|As Member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake and a proud Ukrainian-Canadian, I have been receiving numerous calls and letters from members of the Ukrainian community about the proposed content of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights (CMHR). Their apprehension is based upon the report submitted to the CMHR Board of Trustees by the Content Advisory Committee.
Specifically, Ukrainian-Canadians are looking for adequate recognition of the Holodomor genocide of 1932-1933, as well as the Canadian internment of Ukrainians during World War I in the CMHR.
The community is concerned that the Holodomor will be lumped into a general section of “Mass Atrocities” which does not provide autonomy and permanent recognition of the event in the museum. They are also worried that other elements of their history will not receive ample recognition and be subsumed under other permanent exhibits promoted by the Content Advisory Committee Report.
I thank the Content Advisory Committee for their report. However, it is just a report and by no means determines the final decision on content in the CMHR, nor is it government policy.
The Holodomor was one of the largest genocides in world history, where it is estimated 10 million people perished. It was an attempt by the Soviets to stamp out Ukrainian nationalism and brutalize the Ukrainian people, a memory which remains acute among Canadian-Ukrainians and their families at home today. It ranks among one of the worst acts of genocide that humanity has ever committed. I believe recognition of the Holodomor should find a special place in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
The Holodomor informs our understanding of the meaning of the word “genocide”. Rafael Lemkin, considered the foremost thinker on genocide in the global community, called the Ukrainian Holodomor “genocide” in 1953 before anyone else was willing. As I fought for federal legislation to recognize the Holodomor and promote a national day of remembrance, I gained a deep understanding of the harsh realities of this event for survivors, but also the attempts by Governments around the world to remain silent on this regretful history. We should not make the same mistake.
Canada is home to over 1.1 million people of Ukrainian decent, the third largest Ukrainian population in the world. Our ties have been strong since hundreds of thousands immigrated to Canada in the 19th and 20th centuries. Canada was the first Western country to recognize Ukraine’s independence, which attests to the close ties the two countries enjoy today. And the Canadian Parliament was one of the first in the world to recognize the Holodomor as genocide when it supported my Private Member’s Bill in 2008.
With this in mind, I believe that:
- The Holodomor genocide should have a unique, autonomous and prominent place in the CMHR, and
- The CMHR Board of Directors contain respected members of the Ukrainian community with knowledge of the Holodomor and other human rights violations.
I am proud of our Government’s support for the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. I hope the CMHR Board of Trustees finds the courage to provide the Holodomor with the appropriate and respectful recognition it deserves.
For more information, please contact:
Office of James Bezan, MP