The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Asper curse begins eating away at the CMHR

The Asper anti-Midas touch of death has begun to claim another victim.

Gail Asper has single-handedly managed to unite Canada's ethnic groups against the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. In the past week, the anti-Asper snowball has gathered more mass than ever as it rolled through Ottawa and the disputed centre of the universe, Toronto.

The Canadian Polish Congress has joined the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in opposing the museum's plan to give the Holocaust a permanent display while the rest of the world's ethnic groups get to see the stories of the injustices against their peoples rotated through a "mass atrocity" gallery.

The Central and European Council of Canada, which, according to the Globe and Mail, "represents 3 million Canadians of Latvian, Estonian, Lituananian, Hungarian and Slovak descent", has added its voice against seeing their suffering under the Nazi's and the Communists "callously ignored."

The Globe's story on the growing anger at the CMHR was swamped with comments demanding equal treatment for Armenians, who are fighting for recognition of their own genocide under the Turks.

The one thing all the ethnic associations agreed on was the need for “an embargo on any further or incremental funding” until a new and more representative (i.e. not kowtowing to Gail Asper) board of directors is seated and a review of the recommendations of the museum's content committee is conducted.

Gail has poisoned any goodwill the museum had beyond the rich and elite while turning her pet project toxic to any politician foolish enough to touch it. (More on that in a moment.)

All was going well (if you don't count the fact that the project is functionally broke) until December, when the uppity Ukrainians realized they had been suckered by Gail and, before her, her daddy Izzy. In order to create the appearance of mass support for his museum, Izzy told the Ukrainian groups what they wanted to hear to get them to sign on the dotted line.

They were promised the suffering of the Ukrainians under Stalin would get equal billing with the Holocaust in the newly planned national museum. But by the time the building was well under construction under the supervision of daughter Gail, they realized it was going to be a holocaust museum with a guest room. They would get to share the guest room with 50 or so other ethnic groups, each with its own atrocity story.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress went public with their opposition to second-class status in the CMHR. Then they went political.

Dr. Lubomyr Luciuk, director of research for the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, subtly reminded the Harper government that this matter could get ugly. In a piece in The Hill Times, the must-read newsletter on Parliament Hill, Luciuk wrote:

Genocidal Great Famine of 1932-1933 in Soviet Ukraine should be highlighted in Human Rights Museum
by Lubomyr Luciuk
"Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have boasted of being the party that reached out to Canada’s minorities – particularly in the person of Jason Kenney, the Minster of Citizenship and Immigration –strategically undercutting what many saw as a “traditional” source of political support for the Liberals. There’s truth in their claim. They certainly secured broad-based gratitude in Ukrainian-Canadian circles for settling issues arising out of Canada’s first national internment operations, a file the Liberals, for all their pretensions to being the party of social justice, nevertheless ignored, for decades. That said, the Conservatives are about to be reminded that it’s not just about a first date going well. You’ve got to nurture nice feelings if you don’t want them to blow away.
snip

How to explain that the Crimes of Communism – which the Tories have claimed they have a special interest in commemorating - weren’t even referenced by the Content Advisory group? Everyone knows that Stalin and his satraps murdered millions more than Hitler, a point underscored in Professor Norman Naimark’s outstanding new book, Stalin’s Genocides. Yet that Soviet dictator is not named, not once. Nor are Mao Tse Tung’s atrocities acknowledged even though the Chinese Communists slaughtered about the same number as Hitler and Stalin did, combined. And what about Imperial Japanese barbarities, like the infamous “Rape of Nanjing”? It’s left out, as it is in most Japanese textbooks, even as the Holodomor is currently being cut out of Ukraine’s.

Should a Canadian museum, even indirectly, succour deniers?
snip

Responding to mounting criticism, the museum’s boosters have insisted that the Committee’s submission, while important, is only one of many sources being considered as the museum’s final contents are developed. Alas, they speak with forked tongues. For while it may well be true that the contents of the museum are “not set” two of its twelve galleries are permanently and prominently giving privileged space to the recounting of aboriginal tales of injustice and to the Shoah. All other crimes against humanity are lumped together in a “Mass Atrocities” gallery, so consigned to inferiority. Funding this kind of partiality is not acceptable in a taxpayer-funded national institution that the Conservatives first attached to the public teat and from which it has, ever since, been sucking generously, not likely to ever be weaned.
Until the controversy over this museum’s contents are resolved, and the composition of its appointed board members made more truly representative of Canadian society, Mr Harper’s government should reject calls for increased funding for this boondoggle and begin a truly inclusive consultation process with the many communities who want to ensure that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights meets its stated goal of “contributing to the collective memory and sense of identity of all Canadians.” All Canadians, not some."
The government is in a tricky dilemma. They've spent years cultivating the Jewish community by strongly supporting Israel. Do they risk their gains there by embracing Gail Asper's critics, whose support they may need in the Toronto battleground in the election, which by all accounts is just around the corner?

At least two Conservative MP's have responded to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress challenge on the CMHR. Although its obvious their responses have been run through a central clearing house to sure they don't stray far from the official government position, they do go on the record supporting a change in the CMHR board of directors. This is not a good sign for Gail and her cronies on the current board.
Leon Benoit, Member of Parliament for Vegreville-Wainwright
Statement issued February 8, 2011

"Benoit has heard from constituents about their specific worries – 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."

James Bezan, Member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake
Statement issued Feb. 3, 2011

"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."

Leon Benoit, MP Vegreville-Wainwright

“I think the Advisory Committee is to be thanked for their report, but it is also important to remember that it is just a report,” states Benoit. “It isn’t the final decision and it isn’t government policy.”

James Bezan, MP Selkirk-Interlake

"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."

Leon Benoit, MP Vegreville-Wainwright

“I certainly believe that the Holodomor genocide should have a unique, autonomous and prominent place in the CMHR,” affirms Benoit. “I also think it is quite important that the CMHR Board of Directors contain respected members of the Ukrainian community with knowledge of the Holodomor and other human rights violations. I’m proud of our Government’s support for the CMHR.
I hope the Museum’s Board of Trustees finds the courage to provide the Holodomor with the appropriate and respectful recognition it deserves.

James Bezan, MP Selkirk-Interlake

"...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."

Newly elected MP Kevin Lamoureux made sure to include in his first newsletter to constituents his statement in Parliament (in December) about the CMHR, including this firm declaration:

"Today I stand with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and urge the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to include a permanent display devoted to the Holodomor."

It's only three MP's but all three have aligned with the Ukrainians, the Poles, the Lithuanians and the other ethnic groups against the CMHR. The next time Gail Asper comes begging for money, which will be anyday now, she may find a chillier reception than she expects.

Oh, and somebody remind her that the deadline to fork up payment in lieu of taxes is only four months away. Time to start shaking that tin cup.

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