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Blogspot | 12Apr2012 | blackrod
The CMHR boondoggle is not my
sister's fault, says David Asper
They say animals can detect natural
disasters before they happen. Well, we, too, can detect disaster in the
making and we say "head for the hills, there's some bad s...t coming."
The latest clue is David Asper's op-ed in the Winnipeg Sun telling
people to stop picking on his baby sister, Gail, for the debacle known
as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
David A. devoted so much space to rewriting the history of the CMHR
that it set off alarms that only dogs can hear. It's obvious that
there's some very, very bad news about the museum on the horizon and
the Aspers want to put as much space between themselves and doomsday as
We first spotted this tactic in December when the Winnipeg Free Press,
the propaganda arm of the CMHR, published an editorial writing the
Aspers out of the museum narrative and replacing them with P.M. Stephen
Harper. That's right. According to the FP circa late 2011, the Aspers
were only bit players in the story, and the unfinished museum was "his
(Harper's) project", not Izzy Asper's, or, after his death, his
Brother David expands on this theme, only in carefully chosen lawyer
talk, each word meticulously selected to say what's true,
but less than what's really true.
"The federal government assumed ownership and operational
control of the museum more than five years ago, when it was formally
designated as a national institution under the Museums Act. The federal
government and its appointees are responsible for the project."
He fails to note that, according to daughter Gail, Izzy Asper always
intended his human rights museum to be a federally funded institution,
he made a private deal with fellow Liberal and then-Prime Minister Jean
Chretien for $100 million in federal funding, and after his death his
daughter lobbied the Conservative government endlessly to give the
museum a federal designation.
By the time they agreed, Gail Asper had hired a Toronto firm, Lord
Cultural Resources, to develop the concept of an "ideas museum" and
write a three-volume Master Plan which the government adopted. And she
had conducted a competition for an architect and had selected an
"iconic" design which was considered inviolate. And the project came
with a budget of $265 million which was affirmed to the Senate without
a word of objection from Gail Asper.
Or, in short, he's written Gail
Asper out of the story.
"My sister is a member of the board of directors, but has no
other role with the museum itself. She volunteers and gives up most of
her life to fundraise in order to fill the gap between the amount of
funding promised by the federal government and the cost escalation that
occurred, as happens with many other projects of this scale."
As the primary
fundraiser, she is the chief
While she pretended to surrender her power over the major decisions to
the government appointed board in 2008, that proved to be an illusion
when a debate broke out over whether the Holocaust would be the most
prominent element of the whole museum.
Suddenly it was clear that that there was to be no debate among board
members, that any decision by the board to reduce the prominence of the
Holocaust would go against her daddy's wishes and millions in donations
would disappear as a result, and she was hinting detractors were
anti-Semites, with no challenge from anyone else on the board,
especially hapless CEO Stu Murray who ostensibly works for the federal
government and not the Aspers.
As for cost escalation,
it was kept a closely guarded secret until The Black Rod crunched the
numbers and blew the whistle. Gail isn't doing anybody a
favour by fundraising for her father's pet project; she's doing it for
herself (as a board member she gets to travel the world) and her
father's legacy. Not to mention that the fundraising has collapsed and
there is no hope they can raise the $67 million they need simply to
finish the shell of the museum, exhibits are extra.
In short, go ahead and rewrite
going to check, right?
David Asper made sure to write that "the federal government and its
appointees" are responsible for the project. It's those "appointees"
that are being set up for the blame when the project collapses amid
fierce public recriminations. (Note that he obviously doesn't mean this
sister, an appointee as well.) Think about it.
We already know the project has run out of money and is nowhere close
to being finished. They have no money for utilities or taxes. The cost
of the building alone has climbed from $265 million to $356 million.
Add another $50 million for the project for an endowment fund to bring
20,000 students per year to the museum, an absolutely vital,
non-negotiable element of the project.
If that's not the worst of it, what could be lurking on the horizon?
What did clients think when they heard about the arrest of Bernie
Madoff? "Gee, how bad could it be?"
The campaign to disconnect Gail Asper from the Canadian Museum of Human
Rights is gathering steam for a reason. We smell that its because
there's bad news on the horizon. Real bad. Worse than the public has
been told so far. Gee, how bad could it be?
Will we soon hear of even more overruns? FP columnist Dan Lett has
already floated the idea of a possible lawsuit against the project
engineer. Are the contractors being paid? Are cheques bouncing? There's
a reason so many Museum execs have walked away before seeing the
project of a lifetime to completion.
How do dogs predict earthquakes? They
And while we're on the topic, did you read the delusions of Winnipeg
Matas in last Saturday's Free Press?
Matas was on a panel at a public discussion conflating the Holocaust
with residential school experience. His bizarre opening remarks were
printed in full.
According to Matas, the "Holocaust was an experience unique in human
annals" because "never before or since has a group of people attempted
to conquer the world so they could kill all and every member of another
"The Holocaust was a crime in which virtually every country in the
globe was complicit...."
"The Holocaust happened not because there were racists in power in
Germany, but because ordinary people around the world shared the views
of Nazis and were eager to co-operate with them in carrying out their
plan to extinguish all Jewish life."
"Without the active collaboration of thousands and the passive
indifference of millions, the Nazis could not have accomplished their
mission of death."
isn't a reputable historian in the world that believes Adolph Hitler
wanted to conquer the world. That's comic book thinking.
Hitler wanted to dominate Europe, overthrow the Communists in Russia
and expand Germany, eventually, east into Ukraine and Russia. He wasn't
planning on invading Canada, or the United States, or Mexico, or
Jamaica, or the Philippines, or pretty much anywhere else.
And, yes, the Holocaust DID happen because there were racists in power
in Germany. They weren't asking for anyone's permission or help; they
did it on their own initiative.
The passive indifference of millions aided the Nazis? Would that be the
millions who had no idea of what the Nazis were doing until after the
allies overran the death camps?
After blaming everybody in the world for helping Hitler kill the Jews
of Europe, Matas concludes that the Holocaust was "the starting or
tipping point for our current concept of human rights", which, as it
turns out, is exactly the argument for why the Holocaust gets a
permanent gallery in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and none of
the rest of the world's genocides do.
And, just like that, Matas' paranoid fantasies of the entire world out
to get the Jews provided the catalyst to understanding what Gail Asper
has been saying about the CMHR all along.
She's said that the museum was never intended to be a Holocaust museum,
as critics claim. It was, she says, envisioned as a human rights museum
from the start.
But, David Matas has put that into perspective. It's a game of
semantics. The story of the Holocaust is the story of human rights,
see? They're synonymous, one and the same. You can't have one without
the other. So a museum highlighting human rights has to highlight the
In other words, it WAS always intended to be a Holocaust museum. Just
not the kind people were used to seeing.
And you need to understand that David Matas was on the museum's Content
Is it any wonder now why
the CAC's final report had barely a breath
about any genocide other than the Holocaust?
Or why the museum completely ignored its own polling of Canadians which
said the Holocaust was NOT the main topic they wanted to see in the
museum? Or an independent poll that showed Canadians were opposed to
giving the Holocaust a stand-alone gallery?
Instead of Never Again, the museum should ask Why Ever? Why did Hitler
launch the Holocaust?
A single thematic gallery
would answer that question----because he thought he could get away with
Turkey got away with the Armenian genocide. Russia got away with the
Ukrainian genocide. Why should Germany be different? The Germans just
prided themselves for being more efficient.
The CMHR looks to be playing to the paranoid delusions of the David
Matases of the country, and promoting an us-versus-them world view.
Remember, says Matas,"The Holocaust was a crime in which virtually
every country in the globe was complicit...."
Is this how they intend to indoctrinate the children they expect to
bring to the museum?
Is this false history to be part of the "lesson" taught in the CMHR?
Just another reason, along with the blatant out-of-control spending,
for the federal government to step in, replace the board, and review
the whole boondoggle.
Winnipeg Free Press | 07Apr2012 | David Matas
Human rights born of
The following are the introductory remarks made by
David Matas at the start of the Voices of Survival panel discussions
held in March at Winnipeg's Etz Chayim Synagogue. Other speakers were
Robbie Waisman, a Holocaust survivor who spoke about his experience,
and Justice Murray Sinclair, chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission of Canada, a commission charged with telling the truth about
the aboriginal residential school experience.
Introducing the topic is not so easy. Introducing either the
Holocaust or the aboriginal residential school experience is a
difficult enough task. Introducing them in juxtaposition is daunting
Why do we have these two topics together on the same panel?
There is, to be sure, a parallel of human suffering, the impact the
suffering of children has on their adult lives. Yet, there is more than
The Holocaust was an experience unique in human annals. We
must beware of false analogies, equating other atrocities with the
Holocaust. Yet, we must not isolate the Holocaust from the rest of
The genocide of the Jews was unprecedented in its scope, the
attempt to kill every single Jew, no matter how old or young, no matter
how able-bodied or disabled, no matter how distant from Judaism and the
Jewish community. Conversion to Christianity or even to Nazism,
inter-marriage, friends in Nazi high places, adoption of Jewish
children by non-Jewish parents did not stop the Nazi killing machines.
Other mass killings both before and after the Second World War
were local, territorial, national. The Holocaust was unprecedented not
only in its unlimited scope, but also in its unlimited reach.
Never before or since has a group of people attempted to
conquer the world so they could kill all and every member of another
group. The Holocaust was a crime in which virtually every country in
the globe was complicit, either by participating in the killings or by
denying refuge to those attempting to escape or by granting safe haven
to Nazi mass murderers. The Holocaust was not just a crime against
humanity. It was a crime of humanity. The Holocaust was an act of
insanity in which the whole world went mad.
The Holocaust was unique in its disconnection from reality.
Other genocides grow out of political and ethnic conflicts. While the
killing of innocents is always irrational, one can see with other
genocides, the politics which led to the genocide. In contrast, with
Nazi Germany, there was no such context or explanation. Historian
Yehuda Bauer writes:
"For the first time in history, the motivation (of the
genocide) had little, if anything, to do with economic or social
factors, but was purely ideological, and the ideology was totally
removed from any realistic situations."
Despite the unique nature of the Holocaust, I welcome the
juxtaposition this panel represents. Isolating the Holocaust from the
rest of human experience is a form of Holocaust denial, not denial the
Holocaust happened, but denial the Holocaust was inflicted by ordinary
human beings acting in ordinary everyday ways.
The Holocaust happened not just because there were racists in
power in Germany, but because ordinary people around the world shared
the views of Nazis and were eager to co-operate with them in carrying
out their plan to extinguish all Jewish life. It is misleading to think
of the Holocaust as a tale of devils and angels, of monsters and
heroes. It is above all a tale of ordinary people. It was ordinary
Germans who were primarily responsible for the Holocaust. However, they
were far from solely responsible.
Of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, only 210,000
were Germans and Austrians. In the other places the Nazis went, they
did not know the languages, the places or the people. Wherever they
went, they relied heavily on local police, administrative personnel and
home-grown fascists organized into militias to round up Jews for the
death camps. Without the active collaboration of thousands and the
passive indifference of millions, the Nazis could not have accomplished
their mission of death.
In Canada, the government denied refuge to Jews fleeing Europe
in response to popular anti-Semitic sentiment. If governments for
decades did nothing to bring Nazi war criminals in Canada to justice,
it was a reflection of public indifference to justice for the Holocaust.
The story of the Holocaust is, to be sure, the death of the
Jews. But it is also the death of the illusion of the limits of evil.
Because of the Holocaust, everything has changed. Our view of humanity
can never be the same. Yet, if we put the Holocaust to one side nothing
The Holocaust was the product of an advanced civilization, at
the forefront of humanity's culture, technology, medicine, legal and
administrative structures. Even during the midst of the Holocaust, many
of the most highly educated of the day were among the most enthusiastic
supporters of anti-Semitism. The Holocaust tells us that neither
education, nor culture, nor intellect can immunize us from evil.
The progress of European civilization made the Holocaust
easier, rather than harder, to perpetrate. The elaborate organization
and systematic execution of the plan to extinguish the Jews -- the
identification, the ghettoization, the trans-shipment, the death camps,
the ovens, the gas chambers -- were the product of an advanced
technological and industrial society. The Holocaust teaches us that
industrial (and) technological development -- while they increase our
material well-being-- also increase our capacity for evil. In an
advanced civilization, murderers can kill an entire world.
Anti-Semitism wherever the Nazis went was not just an
attitude, a policy and a behaviour. It was a legal structure,
legislated by local parliaments and enforced by the local courts. Nazi
laws stripped Jews of citizenship, forbade marriages and sexual
relationships between Jews and non-Jews, stripped Jews of property,
denied Jews access to the professions and the civil service. Many mass
crimes are spasms of violence outside of any legal framework. The
Holocaust was cosseted within an anti-Semitic legal framework. This
experience teaches us the difference between the tyranny of law and the
rule of law, the difference between law and justice.
While the concept of human rights existed before the
Holocaust, its popular penetration and its global sweep, the notion of
individuals as subjects with rights as against states are all directly
linked to the Holocaust. The starting or tipping point for our current
concept of human rights was the Holocaust. Indeed, though human rights
is a general term untied in form to any particular violation or time or
geographical location, in substance -- when we are referring to human
rights -- we are referring to the global reaction to the Holocaust and
the consequences of that reaction.
Seeing the problems aboriginals faced as human-rights problems
and seeing the solutions as human-rights solutions arrived only after
the Holocaust, because of the Holocaust. Before the advent of the
human-rights revolution in reaction to the Holocaust, aboriginals were
seen as different and treated differently.
The Holocaust was an exogenous event with an endogenous
impact. Revulsion to the Holocaust generated a paradigm shift from the
stratification of humanity to the equality of humanity. The notion of
aboriginals as equals became prevalent. The shift to human rights meant
discriminatory and abusive practices inflicted on aboriginals either
ended or lessened. Nonetheless, the problems the aboriginal population
faced from past discrimination have been far from resolved.
Though aboriginal populations, as such, were completely absent
from the drafting conventions which produced the international
human-rights instruments, the result was an ethic which resonated with
the global aboriginal community. Aboriginals have their own
human-rights tradition. The welcome aboriginals gave to the arriving
colonial powers, a better welcome in retrospect than they deserved,
came from the aboriginal human-rights tradition. Human rights here, as
elsewhere, became a common language, a bridge over the divide between
culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
For aboriginals, human rights has not been a panacea. The
advent of human rights does not mean we have solved all problems,
healed all wounds, cured all defects.
This failure is attributable to three different causes. First,
the human-rights revolution is incomplete. There is still need for the
development of both standards and mechanisms to promote respect for the
human rights of aboriginals.
Second, even where we have standards and mechanisms, we do not
necessarily have respect for human rights. People still discriminate
against aboriginals, not as systematically as they used to do, but
still in sufficiently large numbers for it to be a real problem.
As well, the issue of respect for economic, social and
cultural rights remains. The right to an adequate standard of living,
including adequate food, clothing and housing and the right to the
enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental
health are, for aboriginals, honoured in the breach.
Third, the end to human-rights violations is not to the end of
the consequences. The effects of discrimination can be felt for
That is certainly true of aboriginal residential schools. When
children are taken away from their parents, it means they cannot draw
on the role modelling of their parents in raising the next generation.
When children are not taught the language and culture of their parents,
they can not transmit that language and culture to their children. So,
the next generation suffers.
The value of the juxtaposition in which we are engaged this
evening I see is this:
A Holocaust-derived human-rights optic gives us a lens through
which non-aboriginals can see the harm they have inflicted on
aboriginal communities. When we hear that in some parts of Canada, 90
per cent of children were taken away from their parents, that the ones
who escaped were those who hid in the bush, that the children once
taken away were barred from contact with their parents for years, that
siblings who were taken away together were then split up in the
schools, that the children were not allowed to speak their own language
or learn their own culture, that they were physically abused for
disciplinary reasons, and all this was done by people who thought they
were acting in the best interests of these children, we reel back in
Yet, without a human-rights sensibility derived from the
Holocaust experience, we would not feel that abhorrence. Indeed without
the commitment to human rights generated by the Holocaust experience,
non-aboriginals might be continuing those abusive practices to this day.
The atrocities of the Holocaust experience sensitize us to the
horrors of the aboriginal experience. Because of the Holocaust, we are
no longer naive enough to think that what happened to the aboriginals
in Canada could not have happened. As well, the human-rights lessons of
the Holocaust give us the standards, the mechanisms and the commitment
to remedy the victimization of the aboriginal experience.
David Matas is an international human-rights lawyer based in
Winnipeg. He is senior honorary counsel to B'nai Brith Canada.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free
Press print edition April 7, 2012 J12
bogey1: 12:56 PM on 4/7/2012
Matas seems to have conveniently forgotten that the director of the
Asper Foundation signed a letter promising the Ukraianian Canadian
Congress that the Holodomor would have an equal and permanent exhibit
to that of the Holocaust.
Also, he forgets that the late Justice Jules Deschenes (head of the war
criminal inquiry) requested that Sol Littman present his evidence for
his claim of "60,000 Ukrainian war ciminals in Canada"
Littman refused to do so and his "punishment" for his hate mongering is a high ranking position at the Weisenthal Center in LA.
Canadians have shown in polls that they, by a majority, support EQUAL
reprentation for all the genocides to be presented at the CMHR
As for Matas's premise that the Holocaust is unique, ask someone who
lost family in the Holodomor or other genocides. I notice how Matas
refuses to even use that word "genocide" about others, instead using
"mass killings" as if to diminish the horrors of other genocides. The
Holodomor and Armenian genocides both had millions of victims.
Shame on Matas for being so narrow minded and exclusive.
Luckily the majority of Canadians are not. They are a open minded,
inclusive people believing that by raising the suffering of one group
above all others is not ony unfair, but it's un-Canadian as well.
Darlene Varaleau: 1:28 PM on 4/10/2012
What a beautiful and insightful article. Thank-you!
Corporal Punishment: 10:29 PM on 4/12/2012
"The story of the Holocaust is, to be sure, the death of the Jews. But
it is also the death of the illusion of the limits of evil. Because of
the Holocaust, everything has changed. Our view of humanity can never
be the same. Yet, if we put the Holocaust to one side nothing will
Yes, I can see how the lessons of the Holocaust have been applied in
Israel. Ask Palestinians and Semitic Jews what Holocaust survivors and
their progeny have learned. They've learned how to treat everyone
outside their clique like second-class citizens, that's what.
Things aren't any different in Winnipeg or at the CMHR. If this is the
paranoid, delusional doctrine they intend to teach our children at the
museum, I say, "Enough is enough!"
It's time to remove Gail Asper from the board of trustees and bring
someone in who has a balanced, historically-grounded, Canadian
perspective about human rights.