Statement of Liberal Members of Parliament on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights February 23, 2011
The publicly funded Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) located in Winnipeg was established by Parliament through amendments to the Museums Act in 2008 and is set to open its doors in 2013. The purpose of the CMHR is to explore the subject of human rights, with special but not exclusive reference to Canada, in order to enhance the understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others and to encourage reflection, discussion and the taking of action against hate, oppression, and crimes against humanity. One of the fundamental and most basic of human rights is the right to nourishment-the right to food. In the case of the Holodomor, this was the first genocide that was methodically planned out and perpetrated by depriving the very people who were the producers of food, of their nourishment. What is especially horrific is that the withholding of food was used as a weapon of genocide and that it was done in a region of the world that was known as the “breadbasket of Europe.” The Holodomor-the famine-genocide perpetrated by Soviet authorities from 1932-33 against the Ukrainian people-has been recognized as such by the Parliament of Canada, and provincial legislatures in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec. Canada, with a population of 1.2 million Ukrainian Canadians, was the first country to enact federal legislation to annually mark the Holodomor on the fourth Saturday of every November. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights presents an opportunity to illustrate the promise and the importance of human rights, but sadly part of its mission will necessarily also be to educate Canadians about the consequences of denying those rights. The Holodomor is as graphic and moving an illustration as can be imagined of the denial of the basic Human Right to Food. It is a story that is well known and well understood in the Ukrainian Canadian community since there are few families in that community who were not touched in some way by this man-made catastrophe, but it is not as yet widely known or understood in the broader Canadian community. A gallery devoted to the issue of the Human Right to Food as illustrated by the experience of those who were denied this basic right through the famine-murder of the Holodomor would fit precisely within the mandate of the CMHR and would forward its important mission. It is particularly appropriate that the CMHR, located in the city of Winnipeg with over 100,000 Ukrainian Canadian residents, in a province whose prairies were largely settled by Ukrainian farmers at a time when their Ukrainian peasant counterparts in Ukraine were being starved to death, include a permanent zone (gallery) on the Holodomor. We federal Liberal Party Members of Parliament hold that this publicly funded national Canadian museum should create and operate a permanent gallery dedicated to the Holodomor, and that the Board of Directors of the CMHR should embrace and include respected members of the Ukrainian Canadian community with expertise in the Holodomor. It was the Jewish-Polish scholar Raphael Lemkin, known as the”Father of The Genocide Convention” who coined the term “genocide” when referring also to the Holodomor in his 1944 book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. Unfortunately, the full extent of this horrific “genocide by famine” of millions of Ukrainians was suppressed behind the Iron Curtain during the subsequent 58 years by the Kremlin’s communist regime. By taking a leadership role in establishing a permanent gallery for the Holodomor, Canada would encourage post-communist countries that are now our economic and security partners to begin to more critically address the human rights violations and genocidal crimes perpetrated in the name of communism and to cease the Holodomor denials which continue to this day. By having the Holodomor in a permanent zone (exhibit) in our national human rights museum, Canada would fulfill its traditional role in leading the world in the promotion of human rights.