Winnipeg Sun | 05May2011 | Peter Worthington

Human rights museum a mess 

Winnipeg’s $310 million Canadian Museum of Human Rights (CMHR) is once again in the centre of a controversy over whose human rights should get the most attention.

A full page in the National Post in the form of a letter signed by 105 prominent Canadians urges two Ukrainian organizations “to stay out of the debate about the Canadian Museum of Human Rights” (CMHR).

[W.Z. The full page A5 advertisement in the Saturday, 23Apr2011 issue of the National Post was "signed" by 104 people. There appear to be 23 signatures from Canada, 10 associated with the University of Alberta (including Per Anders Rudling) and 2 extra from Edmonton (Myrna Kostash and Taras Kurylo).

There are 2 signatures from Ukraine -- Christian Ganzer, Kyiv and Alexandr Kruglov, Kharkiv. It is not known if they are associated with the Party of Regions and Yanukovych's attack on OUN, UPA and Ukrainian patriotism and Yanukovych's glorification of the Communist Soviet past.]

The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA) and Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), representing some 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian origin, are miffed the CMHR plans to have a Holocaust gallery, while lumping the Ukrainian Holodomor in another gallery with other historical genocides.

The Holodomor (death by starvation), imposed by Stalin in 1932-33 to bring Ukraine to heel, resulted in some four million deaths (some estimates are seven million) that scar the psyche of all Ukrainians.

The UCCLA and UCC feel all genocides should be confined to one portion of the museum, but if the Jewish Holocaust gets special treatment, so should the Holodomor. A Nanos Research poll indicates 60% of Canadians favour all genocides commemorated in one gallery.

There’s been considerable debate about the CMHR since it was proposed by the late Izzy Asper, founder of Canwest and the former owner of the National Post.

Stephen Harper’s government pledged $100 million towards the museum; the province of Manitoba $40 million; the city of Winnipeg $20 million; private donations $125 million. That leaves about $25 million still to raise. Annual costs (paid by the feds) are estimated at $22 million.

It’s ironic a human rights museum would cause such controversy. The “letter” published in the Post is bitter and nasty towards Ukrainians. It says the UCC “has, at times, inflated the number of (famine) victims to seven or even 10 million; the implication is obvious: Seven or 10 million is more than six million; the Holodomor deserves more attention than the Holocaust.”

That is somewhat unfair, if not paranoid.

The letter also recalls the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) cooperated with the Nazis, as well as opposing Soviet Communism, and indulged in mass murders of civilians. Not all Ukrainians, but some.

[W.Z. On 30Jun1941 Stepan Bandera proclaimed Ukraine's independence in Lviv. Hitler's response was to arrest Bandera and the OUN leadership and to hunt down, arrest and incarcerate/execute all Ukrainians promoting an independent Ukraine. The UPA was specifically created (officially on 14Oct1942) to fight against the Nazi occupation. When the Red Army drove back the Germans and MGB/MVD operatives were deployed to repacify Ukraine, the UPA reisted the Soviet occupation.]

Holocaust victims were largely innocent of everything except being Jewish, and the signatories of the letter and CMHR feel their fate stands as a unique lesson to all. Victims of Stalin starving Ukraine into submission are no less innocent than Holocaust victims.

Unless the issue of how to commemorate genocides can be resolved, it’s hard to see the CMHR being anything but a divisive symbol of controversy.

And not only the Holodomor. There is the Armenian genocide, the Cambodian genocide by the Khmer Rouge, Rwanda and Darfur as genocidal victims.When passions are involved, compromise does not come easily.

If it were up to me, I’d be inclined to commemorate all genocides in one gallery, with perhaps special attention to the Holocaust -- which was planned and perpetrated by evil people, and was not by impulse or hot blood. The same applies to the Holodomor -- which may have given Hitler the idea of a “final solution.”

But I’m neither Jewish nor Ukrainian, so the issue seems clearer.


this is all just a vanity project for the aspers, paid for by the taxpayers..... guys who get rich off the public with government connections can create the illusion that they are some kind of philanthropist with, you guessed it, the taxpayer footing the bills's no coincidence that asper and katz are buddies.....

while winnipegers are paying the debts for aspers little white elephant katz and his cronies will be collecting their gold plated pensions in phoenix....the streets he will drive on will be paid for by arizona taxpayers,and not allowed to crumble like here.....when katz scurries down the rat lines his legacy will be a crumbling city, an empty treasury, and a few pictures of him and asper smiling for the cameras, while praising each other for their years of public service....