Ukrainian News | 25Apr2013 | Marco Levytsky

Grod calls upon community to shout over CMHR

The Ukrainian Canadian community has to raise a storm across the country in order to get proper recognition of our issues at the soon-to-be-opened Canadian Museum of Human Rights, says Ukrainian Canadian National Congress President Paul Grod.

“We need to shout now because the exhibits are being built in New York. The content is being developed. We are months away from the opening of this museum. And if we don’t scream loud and clear about our opposition to the way the tragedies of our community are being displayed at this museum then it won’t happen,” he said at a meeting with Edmonton’s community at St. John Ukrainian Orthodox Cultural Centre, April 20, 2013.

During his Alberta roadshow, Grod also held meetings with the community at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Parish Hall in Calgary April 19, 2013 and St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Catholic Parish Hall in Red Deer, April 21, 2013.

Grod said that when the idea of the museum was first proposed by the late Israel Asper in 2003 he gave a written commitment that there would be prominent and permanent displays of both the internment of Ukrainians in Canada during World War I and the genocidal Holodomor during which millions of Ukrainians were starved to death under Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin and that Ukrainians would be presented as victims of both Communism and Nazism.

When the museum elected a board of trustees who began a consulting process with Canadians, the UCC made 85 representations across Canada reiterating these three things that were promised by Asper.

But these items weren’t contained in the “biased and discredited” Content Advisory Committee Report, which is the basis on which the museum was designed, said Grod.

Two months ago, he was given a tour of the museum and noted that the Holodomor was relegated to a panel the size of a door on the back wall of a back gallery next to the washroom. He protested that nobody would go to that gallery.

The response of the director of stakeholder relations was that it’s a very good area because it’s next to the washrooms so it will be a high traffic area.

“I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry,” said Grod.

He noted that the Holodomor has a very important message that must be told.

“The Holodomor is the lens through which to view the crimes of communism. The crimes of communism which impacted tens of millions which destroyed the lives of tens of millions of people around the world. The central and eastern European communities are fully behind us because they believe that the Holodomor is that lens through which their stories can be told”

The second significance of the Holodomor is that it serves as an example to sensitize the world as to how food is used as a weapon -- which is being done today in places like Somalia, said Grod

There will be no exhibit for the internment of Ukrainians except for a non-descript picture on the second floor, while the World War II Japanese Internment, the Chinese Head tax and the Winnipeg General Strike will be displayed, he added.

“Issues that are important to our community are either being ignored or being minimized,” said Grod, adding he could understand this if the museum was located in southern Alabama but not in Winnipeg, in the province with the highest proportion of Ukrainian Canadians in the country.

Grod said that the community in Winnipeg was very angered by this revelation and threatened to picket the museum.

He added that he assured them this won’t be strictly a Winnipeg issue, but that they have the backing of Ukrainian Canadian communities across the country. He urged members of the community to write and talk to ministers, members of parliament and those companies who are supporting the museum.

Grod stressed the importance of community development, noting we have to find new ways to reach out to the 1.25 million Canadians who cite Ukrainian as their origin and help new immigrants settle in Canada.

“If we are the first to reach out and offer them a helping hand, they will be part of our community forever,” he said.

Grod also noted that other Ukrainian Diasporas around the world look to the Canadian one as an example, because “we care about our community from cradle to grave”, through Ukrainian baptisms, nurseries, schools, organizations and even cemeteries

He said Ukraine is high on the list of Canada’s foreign policy priorities. Foreign Minister John Baird told him that the three foreign policy topics most often discussed in the government caucus are Israel, religious freedom and Ukraine.

“Canada really is Ukraine's best friend thanks to your work,” he told the audience.