and homes and stolen away every Libyan's perks -- free heath care, free schooling, subsidized car purchases, and so much more. Also, now the West (ie: rich oil barons) has stolen away their oil. Always oil! And, now Doctors Without Borders are reporting people being tortured, helped at the clinics, and tortured again. Way to go Harper! You've shattered the lives of most Libyans while you brown nose the Americans.

NebulaStardust:  4:43 PM on 03Feb2012

Israel is guilty of many war crimes. Here are a list of some of those crimes they have been found guilty of at the United Nations only to have the Resolutions of these crimes vetoed by the USA.

I hope the source will show the honesty of these reports.

Tammy4:  4:56 PM on 03Feb2012

Is there a transcript of the meeting with the public at The Forks back a few years ago? All the promises made then? Everyone was assured to high heaven that the various groups would be treated equally. From what I remember, people left very reassured. So much for that. But seriously, a tape or a transcript of that would be interesting.

Binadamu:  8:12 PM on 03Feb2012

If the Harper government wants to do the right thing then before committing any more money to the project it must insist that the administration of the museum respect the name and the spirit that goes with the name of the institution: CANADIAN MUSEUM (an institution that represents all Canadians) FOR (focused on) HUMAN RIGHTS (not human wrongs). As it stands now, the project can be more properly called "The Holocaust, Some Other Mass Atrocities, and Human Rights Museum". This is not what most Canadians want, and this is not what will make Canadians proud. On the other hand, an institution truly centered on human rights would be unique and would attract world attention.

alexo 1:  10:03 AM on 04Feb2012

The poll results (and I'm assuming the questions) aren't really representative of the situation. How many of those polled were familiar with the financial boondoggle it has become? Or worse, how the government/taxpayers were -- at best it seems -- MISLED about the construction costs, admin costs and content? Were the CMHR powers that be just plain clueless about what this was going to cost to build, run and maintain or were they going to do and say anything to get it built?

Heck I thought the museum was a pretty exciting idea for the city before any shovels hit the ground. Now, not so much.

winnipeg steve:  11:09 AM on 04Feb2012

What an utter load of cr@p! Human Rights? Hundreds of thousands of innocent lives have been killed in the name of "freeing the people", "saving the women" and "spreading democracy" around the globe. For what? So oil pipelines can be built and oil can be seized. So opium can be cultivated. So puppet dictators can be replaced by other puppet dictators? So financially independent countries can be made slave to the IMF and World Bank. So the natural resources of sovereign countries can be robbed from the people.

Are we to believe that we are the good guys and this museum or Tower of Babel sanctifies us and makes us the champions of all things righteous and good? Bull#@$%!!

Geza Matrai:  2:50 PM on 04Feb2012

To make the campaign for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights more inclusive, a permanent exhibit for the 100 Million victims of Communism should be included. Just as the Canadian Jewish community rightfully expect a permanent fixture for the understanding of the Holocaust, millions of Canadians of Eastern/Central European and Asian heritage expect that the full exposition of the genocidal horrors of Communism also be a permanent part of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Peace on Earth and Good Will to All
Geza Matrai

Gerdy:  4:17 PM on 04Feb2012

Canadians support museum?!? I think not.

"When the museum is complete, how likely or unlikely are you to travel to Winnipeg to visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights?" (Those living outside Winnipeg Only)

Survey says...
Very likely: 3%
Somewhat likely: 12%
Somewhat unlikely: 18%
Very unlikely: 37%
Not at all interested in visiting the museum: 23%
Unsure: 8%

FP Editor: "And incredibly, 15 per cent of Canadians said they would make a special trip to Winnipeg to visit the museum. That's potentially millions of people who feel strongly enough about human rights, they would get in their cars or hop on an airplane for a pilgrimage to the centre of the country."
(That's what heavy top-spin looks like.)