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Ukrainian Canadian Congress concerned over content of Canadian Museum for Human Rights

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress, media-release

April 5, 2013 – Winnipeg, Manitoba

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) urges all Canadians to voice their concerns over the content and layout proposed for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (Museum).

 “On a recent site tour of this taxpayer-funded museum, I was shocked to discover how shamefully Ukrainian Canadian and Ukrainian themes are to be presented in this national institution. We are deeply troubled that neither Canada’s first national internment operations nor the Holodomor will have permanent and prominent exhibits and galleries in the Museum,” stated UCC National President Paul Grod. “It is outrageous that in the province of Manitoba, which has the highest proportional percentage of Ukrainians in Canada, the human rights stories that have impacted our community have either been ignored or minimalized. We have attempted to work in good faith with the Museum for the past 2 1/2 years, yet they remain wedded to the discredited Content Advisory Committee Report, which makes no mention of the Holodomor or the crimes of communism. Despite several meetings with senior management of the Museum where these questions have been raised, they have been unable to articulate how decisions are made on content and layout or who is making them. This is unacceptable and we are calling upon all Canadians to speak out on the issues of content, layout and transparency at the Museum.”

“It is appalling that the only reference to Canada’s first national internment operations is a nondescript picture, even though thousands of Ukrainians and other Eastern Europeans were interned as “enemy aliens” in 24 Canadian labour camps, tens of thousands more were disenfranchised and Winnipeg was a “receiving station” for these “enemy aliens” during the First World War period. Even more outrageous, the subject of the Famine-Genocide of 1932-33 in Soviet Ukraine, the Holodomor, is relegated to a minor panel in a small obscure gallery near the museum’s public toilets! This is offensive and intolerable.”

The UCC released a video of a presentation made by its president Paul Grod outlining its concerns and sent a letter of its concerns relating to the content and layout to the Board of the Museum several weeks ago and is still awaiting a response.

The Museum is proceeding to plan its galleries without a permanent and prominent gallery dedicated to the Holodomor or a permanent exhibit to the First World War Internment Operations. Furthermore, in galleries such as Making a Difference, which is to tell the human rights stories of immigrants to Canada, there is no intention to tell the story of prejudice, discrimination and violence against Ukrainian and other Eastern European immigrants in Canada where many were forced to change their names and abandon their cultural, linguistic and religious traditions.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress had supported the government-funded Museum on the basis that it would:

  1. be reflective of the broader Canadian experience; and

  2. that the Holodomor and Canada’s first national internment operations would be given a permanent and prominent place in the Museum.

As presented, the Museum is completing construction and current plans do not distinctively and appropriately commemorate these two tragedies.

Call for Change!

UCC is calling for the following changes to the Museum:

  1. Establishment of a permanent and prominent Holodomor Gallery – the Hope and Hardwork Gallery should be repurposed to house a Holodomor Gallery and the Breaking the Silence Gallery should be redesigned to provide prominence to the genocides recognized by the Government of Canada that are not featured in other places in the Museum. These two amalgamated and repurposed galleries will have sufficient space to also house exhibits relating to the human rights violations committed by the Soviet regime.

  2. Allocate a permanent exhibition space for a WW1 Internment Exhibit – a separate exhibit section dedicated to WW1 internment operations in the gallery titled “Canada’s Human Rights Journey”.

  3. Revise the Canadian Challenge gallery – to include a discussion on the War Measures Act, legislation which was used to remove the rights of tens of thousands of Canadians during WWI and WWII.

  4. Modify the Canadian Immigrant Experience gallery – to include the difficult experiences of early Ukrainian and other Eastern European immigrants to Canada.

  5. Crimes of Communism and Nazism – a comparative analysis of human rights abuses perpetrated under Soviet-Communist and Nazis dictatorships.

Reference documents:

  1. UCC briefing note on content and layout of the Museum

  2. Letter the UCC sent to Museum CEO Stuart Murray

  3. CMHR Gallery Profiles 2012 – profile of the inaugural exhibitions

Call to Action!

UCC calls upon all Canadians to:

  1. Write and call your Members of Parliament to voice your concerns.  We encourage all Canadians to meet with Members of Parliament and federal Cabinet Ministers to address these serious concerns. You can find the contact information for your Member of Parliament at:

  2. Write to and/or call the Minister of Canadian Heritage the Honourable James Moore at (819)-997-7788 Minister of Canadian Heritage

House of Commons Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

  1. Express your concerns to the individuals, companies and governments that have donated or pledged to provide funding to the Museum

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