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UCCLA | 15Sep2014 | to CMHR

An Open Letter from Concerned Canadians

Mr. Stuart Murray, CEO

Canadian Museum for Human Rights
Victory Building
269 Main Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 1B3
Re:      Recalling Canada’s First National Internment Operations, 1914 to 1920

Dear Mr. Murray,

We, the undersigned, are profoundly dismayed by the lack of a meaningful portrayal of Canada’s first national internment operations of 1914 to 1920 at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR).

We will be asking our affected communities to refrain from partaking in the opening ceremonies or any subsequent activities at the CMHR until this matter is resolved fairly.

While we welcome the development of a national museum outside the capital region, it is regrettable that the CMHR’s exhibits were developed without sufficient attention being given to key Canadian stories. An enlarged photograph and one short film clip buried in a documentary film does not, in our view, constitute an acceptable treatment of Canada's first national internment operations.

If your goal is to have a truly inclusive national museum then you must reflect the nation's multicultural history. The insignificant attention given to First World War era internment operations represents a slight to all of the internees, enemy aliens and their descendants, including Canadians of Ukrainian, Hungarian, Croatian, German, Austrian, Polish, Slovak, Czech, Serbian, Slovene, Bulgarian, and other origins.

Quite recently, the Honourable Jason Kenney, commenting on the 100th anniversary of the War Measures Act and the start of Canada’s first national internment operations observed: “the Government of Canada is committed to recognizing and educating Canadians about the experiences of those pioneers who overcame such heavy burdens. Their experiences mark an unfortunate period in our nation’s history. We must ensure that they are never forgotten.”

We fail to understand why the CMHR has largely ignored a profoundly Canadian story in a national museum dedicated to human rights.

We, the undersigned, represent many of the affected communities and internee descendants, as represented by organizations like the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko; Ukrainian Canadian Congress; Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association; Canadian-Croatian Chamber of Commerce; German-Canadian Congress; Canadian Polish Congress; and Internee Descendants among others.

We are making our views publicly known, and in advance of the CMHR’s opening, so there is no confusion: the CMHR does not enjoy the endorsement or support of our communities. Furthermore, we do not believe that the limited consultations held with stakeholder communities about the contents of this museum were given serious attention.

Yours truly,
Andrew Hladyshevsky, President of the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko
Olya Grod, Ukrainian Canadian Congress
Roman Zakaluzny, Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Borys Sydoruk, Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation
John Marion, President, Canadian-Croatian Chamber of Commerce
Ludwik Klimkowski, Canadian Polish Congress
Sima Aprahamian, Armenian Community
Suleyman Guven, Kurdish/ Alevi Community
Antony Bergmeier, German-Canadian Congress, National President
Diane Dragasevich, Serbian National Shield Society of Canada
Marsha Skrypuch, Internee Descendant
Christopher Adam, Editor-in-chief, Kanadai Magyar Hirlap (Canadian Hungarian Journal)

[W.Z. As expressed in the many articles archived on this Holodomor web page, a large number of Canadians have expressed deep concern about the so-called Canadian Museum for Human Rights -- from the  bad faith of its inception, its funding and its proposed contents. In addition to the various immigrant Canadian ethnic communities threatening to boycott the CMHR, the Indigenous Peoples of Canada have complained that the CMHR does not appropriately reflect the genocide that they have endured for the past several centuries. (See articles by Larry Krotz, Steve Rennie, Graeme Hamilton, blackrod, Myron Love, Rev. Kevin Annett, Mary Welch, Pamela Palmeter.)

Throughout history, Imperialist Powers have always perpetrated genocide against the Indigenous Peoples they conquered and whose land they occupied. Is the old Imperialism now dead? Not for Vladimir Putin, who decries the demise of the Soviet Union and is now attempting to resurrect the Tsarist Russian Empire -- the graveyard of nations. Most recently, he has annexed Crimea (threatening to deport the indigenous Crimean Tatars) and attacked and occupied the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine (threatening to annihilate the indigenous Ukrainians). He is also threatening the indigenous peoples of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland.

A CMHR that does not reflect the genocide endured by the Indigenous Peoples of Canada (Indians, natives, aboriginals, First Nations or whatever they wish to be called) is an abomination unworthy of utilizing the term "Human Rights". Perhaps the Indigenous Peoples should occupy the CMHR building, invite the various ethnic communities to join them (just like the Maidan in Kyiv) and not leave until their concerns and that of other Canadians are recognized.]

Toronto Sun | 20Sep2014 | Rod Nickel

Canada human rights museum stirs controversy as doors open

Canada's museum showcasing human rights opened in the Prairie city of Winnipeg on Friday, dogged by controversy that began long before the first visitor arrived.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, a tower of glass and tyndall stone, riled cultural groups who question its content. This week, Canadians of Ukrainian and other backgrounds urged a boycott due to "the lack of a meaningful portrayal" of Canada's internment of so-called "enemy aliens" during the First World War.

"This is supposed to be a Canadian museum of human rights and really the internment should be front and center," said Marsha Skrypuch, whose grandfather was interned for about a year a century ago.

Skrypuch said she has no direct knowledge of the museum's contents, but does not plan to visit it and add to any impression that it is inclusive.

"Why would I go now? I would be used."

Musical group A Tribe Called Red pulled out of opening programs over concerns about how the museum presented indigenous issues.

"I don't think you could possibly build a human rights museum without there being controversy," said Gail Asper, a museum board member who championed its fund-raising drive. "What we want is for people to come in, check out the whole museum, see how everything fits together, and then, if they've got concerns, fair enough."

The museum was envisioned by her father, Israel "Izzy" Asper, who founded Winnipeg-based Canwest Global. Canwest became one of Canada's biggest media companies before later sliding into bankruptcy.

Asper, long interested in human rights, decided in 2000 to build the museum in his hometown when he learned that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was not displayed in the country.

Asper died of a heart attack three years later.

"We were really wondering if we should be proceeding with this because we had lost our leader," recalled Gail Asper. "For him, the real failure would have been to not try."

Before he died, Izzy Asper convinced Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien to make an initial capital contribution of C$30 million ($27.4 million) and promise another C$70 million later. Private donors raised C$147 million.

Museum supporters later convinced the next prime minister, Paul Martin, to honor Chretien's pledge, and his successor, Stephen Harper, to kick in operational funding.

That support has drawn suspicions of political interference in the content, which Gail Asper said are unfounded.

While there are other human rights museums, Canada's is billed as the only one that explores human rights as a concept, instead of commemorating a specific event or movement.

It uses digital media to feature ideas and stories, rather than artifacts, and showcases Canada's Charter. Content includes Canada's treatment of aboriginals, the Holocaust, and eight other galleries.

American architect Antoine Predock's design, evoking a glass cloud, has divided opinion. The museum's ballooning costs also made it a target, as the C$351 million capital cost far overshot the original C$200 million estimate.