By: Mia Rabson
OTTAWA — Pressure is mounting for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to establish a separate gallery marking the genocide of Ukrainian peasants in the 1930s.
Manitoba Conservative MP Joy Smith issued a news release Thursday calling for a distinct gallery marking the Holodomor. Her release came the day after a similar call in a release by several federal Liberal MPs, including Winnipeg Liberal Kevin Lamoureux.
“Our youth need to know the story, all Canadians, all people, need to understand what happened,” said Smith.
The Holodomor is the name for the famine Soviet leader Joseph Stalin imposed on Ukrainians in 1932 and 1933. Millions of Ukrainians died as most of their food supply went to feed Soviets. A bill Manitoba Conservative MP James Bezan introduced acknowledging the Holodomor as a genocide passed in 2008. Several provinces, including Manitoba, have passed similar bills.
Last fall the Canadian Museum for Human Rights reported the museum’s content would be divided into 12 zones. One each would be dedicated to the Holocaust and to indigenous rights. The Holodomor is to be included in a gallery dedicated to mass atrocities.
The news angered the Ukrainian Canadian Congress which lashed out at the museum board as being dominated by friends of the Asper Foundation, and demanded Ottawa immediately replace the entire board with more objective and independent-minded directors.
The UCC also wants Ottawa to cut off further funding to the museum until an independent committee reviews the content issue.
Smith and Lamoureux both claim Canada and several provinces recognize it as a genocide and believe it deserves a prominent place in the story of human rights.
Smith’s call is particularly noteworthy given her lobbying efforts early on are credited with convincing her government to help fund a national museum outside of Ottawa for the first time.
Museum spokeswoman Angela Cassie said the Holodomor has always been and is still part of the museum’s plans. But she noted the museum is not intended to be a memorial to events of history but as an opportunity to discuss them in the context of learning about human rights both in the past and going forward. “We don’t want to compare genocides,” said Cassie.
The Holocaust gallery is not intended to suggest it is more important than other genocides but to look at it as the precursor to the 1948 universal declaration of human rights, a turning point in history.
She said a mass atrocities gallery isn’t a secondary memorial to other genocides but a gallery to draw connections between what happened, trends that recurred in events including how people responded, how victims persevered and recovered, and who the heroes of human rights history are.
The galleries are intended not to just document what happened but to inspire visitors to question what they might have done, and what they would do if faced with similar situations now.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 25, 2011 A5
By: Mia Rabson