Gail Asper to Ukrainians: Shut up.
In a hissy column in the Ottawa Citizen on Tuesday, Asper dropped the mask of reason and went for the jugular of Lubomyr Luciuk, director of research for the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
"Instead of creating a divisive climate, I would urge Luciuk to give the Canadian Museum for Human Rights' dedicated board, management and staff an opportunity to work on and present at the appropriate time the museum's content in its full form."
Translation into people-speak: shut yer yap, and let the big kids do their job.
Luciuk has driven Gail Asper and her colleagues at the CMHR into a tizzy with his demand, echoed by other Ukrainian associations, that the Holodomor, the deliberate starvation of millions of Ukrainians on Stalin's orders, be given equal status in the museum to the Holocaust, which saw millions of Jews systematically killed on Hitler's orders.
The Asper-controlled CMHR plans a prominent and permanent Holocaust gallery, with all the other mass murders in the world relegated to the back of the bus in a grabbag Atrocity Gallery, one of 12 "zones" within the museum.
That, said Gail, is because the Holocaust is so s-s-s-s-s-s-special.
" Canada is one of the few western countries that does not study the Holocaust in its national institutions. Luciuk asserts that everyone is fully aware of the Holocaust, so it doesn't need to be prominent. The board disagrees..."
It's "an essential part of the world's human rights history (according to virtually every respected human rights expert)", she wrote.
The killing of millions of kulaks with unpronounceable Slavic names in tiny godforsaken villages on the orders of a Communist dictator, obviously, is not.
And she threw Ukrainians a bone.
"Although this museum is not a museum of genocide filled with one depressing gallery after another, there is a permanent gallery in which mass atrocities will be studied and it has always been the intent to include the Ukrainian famine clearly and permanently."
Her clear message: There's us, the Jews, and there's youse, the rest of the world. See?
Gail Asper, presumably speaking for the rest of the board of the CMHR, thus answered Luciuk's demand that the content committee report be scrapped and the museum's displays be reconsidered.
In his Dec. 20, 2010, Ottawa Citizen column, Luciuk proposed that "Ottawa should reject calls for more funding of this boondoggle from the public purse" until "management and curators... craft a truly inclusive and fair-minded national museum."
That sent a chill down Gail Asper's spine, given the desperate financial straights the museum is in currently. That plus Luciuk's history lesson on how the Asper family managed to get their holocaust museum plan funded:
"Given Canwest's continued influence, Stephen Harper's team came through with funding, attaching the Asper project to the public teat, permanently. It has been sucking generously ever since."
Gail tried rebutting the charge by rewriting history.
"While Luciuk may feel the museum is "sucking generously" on the "public teat" of the federal government, in fact less than one-third of the $310-million capital cost for this project will come from Ottawa, despite the fact this museum is a federal Crown corporation."
On April 17th, 2003, Izzy Asper announced the "potential creation" of a $270 million Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
The original proposal was for the construction of the CMHR with the following stages to encompass an endowment fund to finance a grandiose scheme to bring tens of thousands of school children to Winnipeg each year to tour the museum.
So of Izzy's plan, the federal government would cough up half the money and the private sector about 30 percent. Even then, it turns out, Izzy had no guarantee the feds would buy in. Manitoba's top Liberal MP, Reg Alcock, had a different story for the CBC.
"There's no evidence of that," Alcock said. "Because they decided they wanted that [and] we had to deliver it is just wrong."
Asper also conveniently forgot that the federal government has pledged to provide $21 million a year in operating costs.
And that the board of the CMHR wants another $5 million to $9 million to cover taxes.
And Gail has asked the feds for millions more to make up the shortfall of at least $25 million that the private sector was supposed to pay but she can't raise.
Sucking at the public teat, indeed.
The CMHR's intransigent position on ranking genocides isn't helped when their supporters spill the beans. Liberal MP Anita Neville simply gushed about the CMHR during a not-so-distant session of Parliament, and Gail Asper may wish she had been more circumspect:
In the House of Commons – December 8, 2009
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ BUSINESS
Bill C-442, An Act to establish a National Holocaust Monument
Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.):