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UKRAINIAN CANADIAN CONGRESS RESPONDS TO OPEN LETTER BY INTERNATIONAL SCHOLARS RE: HOLOCAUST, HOLODOMER, RIGHTS MUSEUM

by Ukrainian Canadian Congress, posted April 20, 2011

 

Editor's note: The following is  a response  written by the Ukrainuian Canadian Congress to the Open Letter by over 100 International Scholars Re : the  Holocaust gallery, the Holodomor and the CMHR. For those wishing to read the letter by the scholars first published in the Winnipeg Jewish Review last week, go to :

http://www.winnipegjewishreview.com/article_detail.cfm?id=1035&sec=1&title=INTERNATIONAL_SCHOLARS_ISSUE_OPEN_LETTER_CRITICIZING_CANADIAN_UKRIANIAN_GROUPS_RE:_HOLOCAUST_GALLERY_IN_RIGHTSMUSEUM

The entire response can be found on the UCC's website at:

http://www.ucc.ca/2011/04/15/ukrainian-canadian-congress-responds-to-malicious-allegations-by-international-scholars/.

It states:

"The proposed contents and governance of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights has become the subject of significant public discourse in Canada over the past several months.  The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) established in 1940 continues to democratically represent the interests of the organized Ukrainian Canadian community. We have made our views on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights known, and have done so openly, consistently and with all the civility due to those who hold differing opinions.

"The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has called for an inclusive and equitable Museum that would include both Holocaust and Holodomor galleries.  We are surprised by the "Open Letter on the UCCLA, UCC, and the CMHR" dated April 12, 2011 signed by a group of academics and writers (most of whom are from outside of Canada) for their criticism of UCC's position on the Museum.  Their assertion is first and foremost inaccurate.  The UCC has never campaigned against a Holocaust gallery in the Museum.  We expect that any academic would first review the public statements of the UCC before signing onto a letter intended to defame the reputation of the UCC and its leadership. 

"Because of its distinct pedagogical value to human rights education, we have asserted that the Holodomor, arguably one of the greatest acts of genocide in 20thcentury European history, should be displayed in a permanent and prominent gallery in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.  We do not apologize for taking this position publicly, nor do we withdraw it.

"Some of those who signed the 'Open Letter' referenced above have made allegations concerning the nature and behaviour of the Ukrainian nationalist movements of the 20thcentury.

'We find their remarks prejudicial and without merit as these military units they reference, who fought for the independence of Ukraine against both the Soviets and the Nazis, were formally cleared of war crimes by Canada's Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals.  The Ukrainian Canadian Congress is on record as having stated that any war criminals or individuals who committed crimes against humanity found in our country should be brought to trial in a Canadian criminal court, regardless of when or where or why they committed a crime and irrespective of who they are by ethnicity, religious confession, 'race' or political ideology.

"How many died in the Holodomor?

"The UCC's position is that many millions died in the Holodomor.  The exact number is less important than the scale and nature of this genocide.  We have consistently utilized generally accepted figures from sources like the Council of Europe, United Nations and Government of Ukraine. 

"According to a recent Council of Europe Report Doc. 12173, 1 March 2010 titled Commemorating the victims of the Great Famine (Holodomor) in the former USSR, it stated that "The real scale of the tragedy is still difficult to assess. For Ukraine only, various researchers estimate the number of victims at between 2 and 7 million." 

"The official position of the Government of Ukraine is "The Great Famine of 1932-1933 in Ukraine (Holodomor), which took from 7 million to 10 million innocent lives and became a national tragedy for the Ukrainian people."  

"The UCC has never compared the sufferings of the Ukrainian people to any other.  Sadly, it is the authors of the Open Letter that are twisting UCC's efforts to ensure a prominent and permanent place for the Holodomor in the CMHR into a competition of suffering.'

 Readers who were interested in reading this response may be interested in my article trying to clarify the differences in appraches bwteen the Ukrainianj canadian congress and the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Assoication first published last week:

 

 OPEN REPLY TO DR. LUBOMYR LUCIUK’S LETTER TO ME MARCH 31, 2011 AND MY REFLECTIONS RE:RIGHTS MUSEUM

On March 31, 2011, I received an Open Reply From Dr. Lubomyr Luciuk, research director for the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association in response to my Open letter to him: The Canadian Museum For Human Rights.

Luciuk’s entire letter is printed below at the very bottom of this article .

As a result of  Dr. Luciuk’s writing in  I spent at least 40 plus hours this past week reading everything I could on the websites of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (consequently  I am way behind on my other articles-forgive me).  I spent the time doing this in order to educate the Jewish community, so that my readers can hopefully begin engaging in relevant discussion amongst ourselves and with others.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress is an umbrella organization, made up many member organizations. But Dr. Luciuk’s group, the Ukrainian Civil Liberties Association as he correctly  pointed out, is not one of them. When I wrote my letter  two weeks ago, I realized the two were different organizations, but I was not aware whether the two organizations were in any way formally linked. Dr. Luciuks letter below has clarified that they are not in any way linked. This is something that I suspect many of my readers may not know.

After my more thorough review of this issue, it  appears to me that there are in fact two different positions that are being advanced in the Ukrainian Canadian Community re the content of the CMHR. They are:

POSITION # 1- PERMANENT AND PROMINENT GALLERY FOR THE HOLODOMOR

POSITION #2- ALL 12 OF THE 12 GALLERIES IN THE CHMR SHOULD BE THEMATIC COMPARATIVE AND INCLUSIVE

 

I will now review each of these positions.

 

 POSITION # 1- PERMANENT AND PROMINENT GALLERY FOR THE HOLODOMOR

 

This position #1 which is not the position of  Dr.  Luciuk’s UCCLA , is that the Holodomor be given a “prominent and permanent” gallery or zone in the CMHR. The wording “permanent” and “prominent” zone appears in the statement of numerous Liberal MP’s and also in the statement of Conservative  MP Joy Smith.  This position of a “permanent and prominent  Holodomor Gallery seems to be one that is being advanced by the  Ukrainian Canadian Congress”-

In a statement to the press on April 13, National President of the UCC, Paul Grod stated;"The UCC's position cpntinues to be that the Holodomor deserves a permanent and prominent gallery in the  Museum. We have never opposed and in fact have been supportive of a gallery for the Holocaust. Both represent the most egregious human rights tragedies and have significant and unique pedagogical value through which to view human rights around the world.

The call for a permanent and prominent gallery in th emuseum for th e Holodomor  does not necessarily mean that there be a “special” Gallery devoted to the Holodomor alone, although, it seems very possible to me  that the supporters of  “ a permanent and prominent Holodomor Gallery” do mean for it to be a special stand alone Gallery. This is something I will try to clarify with the UCC in the future and have just sent an email to  the media spokesperson att he UCC, asking for this clarification.

The position of  a “permanent and prominent” Holodomor Zone or Gallery, from my reading, does not  necessarily  mean a reduction in  the proposed  size of  a Holocaust gallery,( or a  proposed permanent gallery relating to  the Aboriginal Community of Canada). But in my view it definitely could result in a reduction of  proposed space for the Holocaust Gallery, especially if  the UCC takes the position that it wants the same amount of floor space as the proposed Holocaust Gallery. This also needs to be clarified, and I have included this question in  an email to the Media spokesperson at the UCC.

I think that it is very possible that this is a position the UCC may be taking,  particularly after reading this paragraph in  a statement dated Jan. 11, 2009,  where the UCC says that the  Holodomor and Holocaust ought to be “ displayed equitably and comparably in the museum” 
http://www.ucc.ca/2011/01/20/uccs-response-to-cmhr-controversy/:

Here is the relevant paragraph (my emphasis added):

“Fact: There is significant pedagogical value of having both the Holocaust and the Holodomor displayed equitably and comparably in the museum.  As historians such as Timothy Snyder (recent book titled Bloodlands) have noted, the methods that Stalin’s Communists first developed in Ukraine and elsewhere in the Soviet Union were in fact the prototypes of Nazi methods of extermination.  The Holodomor tells the story of one of the most ruthless dictators in modern history Joseph Stalin.  It is an event that is still not widely recognized as a massive criminal undertaking.  While the Holodomor may not have been as refined and efficient as the Holocaust in its killing, the result was no less devastating.”

[Interestingly, I note that Tom Snyder, who is the scholar relied on by the UCC, told the National Post recently that the “Holocaust was more horrible than anything, but you can't say that unless you put everything else in the picture."   http://www.nationalpost.com/Genocide/4078581/story.html ]                                                                                        

It is important to note that the position that there ought to be a ‘permanent and prominent” Holodomor Gallery, and that it ought to be displayed equitably and comparably,  does not fundamentally make the claim that all genocides are equal and ought to be treated in the same way in terms of allotted square footage in the CMHR.

Under Position #1, I think that the Holocaust Gallery could still be given more floor space than other genocides  on the premise that the  Holocaust was the catalyst that prompted the world to forge a legal framework for the development of international human rights law, specifically the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and  the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Also, even according to Sneider, “it was more horrible than anything.”

There is one document that I want to make readers aware of which arguably relates to Position #1. That is a letter written by Moe Levy of the Asper Foundation in 2003 to the  President of the UCC saying that the Holodomor will be “featured very clearly, distinctly, and permanently.” You can read the full letter here:
http://www.ucc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/How-Genocide-Should-be-Represented-in-the-CMHR-v20.pdf

I had not read this 2003  letter written by Moe Levy when I wrote my  Open Letter two weeks ago (unfortunately I am not able devote all the hours required to wade through all of this material, which is a full time job to say the least).

When Moe Levy wrote to the UCC President in 2003, that the Holodomor would be  “featured very clearly, distinctly and permanently,” I do not know what those words meant exactly in the context—they were not fleshed out further, and I have not seen any previous or further correspondence on the matter.

However, it appears to me that the UCC may well have taken these words to mean “a prominent and permanent” Holodomor gallery.” The word prominent was never used by Moe Levy in the letter, and appears to be a modification of the exact terms he used.

From my read of the 2003 letter, it appears to me that the UCC wanted to safeguard a position for the Holodomor  (something referred to as one of four concerns in the letter) in order to give its endorsement/support to the CMHR project.

[As an aside, a question I have is whether  since this  letter was written by Moe Levy  when the project was a private one  prior to it becoming government funded, does any thing  in it  still apply once the  CMHR  become a  publicly funded government Museum?  Again, I can only raise the questions, not provide the answers].

Another question I have is whether, if the CMHR were to contain a prominent and permanent Holodomor gallery (possibly a special gallery) would other ethnic communities also then want more prominence-(this is the domino theory effect). If this happened I could see the entire design for  the proposed contents of the museum coming apart and having to be re-done entirely. 

POSITION #2 –“ALL 12 OF THE 12 TWELVE GALLERIES BE THEMATIC, COMPARATIVE AND INCLUSIVE

This postion is different than position #1 and it is advocated by the UCCLA, as Dr. Luciuk’s response letter (printed at the end of this article) makes it clear. In that letter, Dr. Luciuk wrote to me:

‘‘The position of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (www.uccla.ca) is that all 12 of the 12 galleries in the publicly funded Canadian Museum for Human Rights should be thematic, comparative and inclusive. No community's suffering should be elevated above all others.  The Shoah must be included in this national museum. It belongs in a gallery that deals with the many acts of genocide that have befouled human history. So does the genocidal Great Famine of 1932-33 in Soviet Ukraine, the Holodomor. We have never called for a Holodomor gallery, only for a permanent place where that particular crime against humanity can be addressed, i.e. in a Genocide Gallery.”

Let me be clear in saying that this position now advanced  by the UCCLA is radically different than anything the Jewish community has  understood  would be the structure of the museum vis-s vis the Holocaust. It is also in no way is compatible with what have been the proposed contents of the Museum up until now. In this constellation, the Holocaust would be one of a number of many genocides. Does this mean that that all genocides would be allocated the exact same prominence and floor space ? Dr. Luciuk didn’t write that, but I can foresee this becoming the result.

My view is that the onus is on Dr. Luciuk to show us that most  scholars of genocide (the weight of authority) would  agree with the approach he is suggesting, before it ought to be  seriously considered. In the letter he sent me (which is set out in full at the end of this article,) he referred to one scholar, Roger Smith, chair of the International Institute for Genocide Studies as agreeing with his position. Smith’s report can be read here:
http://www.ucc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/How-Genocide-Should-be-Represented-in-the-CMHR-v20.pdf

In my view, the opinion by Prof Michael Marrus, a scholar in the field of Holocaust studies at University of Toronto made in the National Post last week that the  Holocaust can not be linked to the development of human rights legislation is the most significant statement I have read to date  that undermines the current proposed prominence given for the Holocaust in the Museum http://www.life.nationalpost.com/2011/04/05/rights-museum-needs-rethink-academic-says/

 If Marrus’s view were to represent the weight of scholarly opinion on this subject, (which to date has not at all been shown) I would grant that this would constitute a serious attack on the proposed plans. Note also that Marrus has not stated in the National Post article what his vision of a museum would be. Thus there is no indication from that article of whether he is of the view that the undoing of the current plans ought to be replaced by the vision  advanced by the UCCLA of all galleries, being thematic, comparative and conclusive, or a different constellation altogether.

Finally, although I was not able to find anything on the UCC website calling for the same position as the UCCLI, I did find that they had posted on their website the Roger Smith report, which advocates all galleries, being thematic, comparative and conclusive.

If you find this all confusing, I don’t blame you—we will have to see how this all plays out.

In his letter, Dr. Luciuk refers to the Nanos Poll—readers should know that the pollster himself says the results have been misinterpreted. http://www.cjc.ca/2011/03/31/controversial-poll-shows-opposition-to-rights-museum/  In any event, I have said in my previous letter that I do not think this issue ought  to be decided by polls, but rather by scholars.

 

Donors

I want to make it clear to those who read Dr.. Luciuk’s letter below that I do not have any evidence one way or another to suggest what, if any representations were made to any private donor at any time. I don’t have any  evidence to suggest that any member of the  Jewish community or any other community gave money to the Museum in exchange for the allocation of space or specific treatment in the Museum. I certainly do not have any  evidence to suggest illegality on the part of anyone.

When I wrote my open letter, I used the word "If". I see it as my role to raise the questions.

What happens in the case of  a  private donor, (any private donor- Jewish or non-Jewish,) who gave money  at the time before the project become a national museum and would have had the ability at the time to  place any condition they wanted on the  giving of their money? If this condition were  agreed to then, is it possible that there is a continuing obligation on the part of the Museum,  if that condition were not to be met to give that donor their money back if the donor desired ? It is clear to me that  that the donor could not require that the Museum, now nationally funded, to be built in a certain way.  But, I wonder (without having researched this subject ) whether from a legal perspective a donor (if such a donor  exists) could have a claim to get their money back because at the time they gave the money  there was a condition  bargained in good faith that can not now be met ? I do not know what the legal answer would be if such a situation arose—but I am not willing to dismiss this as a possible scenario, out of hand. This scenario,  could  possibly arise  if their were a radical redesign of the Museum that is completely at odds with what was negotiated by a private donor at the time that donor gave their money before the project became national.

Additionally, any private donor (from any ethnic community) who has pledged money but has not yet paid may decide that they will renege on their pledge, if it turns out that the Museum is no longer anywhere near what they had envisioned it being. I would not rule this out as a possibility, although I myself do not know if such a donor exists.

I can candidly say that I have no intelligence or evidence about any thing relating to any donor’s donation whatsoever.

By the way, for those who want to learn about a postcard  sent out by the UCCLA, that has attracted criticism, I urge  you to read  the article in the link below by Dr. Catherine Chatterley, founding Director of the Canadian Institute For Anti-Semitism. http://www.winnipegjewishreview.com/article_detail.cfm?id=993&sec=2&title=CATHERINE_CHATTERLEY:_THE_WAR_AGAINST_THE_HOLOCAUST.  

 

Below is Dr. Luciuk’s letter to me March 31, 2010

An Open Reply to Ms Rhonda Spivak re The Canadian Museum for Human Rights

March 31, 2011


An open, courteous and honest exchange of views on the proposed contents and governance of the publicly funded Canadian Museum for Human Rights is welcome.

The position of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (www.uccla.ca) is that all 12 of the 12 galleries in the publicly funded Canadian Museum for Human Rights should be thematic, comparative and inclusive. No community's suffering should be elevated above all others.  The Shoah must be included in this national museum. It belongs in a gallery that deals with the many acts of genocide that have befouled human history. So does the genocidal Great Famine of 1932-33 in Soviet Ukraine, the Holodomor. We have never called for a Holodomor gallery, only for a permanent place where that particular crime against humanity can be addressed, i.e. in a Genocide Gallery.

Please note that UCCLA does not speak for the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, nor does it belong to the UCC, so any concerns or complaints you may have with that organization should be directed to/at them. As their HQ is conveniently located in Winnipeg I recommend you drop in and pursue any quarrel you have with the good folks there.

A recent Nanos Research survey confirms (and you can find the results posted on the UCCLA website under Media Releases) that 60.3% of men and women, of all ages, voter groups and from every province, share our view that no community should have a gallery of its own. Less scientific polls run by the Winnipeg Free Press and Globe and Mail found public opinion even more emphatically against such partiality. Since this is a taxpayer-funded national museum, whose operating costs are to be paid in perpetuity by all of us, your objection to listening to what Canadians want seems rather counterproductive. Few Canadians endorse the notion that one or another group deserves preferential treatment even as all the rest of us are expected to pay for this imposition of a "hierarchy of suffering." [Of course if this museum were, or had, remained a private initiative its contents would be determined by its owners. In this case, however, all Canadian taxpayers are the 'owners' and, overwhelmingly, they're against funding such preferential treatment.]

On scholarly input with respect to the museum's contents please note that Professor Roger Smith, chair of the International Institute for Genocide Studies, recommended recently "that the CMHR convey, as part of the universal experience, the historical, political and moral lessons of genocide in an inclusive, holistic and comparative manner. Anything less would do a grave disservice to its stated mission and would become of concern to the conscience of all Canadians."

Who donated privately in support of this museum and what promises may have been made to such people, and by whom, and on what authority,  is not something I care to speculate about. Whatever assurances were made when this was still a private project obviously have no validity now. As I am sure you can appreciate, donations can't be made in the expectation of securing any influence over any Canadian national museum's contents. I am not a lawyer but attempts to do so might even be illegal, an issue we can leave to the legal advisors at the Ministry of Canadian Heritage to ponder. I must also reject your statement that those Jewish Canadians who gave money were promised a "Holocaust gallery" in return for their generous contributions. Your allegation to that effect is contradicted by Ms Gail Asper who wrote in The Winnipeg Free Press that no group was asked to make a contribution in order to secure preferential treatment in the allocation of space or curating of the CMHR's contents. If you have evidence to the contrary you should write to the Honourable James Moore, MP, the  Minister of Canadian Heritage, and share that intelligence with him. Insofar as I know the several Ukrainian Canadians who contributed several million dollars in support of the CMHR were not promised anything in return, other than a recognition of their generosity.

Finally let me underscore that the Ukrainian Canadian community in general welcomed plans for the development of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. We have no objection to this nationial museum being located in Winnipeg. Many of us have already demonstrated political and financial support for this project. However, like most Canadians, including a large number of principled MPs representing all of the parties found in the House of Commons (and the Green Party) we do insist that (1) as a national museum the CMHR's galleries must all be thematic, comparative and inclusive, (2) its governance should be undertaken by a board of trustees truly representative of our multicultural society and (3)  public funds should not be expended to promote the conceit that any one community's suffering is somehow more worthy of memory than that of all others.

Dr Lubomyr Luciuk
Director of Research
Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Toronto

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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