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Gail Asper

Ed Shinewald, Jewish Foundation of Manitoba President with Joyce Rosenhek, honoured for her commitment to philanthropy

Ed Shinewald, Jewish Foundation of Manitoba President with Sandi Promislow of Investors Group, honoured for their generous support of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba and their demonstrated commitment to philanthropy

Ed Shinewald, Jewish Foundation of Manitoba President with Marcia Cogan, honoured for her commitment to philanthropy


Women's Endowment Fund almost at 1 Million Dollar Milestone

by Rhonda Spivak, May 12, 2011

 At the Jewish Foundation's  11th Annual Women's Endowment Fund Luncheon, Gail Asper delivered a  hard hitting speech in support of the original vision of the  Canadian Human Rights Museum to feature a permanant Holocaust gallery in the Human Rights Museum, and refuted the position of those in the Ukrainian community seeking to undermine that vision. She refered to the Animal Farm postcard sent out by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association as having an "anti-semitic" nature.

Asper, a lawyer, President of  Can West Foundation, the Asper Foundation, and the driving force behind the establishment  of  the CMHR said on the subject of the Holocaust Gallery:


As most of you know, recently the Museum’s plans for a permanent Holocaust Gallery have come under attack. The original vision of this Museum also included plans for a Holocaust Gallery and that vision has been supported by three different Prime Ministers, two Premiers, two Mayors and over 6,000 donors.  It is part of the vision that has been the foundation of over 10 years of support and hard work. 

The clear understanding between the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Museum’s Board is that the money raised by Friends has been raised based on the Museum delivering Ralph Appelbaum’s vision, which has been presented to over 1,500 individuals, groups and corporations and which donors expect to see.

In three days, on May 8th, the world will recognize the 66th anniversary of the day the Holocaust ended in 1945.  

The Holocaust represents a singular, unprecedented event in human history that prompted the birth of the modern human rights movement and whose impact is felt by Canadians every day through our Criminal Code, Broadcast Act, Human Rights Commissions and Charter.  The lessons of the Holocaust are universal and relevant today, both in general terms and in relation to global anti-Semitism today.  

And yet today, like before, resistance to recognizing the Holocaust in Canada continues.  In 1998, efforts to place a permanent Holocaust gallery into the Canadian War Museum were met with loud, relentlessly open and aggressive protests, and finally abandoned.  Currently, there is troubling controversy surrounding the plan that includes a permanent, dedicated gallery for the Holocaust, especially as it relates to the Holodomor or Ukrainian famine.  Many of the same voices that were involved with attacking the War Museum’s Holocaust Gallery are being heard again, protesting this Museum’s Holocaust Gallery.

I want to be very clear - the struggles of Ukrainians, including the Holodomor, are stories and lessons that the Museum will feature.    The Holodomor is a horrific event that warrants study.  Until recently, it was largely unknown by many Canadians.

One of the Museum’s mandates is to increase awareness and education about human rights and events.  In the last few months, and a full two years before the Museum will even open, the Holodomor has received more exposure in Canada than at any previous time in this country.

The displays, created by the world’s foremost museum exhibit designer, Ralph Appelbaum will only further expand the world’s awareness about this tragedy.  So, it will be because of a $20 million investment by a Jewish Canadian with a dream, these stories will finally be told.  We are very proud of this.  But, this in no way diminishes the role of the Holocaust in our understanding of human rights and in no way impacts the planned Holocaust gallery. 

The tactics by those who oppose this are getting quite ugly and kudos to Catherine Chatterley for highlighting the anti-Semitic nature of the postcard being circulated by the UCCLA.  Such lobbying tactics have no place in Canada.  As John Stefaniuk, Chair of the Friends Board of Directors, said so eloquently in a letter to the Free Press: “I am a Canadian who is proud of his Ukrainian ancestry.  The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association does not speak for me nor does it speak for many others of all backgrounds (including Ukrainian) who passionately support the Museum and its vision.  Developing the Museum by the agitations of single-issue special interest groups is inappropriate and wrong-headed.”

The entirety of Asper's  passionate speech, for which she recieved a standing ovation, is set out below. It outlines her journey in  fulfilling  the dream of her late father Israel Asper in  building the  CMHR in Winnipeg, its anticipated benefits to Winnipeg, and the challenges that lie ahead.Cowan introduced her  by noting she lived by her father's motto "Never do a little deal." 

Prior to  Asper's speech, Marsha Cowan addressed the packed room at the Fort Gary  Hotel, saying  that the Women's Endowmnet Fund  which was established in 1994 was approaching a  historic "very special million dollar milestone"--with the fund now standing at $968,000.

"We perservered and followed the philanthropic foresight of the original founders and now we are poised to have an even greater impact on the lives of Manitoba women."  

She noted that during the last 46 years the Foundation has distributed over $36 million back into the community. The Foundation received approximately $6.3 million in new donations in 2010--some of which was the result of speaking with portential donors about including the Foundation in their estate plans. Cowan added that the Foundation's investments earned 8.9% in 2010 thanks to prudent investment policies,"and the Foundation distributed $2.7 million back into the community in 2010."

Cowan also recognized  Marsha Cogan, Joyce Rosenhek and Investor's Group for their philanthropic giving to the Foundation. Cogan  has been a community young leadership award winner, an initiator of the "Shoe Box Brigade for  CJA", and designated a significant portion of a special gift she and her husband Lou made to the Foundation to the Women's Endowment Fund. Rosenhek has been involved with  B'nai Brith Women, National Council of Jewish Women, a fundraiser for Cancer Care, ran the pre-natal program at Mount Carmel Clinic and was a committee member with her husband Sid of  the  Foundation's Endowment Book of Life and made her gift through that vehicle. Investor's Group has sponsored the Foundation's Women's Endowment Fund luncheons since their inception, and they have $32,000.  with the Women's Endowment Fund. 


Thank you for the invitation to speak here today.  I was very honoured when Marsha Cowan asked me to speak and I’m especially excited to be here to share my passion for Winnipeg and for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.  I’m also wildly passionate about the Jewish Foundation and believe deeply in the importance of creating a strong permanent fund that will benefit our community in perpetuity and I hope each and everyone of you has signed the Endowment

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.