Ukrainian Canadian Congress unhappy with Winnipeg human rights museum

WINNIPEG – The Ukrainian Canadian Congress says the planned Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg isn’t doing enough to recognize their people’s suffering and struggles.

In a news release Thursday, the congress says that a decade ago, the museum’s founders promised a permanent display about the Holodomor, Joseph Stalin’s man-made famine of the 1930s that killed millions of Ukrainians.

The congress says it was also promised an exhibit about the internment of Ukrainian-Canadians during the First World War.

The congress says it agreed to support the museum based on those assurances, but said the current design of the museum does not uphold the promises.

It says that stories of the Holodomor have “either been ignored or minimalized” and the history of Ukrainian-Canadian internment camps will be addressed only by “a nondescript picture” rather than a full-fledged exhibit.

Museum officials have said Ukrainian-Canadian content will be included in at least seven exhibits and that a mini-documentary has been commissioned on the silence and secrecy surrounding the Holodomor.

“The human-rights lessons of the Holodomor will be a valuable teaching tool throughout the museum when it opens in 2014,” president Stuart Murray said in a release last December.

“Our new film will emphasize the power of publicly acknowledging mass atrocities, and the danger of denying them.”

The museum has also noted that it undertook a series of lectures and public events across Canada under a memorandum of understanding with Ukraine’s national Holodomor museum.

A 2003 letter from the executive director of the Asper Foundation, which spearheaded development of the museum, told the congress the history of internment would be included in a gallery depicting Canadian human rights stories.

“Our proposal acknowledges the Ukrainian Famine/Genocide of 1932-1933,” Moe Levy wrote at the time. “We … agree that this genocide will be featured very clearly, distinctly and permanently in the CMHR.”

But the congress says in its current design, the subject of the Holodomor is relegated to a minor panel in a small obscure gallery near the museum’s public toilets.

“This is offensive, intolerable and jeopardizes the credibility of the museum to provide a balanced and objective perspective of key Canadian and global human rights stories,” said the release from spokeswoman Darla Penner.

“The Holodomor is the lens through which the museum can teach the crimes of communism which were responsible for the subjugation, persecution and destruction of tens of millions of people.”

The congress says it’s not too late for the museum to dedicate a full gallery to the Holodomor and to create a permanent exhibit to the interment of Ukrainian-Canadians.

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