Ukrainian News | 11Dec2014 | Lubomyr Luciuk
CMHR not an "ideas
museum", but a mausoleum
I've been there and here's what I think.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights was boosted as "Canada's Museum".
It's not. Instead, it's a pretty shell whose appearance distracts from
what's within, much like one of Winnipeg's courtesans of the curb,
catching your eye, making you forget she's carrying the clap.
After following a path consecrated 'Israel Asper Way' you mount ramp
after ramp in this hollow temple, clambering into the 'Israel Asper
Tower of Hope'. From the cochleated appendage you get to look down
on Winnipeg. It's somewhat better looking from up there than
at ground level. What's down below ain't exactly the promised land.
The CMHR's core is all about elevating one community's suffering above
all others. How the Holocaust got pride of place in a taxpayer-funded
Canadian museum has been much debated. Perhaps, as The National Post's
Jonathan Kay opined, there was an "Olympics of Genocide" and "the Jews
got the Gold and the Ukrainians only a Bronze". Was there a
competition? Or were these games fixed? As long as the umpires'
identities are no more transparent than the building's alabaster ramps
and opaque windows, we will never know.
But what is certain is that on 31 March 2008, Arni
Thorsteinson, chair of the federal advisory committee, provided the
Honourable Josée Verner, MP, then Minister of Canadian Heritage, with a
rank ordering of the themes Canadians wanted in 'their' museum:
Aboriginal (First Nations), 16.1%; Genocides, 14.8%; Women, 14.7%;
Internments, 12.5%; War and Conflicts, 8.7%; Holocaust, 7%; Children,
5.9%; Sexual Orientation, 4.9%; Ethnic Minorities, 3.8%; Slavery, 2.9%;
Immigration, 2.6%; Charter of Rights, 2.3%; Disabilities, 2% and
Universal Declaration, 1.8%. The Holocaust wasn't anywhere near a top
choice, simply because most Canadians already know about it. What the
public wanted was something unique. And so they were promised an "ideas
museum". What they got proved to be a caricature of a museum, a
near-empty box whose conflated and often confusing messaging ranges
from the juvenile to the trite of the tendentious, a Tower of Babel on
Some insist this project was orchestrated to get the public purse to
pay, in perpetuity, for a Holocaust museum. Yet Bill-C42, the
legislation that turned a once-private initiative into a
publicly-funded museum, mandated no such outcome: "The purpose of the
Canadian Museum for Human Rights is to explore the subject of human
rights, with special but not exclusive reference to Canada, in order to
enhance the public's understanding of human rights, to promote respect
for others and to encourage reflection and dialogue." In the
to the Legislative
Summary there is only a one-line reference to including a
Holocaust gallery. And, as Dr. Clint Curle, the CMHR's director of
stakeholder relations, himself a historian and lawyer, confirmed (13
December 2012) even this Commentary "is not legally binding". More than
a few forked tongues populate the lands around 'The Forks'.
Privately, some Ministers and many MPs, have long recognized that the
CMHR was controversial and would remain divisive. So they stayed away,
even from the "final opening" -- ineptly and inaptly scheduled for
Remembrance Day, an affront to veterans. Oh, I know, so-and-so or
him-and-her showed up. But who was not there
divines the future far more accurately than who turned up for a canapé. As for the
collaborators and kapos
who did, their ilk soil every community -- and always end up in the
dustbins of history.
Those who marketed prejudice over pedagogy are now dizzy with success,
thinking they have lorded it over those who wanted all exhibits in the
CMHR to be comparative, thematic, and inclusive. But those barkers are
in for a surprise. This is, after all, a national museum. Whose tales
it tells, and why, and how, will be reviewed. Eventually, the obvious
partialities will be undone. Already the contrived applause crafted to
herald its opening is fading. No matter how often the shills shout on
about this being an "ideas museum", what Canadians actually got for our
money is a mausoleum, bad enough for being a conceit, even worse for
promoting the indefensible 'idea' that some victims are more worthy of
memory than others.
Lubomyr Luciuk, PHD,
visited the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on 07 December 2014.