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Shut their mouths: The first legacy of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

What's round, respected and rolling away from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights?

Another wheel fallen off the Asper bus.

"Leave it to the experts" has been the desperate last-ditch cry of proponents of the CMHR as the public facade of the museum has slowly chipped away. But the experts have begun to desert the CMHR.

Over the past few months, the truth has been forced out, bit by bit -- that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was always intended to be a Holocaust museum, is still, and, if Gail Asper has any say, always will be. Asper and her hand-picked trustees refuse to contemplate that the mass murder of anyone else has the same significance to the world as the Holocaust.

That, to them, justifies having a separate Holocaust gallery, with all the other genocides in history lumped together in a "mass atrocity" exhibit.

They specifically reject the argument by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association that the crimes of the Communists (specifically the Holodomor, the state-sponsored famine that killed millions) equal or surpass the crimes of the Nazis, and that neither should have special status in the museum.

The Holocaust gets "a place in the front seat" (and all other genocides must ride in the back of the bus), railed the Winnipeg Free Press.

Why? "Only the uninformed ask questions like that." sniffed the FP editorial writer.

To buttress their argument, the Asperites have wrapped themselves in the cloak of scholarship.

"The problem with the CMHR is it is mired in the politics of Canadian ethnic identity rather than rooted in the scholarly study of genocide, Holocaust and human rights. Subjective feelings are influencing content and design choices rather than objective historical and legal reality..." wrote the museums's newest defender Catherine Chatterley, the founding director of something called the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism.

Someone who knows about the scholarly study of genocide is Michael Marrus, a professor emeritus of Holocaust studies at the University of Toronto, and a consultant during the museum's planning phase. He can't be dismissed as "uninformed" by the Free Press.

He's written six books on the Holocaust and related subjects, including Vichy France and the Jews (1981), with Robert O. Paxton, The Unwanted: European Refugees in the Twentieth Century (1985), The Holocaust in History (1987) and The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial 1945-46: A Documentary History (1997).

As a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, he has been a visiting fellow of St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and the Institute for Advanced Studies of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a visiting professor at UCLA and the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

As they say in French, not too shabby.

Last week, Prof. Marrus distanced himself from the CMHR, both on its corrosive effect on the unity of Canadian ethnic groups and on the alleged scholarship that the Asper family relies upon to put the Holocaust first, above all other genocides.

He spoke to the National Post:

" This is supposed to be a human rights museum and it has started off by being highly divisive. The only thing they can do is to start all over. I am despairing of the whole thing."


" They want to promote human rights, to get people active and engaged. The problem with that is that the museum is not really grounded in the kind of knowledge historians can agree on," he said.

Prof. Marrus said the museum is operating under the belief that the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a touchstone of the modern human rights movement, was inspired by the Holocaust.

" The museum points to the declaration as evidence that the Holocaust was somehow the moving force behind the modern human rights movement.

Unfortunately, there is very little evidence for this contention. To the contrary, in the immediate postwar period there still does not seem to have been a very clear sense about the nature of the Holocaust, and it takes until the 1960s or ’70s for this to really gel. I think the prominence given to the Holocaust, however well meaning, is historically incorrect."

With the scholars starting to dissent from the "truth" as dispersed by CMHR apologists, we turn this space over to a respected voice of the Jewish community who wants to comment on the debate:

" I've been reading your observations about the CMHR with great interest. As a matter of fact, I have referred to your blog from time in my own writing on the subject in The Jewish Post & News.

I think you might want to know that, in contrast with Rhonda Spivak, to whom you referred in your blog on April 4, I have taken a much more conciliatory view of the disagreement over the proposed content of the new museum. You might want to read an editorial that I wrote several weeks ago. It can be read at

Further, I have attempted to maintain a dialogue with Lubomyr Luciuk of the Ukrainian Civil Liberties Association. I have printed an article he wrote arguing for a greater prominence for the Holodomor in the museum.

Mr. Luciuk sent me the following e-mail today:

Thank you for your fair minded comments on the CMHR controversy and the position that the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association has taken. We stand ready, at any time, to meet with the representatives of the Jewish Canadian community to discuss our concerns in a true spirit of civility and mutual respect.

We also want to make certain that your readers understand that while we want all 12 of the CMHR's galleries to be thematic, comparative & inclusive, that does mean, for us, that the Shoah (Holocaust) must be included, permanently, and we have never suggested otherwise. That there is a problem with the proposed contents of this taxpayer funded national institution is true. But if there is a will there is a way to resolve our concerns, with fairness for all. I hope this genuine offer of engagement, dialogue and reconciliation will be accepted.

Dr L Luciuk
5 April 2011

I would hope that a compromise that would be acceptable to all parties might be arrived at, rather than fanning the flames further, as Ms. Spivak has done. I have agreed with you that, ever since the museum became a government-funded institution, its original raison d'etre changed. It is lamentable that something that could have been a unifying institution now appears to have become a source for disunity.

Bernie Bellan


The Jewish Post & News "
Unfortunately, the signs are the extremists are taking the debate into territory far uglier than anyone imagined, from disagreement to outright hate speech.

"Ukrainian group’s postcard paints Jews as pigs" blares the headline in the Winnipeg Jewish Review.

The story begins:
"WINNIPEG — The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA) has sent out a postcard to supporters that appears to depict Jewish backers of a prominent Holocaust gallery in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights as pigs."

The postcard is a copy of the 1947 Ukrainian edition of George Orwell's Animal Farm. In the book, the pigs represent Communists who promise equality, but after they take over, they announce that some are more equal than others.

The UCCLA asks why, in the publicly funded Candian Museum for Human Rights, some genocides are more equal than others.

There's no indication anywhere that the pigs in the postcard represent Jews.

The Winnipeg Jewish Review bases its false claim on, guess who, the rant of museum apologist Catherine Chatterley who wrote in the Winnipeg Free Press:

Clearly [in the postcard], the pigs are supporters of the Holocaust gallery, which is characterized as a vehicle of domination, inequality and exploitation. The image of the Jew as a pig has a very long and well-established history in European antisemitism, and, of course it is also a theme in Islamic antisemitism (Jews are purported to be the descendants of apes and pigs).”

The reference to Islamic antisemitism was seen by some to be a veiled slap at James Kafieh, the former president of the Canadian Arab Federation, who has joined the UCCLA's call for a single gallery on genocide. This didn't go unnoticed on the Internet.
Posted by: LL53
April 6, 2011 at 5:57 AM

...we must protest against the bullying and name-calling being deployed by some in their failing attempts to silence legitimate public debate over the proposed contents of the CMHR. That kind of behaviour is unacceptable. For example Dr Chatterley’s identification of Mr Kafieh as an Arab, whom she then less-than-subtly associates with those Islamic extremists she says have spewed falsehoods about Jews being ‘descendants of apes and pigs.’

The truth is that he has never uttered such a calumny, nor would he. He happens to be a Christian and a Palestinian who has also consistently advocated for the Holocaust being included in a comparative Genocide Gallery at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Ms Chatterley’s remark about Mr Kafieh smacks of anti-Semitism. How ironic.

Anita Neville, the Liberal MP for Winnipeg South Centre, told the Winnipeg Jewish Review the postcards were "deplorable." The Jewish Review fails to mention that more than half the Liberal caucus has put their names on a letter supporting the Ukrainian community's position that no genocide be give special treatment in the CMHR.

Does this mean Neville believes her colleagues are deplorable?

The Jewish Review also quoted Dr. Per Rudling, a post-doctoral fellow at the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universit├Ąt, Greifswald, Germany.

"Per Rudling, a scholar of eastern European history who has specialized in antisemitism in Ukraine and currently teaches at the University of Greifswald in Germany, said that “the card should be seen against the background of a significant tolerance of antisemitism in the Ukrainian Canadian community…"

So, Rudling says the Ukrainian Canadian community as a whole not only tolerates antisemitism, but has a "significant tolerance."

If that doesn't qualify as hate speech, what does?

The legal definition of hate speech includes:
2) Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against and identifiable group is guilty of
(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.
We predicted this in The Black Rod barely two weeks ago, that the defenders of the CMHR as a Holocaust museum would resort to blindly accusing anyone who disagrees with them of anti-semitism to silence them.

That great defender of human rights, Gail Asper, has done and said nothing to stop the extremists.

The first legacy of the "human rights" museum, is a campaign to stifle free speech and debate.

Her daddy would be so proud.

And the wheels on the bus go clunk, clunk, clunk.

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