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Belle Millo


By Rhonda Spivak

Belle Millo, chair of the Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Centre of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada [JHC] has initiated a public petition advocating for a permanent Holocaust gallery in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to be built in Winnipeg.

Millo, who is also an executive member of the board of the JHC, started the petition on December 10, 2009, and has gathered “4,264 signatures” as of the last week of February.

The petition was presented to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights [CMHR] Content Advisory Committee on January 26 when the committee was holding bilateral hearings in Winnipeg, and Millo says the committee will receive updates of all new signatories to it.

Prior to bilateral hearings, there were roundtable meetings that took place across the country on specific dates.

Millo said many members of  Jewish communities across Canada  assumed that  the inclusion of a permanent  Holocaust Gallery in the CHRM was a fait accompli; accordingly, “ Jewish communities did not participate in the first roundtable meetings that took place – for instance in Ottawa.”

When asked why many members of the Jewish community assumed that a permanent Holocaust gallery would be in the museum, Millo answered:

“I believe that everybody had the idea that a permanent Holocaust gallery would be included because this was very much a part of the late Israel Asper's vision for the museum. However, when the federal government became involved, the content of the museum fell under its auspices. The government wished to consult the Canadian public on this issue and therefore, the Content Advisory Committee of the CMHR travelled across the country to hear what Canadians wanted to see in this new national museum. Certainly, not everyone agreed that there should be a separate and permanent Holocaust gallery.”

When asked about the necessity of the petition, which was put forth to the Content Advisory Committee of the CMHR,  Millo said:

“I do believe that the petition helped to publicize the issue and mobilized people in other cities to attend the roundtables [that were open to the public and attended by the Content Advisory Committee of the CMHR].”  

Millo added:

“Other factors that helped mobilize people across the country were the involvement of our own Jewish Federation, Canadian Jewish Congress and B'nai Brith, after the matter was brought to their attention. Winnipeg definitely played a leading role in bringing this issue to the forefront and the Winnipeg roundtable sessions were the most heavily attended across the country.” 

According to Millo, Jewish people are not the only ones who have signed the petition. 

“There are many non-Jewish names on the petition and they come from all around the world including  every corner of the globe – Australia, New Zealand, Dar Es Salaam, Kuala Lumpur, Brazil, Argentina, Israel, several European countries and  many points across the United States and Canada,”   she said.

Millo also believes that  the JHC in Winnipeg is   “only organization” to have initiated such  a petition, and that she is “optimistic” that a permanent Holocaust gallery will be included in the Museum.    

Millo’s petition, which can be accessed and signed through the JHC’s website at, reads as  follows:

Petition in favour of a permanent Holocaust gallery at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Within the context of the 20th century, the Holocaust is unfortunately the ultimate prototype for the study of human rights violations. As the defining event that prompted the birth of the modern human rights movement, it stands out among the horrors that humankind has inflicted upon itself by virtue of the systematic nature employed by the Nazis and their collaborators to eradicate the Jewish people - from political oppression, judicial and economic discrimination to the use of scientific, racial, and cultural theories and arguments which required the mobilization of every institution of Nazi Germany’s political and civil society. The inclusion of a gallery specific to the Holocaust will in no way detract from the histories of other human rights violations; we believe that the opposite is in fact true – that learning about the Holocaust will allow one to acquire greater insight into other human rights violations.

We the undersigned firmly believe that there should be a permanent Holocaust gallery in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

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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.