Luciuk: Ottawa’s National Holocaust Monument must include Ukrainians

The challenge with all monuments and memorials is to respond to the groups that made the demand for a memorial with other groups that were less central to the atrocities and genocide.

In somewhat crass political terms, Ukrainian Canadians deservedly obtained recognition of the Holodomor as a genocide and funding to commemorate WW1 internment of Ukrainian Canadians and some other groups, just as Jewish and other ethnic groups have received recognition of past historical injustices. And it is churlish to criticize other groups and their memorials:

I’m offended.

My mother was a teenager when the Nazis kidnapped her, one of millions of Ukrainians enslaved by Hitler’s legions. Even so, she was lucky. She survived. Millions did not. Another victim, whom I befriended later in life, was Stefan Petelycky. A Ukrainian nationalist, he was interned in the most notorious Nazi concentration camps. He never forgot what the Germans did to him. He couldn’t. His forearm was branded with Auschwitz tattoo #154922.

Certainly, Ukrainians weren’t the Holocaust’s only victims. Millions of Jews died. Millions of Polish Catholics were murdered. And I acknowledge the Russians who ran afoul of Nazi racism, even if I despise the fascism infecting Russia today. Indeed all Slavic peoples were considered untermenschen (subhumans). The Nazis planned to exterminate or deport most of them, leaving only a few to serve as helots, bond servants of the Third Reich’s settler-colonial imperialism. Thankfully, the Nazis were defeated. Millions of Ukrainians died making sure of that.

Does the federal government know this? I doubt it. Within hours of the official unveiling of the National Holocaust Monument on Sept. 17, 2017, featuring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then-minister of Canadian Heritage, Mélanie Joly, a controversy erupted over the dedication plaque. Originally, it stated: “The National Holocaust Monument commemorates the millions of men, women and children murdered during the Holocaust and honours the survivors who persevered and were able to make their way to Canada after one of the darkest chapters in history. This monument recognizes the contributions these survivors have made to Canada and serves as a reminder that we must be vigilant in standing guard against hate, intolerance and discrimination.”

This saccharine inscription was denounced. Now it reads: “The National Holocaust Monument commemorates the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered during the Holocaust by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.”

Underscoring Nazi Germany’s responsibility for a genocide is essential. Emphasizing the six million Jewish dead is required. But why, despite almost two dozen other plaques, was the suffering of millions of non-Jewish victims largely ignored?

This becomes even less comprehensible as you discover who is remembered. For example, several hundred Afro-Germans are — yet few, if any, ever ended up here. The same is true of other victim groups, such as Roma, homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses. At a time when the federal government goes on and on about being inclusive, why were Ukrainian, Russian and Polish victims excluded, seemingly by design? Did someone decide they were the “collaborators” seemingly targeted by the revised text? That would be grossly unfair: far more of them fell fighting fascism as compared to the few who collaborated.

This could be fixed by adding another plaque. There’s room and a precedent for revising; I’ll even pay for it. So why hasn’t it been done? I have asked more than one minister, more than once, over several years. They don’t answer. Federal promises about how all  the victims would be hallowed were nothing but ballyhoo.

As it stands today, the National Holocaust Monument intentionally ignores the suffering of millions of people. It neglects the contributions many Holocaust survivors made to Canada — among them Stefan Petelycky and Maria Luciuk. At a time when Ukrainians are again defending themselves against a genocidal agenda, this deliberate slight is particularly galling. Why is Pablo Rodriguez, the minister responsible, refusing to address this monument’s discriminatory messaging? Why hasn’t he ordered a revision that would transform this site into a truly inclusive place of memory?

There are too many hungry people out there for me to toss tomato soup at this monument; I’ll donate the can to a food bank instead. Likewise, I won’t indulge in criminal vandalism, like those hooligans who spray-paint statues at night. Armed with the courage of my convictions, I protest in daylight, sans balaclava. As for those stoked-up packs tearing up about tearing down statues — doing so neither erases their purportedly unhappy pasts nor does it compensate for present-day failings.

Frankly, we should all be more grateful for the good country we live in. But, should you come across a publicly funded monument perpetuating a prejudice, let’s talk about it. Meanwhile, redoing the National Holocaust Monument shouldn’t be too difficult. After all, it has been done before.

Lubomyr Luciuk is a Fellow of the Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Toronto and a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada.

Source: Luciuk: Ottawa’s National Holocaust Monument must include Ukrainians

Elghawaby: How celebrating our histories are a form of resistance

Sometimes, these are forms of resistance, sometimes more forms of recognition and celebration. As most of these are now part of government programs or sponsored partly by governments, business and others (arguably co-opted), I doubt that all of the participants in the various events view them from a resistance perspective.

Certainly that was not my experience when I routinely attend these events when running the multiculturalism program a number of years ago.

Events involve others outside the particular community improve awareness and understanding of community specific heritage and issues across a broader range of Canadians compared to those that do not:

There may come a time when celebrating Islamic Heritage Month, Latin American Heritage Month, or Women’s History Month, will seem quaint and unnecessary. Yet, marking these three commemorations this month, and countless other similar occasions throughout the calendar year, are in fact acts of resistance and defiance.

As American academic Jessica M. Parr noted last year in the digital magazine Public Books “ [ …] the choices a society makes in terms of how and what it chooses to remember and acknowledge of its past beg important questions: What do the choices say about a society’s identity and values? What do they imply about who belongs within that society, and whose experiences matter?”

Oftentimes, it takes visionaries to persist in telling stories that are undervalued, silenced, or simply forgotten. 

Take Afua Cooper, a multidisciplinary artist and scholar at the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Dalhousie University. She had to fight to study Canadian Black history when she first started work on her PhD over two decades ago. Cooper would eventually be vindicated.

“I persevered and I didn’t listen to [those who told me not to study this area],” she told me by phone earlier this month. We spoke days before she would be accepting an honorary doctorate from Simon Fraser University and just weeks after receiving the J.B. Tyrrell Historical Medal from the Royal Society of Canada, the highest honour available in the field. Her work has been instrumental in advancing Black Canadian studies and which preceded an eventual “explosion in Black history and Black studies as a whole.”

Cooper, who is also a dub and spoken word artist, has previously served as poet laureate of Halifax Regional Municipality for the 2018-2020 term. Her career draws from intersectional identities and is informed by her varied histories. 

“We have to take oral cultures as seriously as we take scribal cultures, the written cultures,” she explained to me. “That resonated with me as a Muslim because the early culture of spoken word was so important to the early history of the Arabs and of the first Muslims [ …] having this oratory among the diverse African nations and communities was so important.”

It isn’t enough for people like Cooper to do the work to bring recognition to the histories that underpin our societies, even as they are too often skipped in history textbooks. There is a heavy responsibility on many of us to create space in our workplaces, schools, universities, associations, to mark these histories and join communities in interrogating the historic experiences and contributions made. The burden shouldn’t solely depend on communities’ themselves to take the opportunity that special government designations offer, but on fellow colleagues, supervisors and leaders to encourage collective sharing and learning.

Furthermore, encouraging communities to bring positive light to their presence helps to dispel dangerous stereotypes and encourage robust civic engagement. Among the key activities at the Toronto-based Hispanic Canadian Heritage Council is an eight-week School4Civic program, which encourages greater participation in our democratic institutions.

This month also marks the 30th anniversary of Women’s History Month, with Person’s Day falling on Oct. 18. The month’s theme, “She Did, So Now I Can,” is an apt nod to those who break barriers to defy expectations, serving as inspiration to those coming afterwards.

And earlier this fall, the House of Commons voted unanimously to designate November as Hindu Heritage Month. Each designation, each recognition affords all of us the chance to resist harmful and divisive narratives that risk fraying a social fabric that requires constant effort to hold together.

So ask yourself: how are you marking these special months? How are you advancing your learning about the struggles and triumphs experienced by those with whom you share space?

Don’t let your answers disappoint.

Source: How celebrating our histories are a form of resistance

Lord: We should use Canada’s fallen statues to start a public conversation about our history

Agree. We need to understand history and context, rather than simply ignoring history and the forces behind previous values and those behind change. Always have preferred updating or new historical plaques to that end, rather than simply ignoring the complexities of the day:

At the University of Ghana, the administration in 2018 removed the statue of famed Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi in response to a petition that claimed he was racist.

In 2020, during anti-racism protests in Bristol, a slave trader’s statue was torn down and thrown into the harbour.

Mexico City confirmed last fall that a figure of an Indigenous woman will replace the capital’s Christopher Columbus monument.

Ideas about history are constantly in flux. In recent years, people everywhere have been critically rethinking representations of the past from a perspective of social justice and anti-colonialism. And as part of this collective reflection, communities, cities and countries are reassessing what, how and who they publicly honour and celebrate with the statues featured in their public spaces.

Canada is no exception: Last year, anger at the deaths of Indigenous children at residential schools led crowds in Winnipeg to topple a Queen Victoria statue and another of Queen Elizabeth II.

Earlier this year, Ryerson University was renamed Toronto Metropolitan University after years of advocacy, consultation and committee work, as well as protests that defaced and toppled his statue, ultimately throwing it into Toronto Harbour. (Ryerson, a supporter of public education, was a high-profile advocate of the residential-school policy, which separated more than 150,000 Indigenous children from their families – producing suffering for generations.)

But what happens next to these statues of fallen historical figures is a logistical, financial and educational question that cities and communities are struggling with. In New Orleans, four Confederate monuments have now been in storage for more than a year after they were taken down. Similarly, Baltimore keeps four monuments in a secret location while a city task force decides what to do with them.

But for Canada, this question of what cities should do with statues they no longer want represents a unique opportunity to lead in the creation of a new type of public institution – one that offers both a practical solution and addresses the complexity of our changing understanding of the past and its impact on the present.

This describes neither a museum nor a warehouse, but a proposal that I call an “aware-house.” Such a space would display fallen statues to build understanding about historical processes, including how and why they were first erected and how they came to be removed. Appreciating its potential positive impact as both a learning and healing experience requires looking at the current discourse on this issue.

Once a statue is taken down, whether by crowds or by design, what happens next isn’t clear. Storage is expensive, and once a figure ends up there, it’s unlikely to be brought back up again – removing the opportunity to have that educational conversation or use the moment to foster public engagement.

“Just send them to a museum” is a common misconception in this discussion. The mission of museums is not to be the attic for the nation’s unwanted items. Other alternatives, such as the case made by sociology professor Gary Younge to stop creating any monuments featuring historical figures, could be a go-forward option, but it doesn’t address what to physically do with those that are removed.

Countries such as Russia and the former Yugoslavia created “gardens of fallen statues,” but these are limited in their scope serving primarily as places of nostalgia rather than education or community healing.

The aware-house, meanwhile, would create a public place that starts with the recognition that history is a living discipline. Imagine a towering space, such as an aircraft hangar, filled with monuments and statues from our past. The foundation of the conversation they are driving starts with the framework that history and norms are ever changing, and then looks to explore what it means with perspectives from across sectors, backgrounds and life experiences. A swipe of a QR code empowers users to engage in a multimedia and immersive metaverse experience.

Equally important, the process of designing the aware-house is part of the healing journey of wronged communities and involves engaging new and diverse stakeholders in discussions, not only with historians of different viewpoints, but sociologists, poets, artists, psychologists and policy makers. Exhibitions on different themes could be shared around the country and adapted to local stories as needed to continue dialogue around the issues that these statues surface – including their long-term impact on public and social problems today.

Just as Canada in 2014 established the CMHR, the world’s first national museum dedicated to human rights, we could now lead the way on a new global chapter: pro-actively addressing the interplay between legacy racism, sexism, colonial exploitation and contemporary institutional and systemic challenges.

And as the country reflects on Pope Francis’s recent apology tour, it’s the perfect time to launch an aware-house – which, by curating and contextualizing removed relics to create genuine awareness and understanding for the future, could become an anchor component of our national reconciliation efforts.

Gail Lord is a museum planner and the president and co-founder of Lord Cultural Resources. She was the consultant for the establishment of both the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) and the National (Smithsonian) African American Museum of History and Culture.

Source: We should use Canada’s fallen statues to start a public conversation about our history

B.C. commits $100 million to Japanese Canadians in recognition of incarcerations

Of note:
B.C. is giving $100 million in funding to address the historical wrongs it caused when it helped to incarcerate thousands of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

The announcement comes on the 80th anniversary of the first arrivals of Japanese Canadians to the Greenwood, Kaslo, New Denver, Slocan City and Sandon camps in 1942.

Premier John Horgan says funds will go toward providing updated health programs for survivors, the creation and restoration of heritage sites and updating the provincial curriculum to include what he calls a “terrible chapter” in B.C.’s history.

Horgan says the recognition is “long overdue” and the funding symbolizes “turning a page” in how Japanese Canadians have been treated by past governments.

The province says in a statement that this builds on a 2012 apology by the B.C. legislature and responds to a redress proposal advanced in 2021 by the National Association of Japanese Canadians.

B.C. also gave $2 million to the Nikkei Seniors Health Care and Housing Society last May as a first step toward fulfilling a promise to recognize the incarceration of almost 22,000 people.

“This endowment will not change the past, but it will ensure that generations that are with us still, and those that come after, will have the opportunity to see something positive coming out of what was clearly a very, very dark period in our collective histories,” Horgan said at a Saturday news conference.

Source: B.C. commits $100 million to Japanese Canadians in recognition of incarcerations

Canada forced these Japanese Canadians into internment camps. Now they’re at the same nursing home

Good reminder of our history and the lasting memories:

Leaning forward in her wheelchair to look over a massive photo album, Sue Kai delves into memories from decades ago. Kai, 96, and her son, Brian, pore over snapshots of her past, some dating back to the moment her life was irrevocably changed.

Kai was 16 years old, and living with her family in the downtown Vancouver home her father built with his own two hands, when it happened.

“One Sunday everybody is going crazy: ‘Bomb bomb bomb bomb,'” said Kai. “I said, what’s a ‘bomb bomb bomb bomb?’ Then they said ‘Pearl Harbor.'”

Source: Canada forced these Japanese Canadians into internment camps. Now they’re at the same nursing home

Ukrainian Canadians fight to save a forgotten cemetery in Quebec’s Abitibi region

Spirit Lake was one of the examples cited by Ukrainian Canadians during endowment fund negotiations over the World War I Internment Fund in 2008-9:

Beyond the crops, tucked deep in a boggy forest on a farmer’s land in the Abitibi region of Quebec, you’ll find the remnants of a cemetery, a few crosses still visible between the trees.

More than 100 years ago, at least 16 detainees from the nearby Spirit Lake internment camp were buried here.

But there’s no commemorative plaque or historical protection for the land that is slowly being swallowed up by forest.

Source: Ukrainian Canadians fight to save a forgotten cemetery in Quebec’s Abitibi region

Federal officials rethink wording of markers at gravesites of past prime ministers

Don’t envy those responsible for reviewing the wording and developing new wording that provides a more balanced view of “the good, the bad and the ugly” of previous PMs (or other historical figures), as well as the historical context that shaped their actions:

It was in late January that vandals so badly scratched out the face of Mackenzie King on an awareness panel by the former prime minister’s final resting place in Toronto that a federal agency decided the panel had to be replaced.

For more than two decades, the commemorative panel didn’t receive a revamp, just like others at prime ministerial gravesites overseen by federal officials.

Those officials, however, are rethinking what the panels should say and reflect how the country views its past, specifically in light of historical mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples.

Inevitably, experts say, that will cause tension about how to mark these sites.

The plaques are among a suite of issues that Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada have to deal with in the coming years at the 16 gravesites, the details of which are outlined in inspection reports released to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The program first launched in 1999, hoping to prevent the final resting spots of prime ministers from becoming irreparably damaged.

All but one of the graves are in Canada — R.B. Bennett is buried at a church in Mickelham, U.K., a town of 600 people about a one-hour train ride southwest of London. His sarcophagus needs repairs to cracks and breaks, not to mention a good cleaning of moss.

Over its more than 20 years of existence, the program has spent about $1 million on inspections, repairs, commemorative plaques and flagpoles at gravesites. Annual spending is based on yearly needs, and Parks Canada said it anticipates average annual expenses to increase slightly over the next five years.

Some of that has to do with the addition last year of John Turner’s gravesite in Toronto. The documents say an awareness panel was supposed to be installed this fall; Parks Canada would only say that “planning continues” for a commemoration ceremony.

New panels are set to be installed at each remaining gravesite that would identify the former prime minister’s time in office, and the reasons that they, and the graves, carry national historic significance.

Cecilia Morgan, a social and cultural historian from the University of Toronto, said the usual tension that surrounds commemorations can be exacerbated when the focus is on a historical figure who has taken on a larger symbolism in the public’s mind, and whose actions or achievements are thrown under a more critical light.

“Commemoration is so often contested,” said Morgan, who studies the history of commemoration in Canada.

“What I see often is the kind of deep emotional attachment that people have, to their sense of the past and to the symbols that we create of that past that is often solidified in those particular individuals or organizations.”

Parks Canada in an email said wording on the revamped plaques would “recognize the enormous shifts in historical understanding” and “reflect on the past in the context of the present.”

Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, chair of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg, said a diverse panel should debate wording on the plaques to mark a prime minister’s contributions to the country’s history, both positive and negative.

She pointed to Sir John A. Macdonald as an example: He made a contribution as the country’s first prime minister, but was also an author of the government-funded, church-run residential school system where Indigenous children were torn from their families and subjected to widespread sexual, emotional and physical abuse.

Any wording, she said, should make everyone a guardian and witness to these realities and work to ensure the negatives never happen again.

“It will not be easy. It will be very uncomfortable,” said Wesley-Esquimaux, who is also Chair for Truth and Reconciliation at Lakehead University.

“But I think you cannot get to reconciliation, or better relations, without having that conversation and without acknowledging the kinds of things that have happened because people … made decisions that had a very tragic impact.”

Aside from the plaques, the gravesite inspection reports also flag issues with rust from metal ties seeping through stones at multiple graves, and writing on markers disappearing at others because of the elements and years of problematic maintenance.

The biggest work order appears at the final resting place of Pierre Trudeau.

The grey stone, concrete and brick mausoleum has taken a beating from increasing freeze-thaw cycles during winter months, as well as stronger and heavier rainfalls becoming more frequent, which federal inspectors chalked up to climate change.

The sheet metal roof and flashing are well past their lifespan and can’t stop water from seeping in, requiring a complete replacement. Parts of the outer wall need to be carefully dismantled to repair water damage, including one load-bearing wall at the crypt of the former prime minister.

The 2020 inspection report calls for work to start no later than this fall. Parks Canada said it is developing a work plan that includes “detailed investigations (that) are ongoing with planning and design work to follow.”

Parks Canada said more severe weather related to climate change has had an impact on gravestones, sarcophagi and mausoleums it oversees. The agency added that it has increased the frequency of inspections hoping to better “recognize and mitigate damage or deterioration caused by climate change and a variety of other factors.”

Source: Federal officials rethink wording of markers at gravesites of past prime ministers

Victims of communism memorial received donations honouring fascists, Nazi collaborators, according to website

Not good:

A controversial monument being built in Ottawa to honour victims of communist regimes has received donations in honour of known fascists and Nazi collaborators, according to a list posted online by the organization spearheading the project.

The Memorial to the Victims of Communism is being financed partly through a “buy-a-brick” campaign called Pathways to Liberty, which is run by the registered charity Tribute to Liberty.

The campaign sells “virtual bricks” that appear on the organization’s website and in their newsletter. The bricks are dedicated to alleged victims of communism and include biographical notes about the individuals being commemorated.

But some donors seem to be attempting to sanitize the records of known fascists and war criminals.

An organization calling itself the General Committee of United Croats of Canada purchased virtual bricks dedicated to Ante Pavelić, describing him only as a “doctor of laws.”

Pavelić was the wartime leader of the Ustaša, the fascist organization that ran the Independent State of Croatia, a Nazi puppet regime. In this role, Pavelić was the chief perpetrator of the Holocaust in the Balkans. Approximately 32,000 Jews, 25,000 Roma and 330,000 Serbs were murdered by the regime.

If Canada commemorates Ante Pavelić or Roman Shukhevych, it can throw its human rights record right in the trash.– Efraim Zuroff, Simon Wiesenthal Centre

The same organization purchased a brick dedicated to Mile Budak, whom they identified simply as a “poet”. Budak was also a high-ranking Ustaša official.

References to Budak and Pavelić have been removed from the Tribute to Liberty website.

It’s not clear whether the donations were returned; when asked, Ludwik Klimkowski, Tribute to Liberty’s chair, said it would be “premature” to comment. Another Ustaša official, Ivan Oršanić, remains listed on the site.

An organization calling itself the Knightly Order of Vitéz purchased five bricks. “Several members of the order actively participated in the persecution, despoliation and, in 1944, the deportation of the Hungarian Jews,” said László Karsai, a professor of history at the University of Szeged.

Vitéz members included high-ranking members of the Nazi-puppet government established late in the war, which organized the deportation of some 437,000 Hungarian Jews. “It was the biggest, fastest deportation action of the Holocaust,” said Karsai. “Several tens of thousands of Vitéz members got large lands (from) Jewish properties.”

The League of Ukrainian Canadians’ Edmonton Branch, meanwhile, purchased five virtual bricks in honour of Roman Shukhevych — who led the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) during the Second World War and was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Belarusians, Jews, Poles and Ukrainians.

Orest Steciw, executive director of the League of Ukrainian Canadians, told CBC News that while his organization did sponsor bricks for the monument, he cannot name the individuals to whom they were dedicated because he was not the executive director at the time.

“If Canada commemorates Ante Pavelić or Roman Shukhevych,” said Efraim Zuroff, a noted Nazi-hunter and the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, “it can throw its human rights record right in the trash.”

‘They remember what they want to remember’

The UPA was the armed wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-Bandera faction (OUN-b). Per Anders Rudling, a historian at Lund University in Sweden who has written critically about Shukhevych, said devotees of this “Nazi collaborator” have been working to rehabilitate his image.

“While Shukhevych (and the OUN-b) were antisemitic and totalitarian, most of his admirers today are not,” Rudling told CBC News. “They remember what they want to remember — a sanitized, whitewashed image of a heroic officer.

“Shukhevych was a Nazi collaborator and ethnic cleanser. The units under his command massacred Jews and Poles.

“A monument to the victims of communism is fair and legitimate. Millions of people were murdered by Stalin and Mao, and there is a case to be made for their commemoration. It is peculiar, however, that people who committed genocide are being glorified along with those legitimate victims.”

Klimkowski wouldn’t comment on the specific names listed on the charity’s website.

He said that questions about the individuals being commemorated “are premature” since Tribute to Liberty and the Department of Canadian Heritage are still reviewing the final list of names to be included on the memorial itself. Klimkowski said that process should be finished by December of this year.

Canadian Heritage, meanwhile, said that it’s reviewing the list of names proposed for the monument itself — not the names listed on the charity’s website.

A troubled project

The Victims of Communism memorial project has been beset by problems. The project originally was supposed to cost $1.5 million, to be drawn exclusively from private donations, but the amount of money raised in the early years of the project was so low it barely covered Tribute to Liberty’s operating expenses.

In 2013, the Harper government pledged $1.5 million to the project, a figure that increased to $3 million by 2014. By the end of 2014, the project’s budget had ballooned to $5.5 million, with a taxpayer contribution of $4.3 million.

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada initiated a court challenge of the project, arguing that the National Capital Commission (NCC) violated its own procedures on public consultation and the rules set out in the National Capital Act. A poll from the spring of 2015 found that a majority of Canadians — including nearly two-thirds of self-identified conservatives — opposed the initial project.

A NCC spokesperson said the estimated total cost of the monument is now $7.5 million, with $6 million coming from the federal government after Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland included an additional $4 million in this spring’s budget to complete the monument.

High-level political support

The monument has received letters of support from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former Green party leader Elizabeth May, former NDP leader Tom Mulcair and former federal justice minister Irwin Cotler.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper purchased several commemorative bricks, as did Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who was the project’s champion while in Harper’s cabinet. Sen. Linda Frum is listed on the monument’s donors page as a legacy donor, having committed over $100,000.

Initially, the Wall of Remembrance was supposed to feature the names of 1,000 victims of communism, but by the end of 2015 a list of only 300 or so names had been compiled. The department said it is now looking at a list of 600 names for possible inclusion in the memorial.

Canadian Heritage hired Carleton University historian Michael Petrou to review those 600 names, but not the names listed on Tribute to Liberty’s website or in its newsletters. Petrou told CBC News there is overlap between the list of names for the monument and the list on the website.

Identifying the collaborators

Petrou filed his report to the department back in the spring. He said he red-flagged the names of individuals in that list of 600 who collaborated with the Nazis or were associated with fascist organizations that were active in Eastern Europe and the Balkans during the Second World War.

Petrou said he also flagged names of individuals who could not reasonably be described as “victims of communism.”

The Pathways to Liberty list seems to embrace a very broad definition of “victims of communism” that extends to other apparent victims of political violence and veterans of Cold War era conflicts.

The list on the website also includes people who don’t seem to be victims of persecution by communist regimes — such as Tara Singh Hayer, a Sikh journalist and activist assassinated in Vancouver in 1998, and Jagat S. Uppal, a successful B.C. businessman who was one of the first Sikhs to attend public school in Vancouver.

Tribute to Liberty’s website and newsletter say that the Pathways to Liberty project features stories about victims of communism, while the Wall of Remembrance will display the names of victims and survivors of communist regimes.

“… Visitors will see names ranging from donors’ own names or those of their ancestors to the names of historical figures and events that are important to these donors,” says a statement from Canadian Heritage, which declined a request for an interview. “These names will be linked to a planned website to be developed and hosted by Tribute to Liberty that will share the stories of these individuals, groups and events.”

Donations to monument closed now, says treasurer

The Tribute to Liberty website indicates that it is still seeking $1,000 donations in exchange for official commemoration on the wall itself and on the website. A link on the charity’s website labelled ‘donate today’ leads to PayPal and an auto-loaded $1,000 donation.

But Tribute to Liberty’s treasurer Alide Forstmanis said donations to the wall are no longer being accepted and the organization is only accepting $200 donations for virtual bricks now.

Klimkowski said in an email that Tribute to Liberty’s fundraising was finished by the end of 2017 and that all the necessary funding was forwarded to the NCC, which is overseeing construction of the monument. A spokesperson for the NCC indicated that Tribute to Liberty sent $1 million in 2017 and another $500,000 in 2018, and has not transferred any additional funds.

‘A broader effort to distort the history of the Holocaust’

Zuroff said he’s alarmed by efforts to present wartime Nazi collaborators as anti-Communist patriots.

“From the beginning of their renewed independence, following the breakup of the Soviet Union, almost all the governments of Eastern Europe — and nationalist elements in diaspora communities — have promoted the canard of equivalency between the crimes of the Third Reich and those of Communism as part of a broader effort to distort the history of the Holocaust and the Second World War,” he said.

Some war memorials in Canada have inspired controversy over their ties to wartime collaborators. A cenotaph dedicated to the veterans of the Waffen-SS ‘Galicia Division’ in an Oakville cemetery made headlines last year when Halton Region police opened a hate crimes investigation after the monument was defaced.

A bust of Roman Shukhevych outside the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex in Edmonton was tagged with the words ”Nazi scum” in late 2019. Because it was suggested that the act may have been motivated by hatred toward an identifiable group, the Hate Crime and Violent Extremism Unit of the Edmonton Police was tasked with investigating, although it ultimately concluded the vandalism didn’t meet the standard of a hate crime.

Source: Victims of communism memorial received donations honouring fascists, Nazi collaborators, according to website

Canadians of Italian origin find justice in apology for internment during WW2

Somewhat one-sided account in favour of the apology as the more authoritative and critical analysis by Roberto Perrin, Enemies Within: Italian and Other Internees in Canada and Abroad, not cited (other recent critical view by Michael Petrou, The harm done by Justin Trudeau’s apology to Italian -Canadians might require an apology of its own):

After decades of digging through archival material and talking with the relatives of people of Italian origin detained in Canada during the Second World War, Montreal historian Joyce Pillarella says Canada’s long-awaited apology gives her family and others the moral justice they have been waiting for.

Pillarella started learning more than 20 years ago about the struggles of the more than 600 people who were interned when she found a postcard sent from her grandfather who was confined at a camp near Fredericton, N.B.

She then started combing through Canada’s national archive before she started talking to the families of those affected.

“When I was starting to do cold calls to try to find families, a lot of people didn’t want to talk to me,” she said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“What I realize now is that they didn’t want to talk because they felt insignificant, their story was insignificant. They were afraid of being judged wrongly. There was the shame of the story.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to deliver a formal apology in the House of Commons Thursday for the internment of Canadians of Italian background during the Second World War for several years at three camps in Petawawa, Ont., Minto, N.B., and Kananaskis, Alta. The apology is not expected to come with individual compensation.

Justice Minister David Lametti, the first Canadian justice minister of Italian heritage, said the internment happened following an order-in-council that was promulgated by the then-justice minister Ernest Lapointe, and it resulted in taking hundreds of people of Italian origin from their families and declaring about 31,000 as “enemy aliens.”

“Not a single person was ever convicted, and in addition, people weren’t afforded due process,” he said in an interview.

“There wasn’t anything other than the fact that their name may have appeared on a list somewhere.”

Pillarella said the Canadian government asked the RCMP to prepare lists of Canadians of Italian heritage after Italy invaded Ethiopia in the mid-1930s.

She said Italian-Canadians had to do a lot of their business through the Italian consulates at the time.

“People had to be sympathetic with the consulate or at least appear to be, because otherwise they’re not going to get anything done,” she said.

Lametti said people were put on RCMP lists for having made donations to the Italian Red Cross or for being members of certain labour groups.

“It is true that the Fascist Party did have organizations in Canada but, in the 1930s, they were popular,” he said. “It didn’t mean that people were disloyal to Canada. In fact, Italian-Canadians generally were very much disappointed when Italy joined Germany in that war effort.”

Joan Vistarchi, whose father Salvatore Vistarchi was interned between June 1940 and March 1943, said the RCMP arrested her father in his Montreal apartment without giving him any reason.

“He was put on a train, and he didn’t know where he was going. Nobody would say where they were going, but he ended up in the Fredericton internment camp in New Brunswick,” she said.

Vistarchi noticed as a child her father would remain very silent on June 10 every year. She asked her mother what was wrong with her dad but her mother would wave it off by saying, “I just don’t think he’s feeling well today.”

When Vistarchi became a teenager, she learned that her father’s sadness on June 10 was because he was detained on that day.

“It was kept pretty silent for a long, long time, and then, only little pieces came out,” she said. “To his dying day, (my father) wondered why was he imprisoned or put in an internment camp.”

Pillarella contacted some 150 families across Canada to collect the stories of the people who were interned during the war.

She said the suffering of the women and the children left behind could be even greater than that of the men who were detained in internment camps.

“For the women in the 1940s, there were big families usually, I mean it was common (to have) six, seven, eight children. The breadwinner was gone,” she said. “Taking care of a household in the 1940s was a big, big job. … It’s not like today where we have appliances.”

She said families of Italian origin were stigmatized as “state enemies” and had to battle to survive as kids had to get pulled out of school, and women ended up finding domestic work on top of taking care of their big families.

“People didn’t want to hire Italians. They didn’t want to rent to Italians,” she said. “There were people that were afraid to help (Italian-Canadians) because they thought ‘Oh my god, the RCMP is watching. My husband’s gonna get interned also.”

Cinna Faveri said her father, Rev. Libero Sauro, was interned in September 1940 and was released in December of the same year. Four of his seven sons were serving in the Canadian military at the time.

Two of her brothers were airmen serving in England, and another one was a signalman fighting in Italy and Holland, she said.

She said her family, unlike most in the Italian community in Canada, was comfortable talking about what happened.

“Whenever I mentioned it to anybody, my close friends, my new friends, anybody, they’re shocked,” she said.

“They don’t know it. Nobody knows about it.”

Lametti said it’s critical to share the stories of these families through commemoration and education.

“We’re sorry,” he said, adding his message to families was “as your parents made sure that this stood as something that would make you better Canadians, we’re hoping to tell your story, so that all Canadians can be better.”

Faveri said the apology is necessary even if it’s too late.

“It’s far too late in coming. But, because for historical reasons, it has to come, even if it’s late.”

Vistarchi said the apology is important because the names of people who were interned are going to be cleared, and the descendants will be given some kind of closure.

“However, I really feel in my heart of hearts, as much as I really am grateful for this apology, that it would have been nice if one, at least one, of these internees had been alive to hear this. They’re all dead,” she said.

“Those are the ears that should have heard this apology.”

Source: Canadians of Italian origin find justice in apology for internment during WW2

Former Minister Marchi: Apologizing to Italian Canadians — maybe there’s a better way to make amends

Couldn’t resist posting this cartoon regarding the Harper government’s apologies:

Harper appology cartoon

That being said, there is considerable merit to Marchi’s arguments against apologies, even if the train left the station many governments before. But agree with his proposals to have broader discussions with all groups would be more integrative and inclusive than targeted apologies (and the one to Italian-Canadians is controversial as Michael Petrou’s article indicates The harm done by Justin Trudeau’s apology to Italian-Canadians might require an apology of its own:

Later this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to issue a formal apology to the Italian-Canadian community over how some of our fellow citizens were interned during the Second World War. This would his fifth apology for past injustices since being elected prime minister in 2015.

To be fully transparent, while I was an Opposition MP, I, too, argued for apologies towards Japanese and Italian Canadians, based on how they were treated during that war. But I feel differently today.

I have since moved towards former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s position. He argued that the obligation of a government is not to right the past. In the House of Commons, he stated, “It is our purpose to be just in our times.” He refused to play Monday morning quarterback. He instead encouraged us to learn from history, rather than apologize for it.

Source: Marchi: Apologizing to Italian Canadians — maybe there’s a better way to make amends