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

Canadian Museum for Human Rights – More Dissent

More on the CMHR and one of the most vocal critics, Lubomyr Luciuk (see Canadian Museum of Human Rights: Letter Regarding Portrayal of World War 1 Internment):

The editorial Museum opening may silence critics Sept. 17 advises us to wait and see what the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is all about before complaining.

What that counsel ignores is that the CMHRs spokespeople have always admitted that this publicly funded institution will feature a permanent and privileged central gallery space elevating the suffering of one community above all others.

More than four million Ukrainians perished of hunger in six months during the Holodomor, making this arguably the greatest genocide to befoul modern European history. Why wouldnt this Soviet crime against humanity already have a permanent and central place at the CMHR?

The newspaper’s uncritical boosterism in support of the CMHR does not mask the fact that this project will remain controversial and divisive because those responsible for its content never wanted that content to be thematic, comparative, or inclusive. What a shame.

Lubomyr Luciuk

Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Most subsequent letters have taken issue with this view, including the assertion of the Holodomor, not the Holocaust, as the “greatest genocide to befoul modern European history.”

By what measure? What criteria? Starvation worse than gas ovens? Numbers of victims?

Comparing collective and individual suffering under genocides or equivalent atrocities undermines Luciuk’s arguments by diminishing what was, arguably again, unprecedented in terms of its explicit ideology and industrialization.

Just as Luciuk did with the Orwell Animal Farm-inspired postcards saying “some galleries are more equal than others,” and invoking pig imagery (see The war against the Holocaust).

Unfortunate, as he and others in the Ukrainian Canadian community have done much to raise awareness of the Holodomor and World War 1 internment.

Have your say – Winnipeg Free Press.

Lubomyr Luciuk: Remembering a time when Canadians were caged

Lubomyr Luciuk on the World War 1 internment camps and the unveiling of plaques commemorating them. More balanced that some of the language of activists interviewed on CBC that called them “concentration camps:”

That led to the creation of the Endowment Council of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund, an inclusive body charged with hallowing the memory of all of the First World War’s “enemy aliens” through commemorative and educational initiatives. I take great satisfaction in recalling how two men working together, one of Chinese and the other of Ukrainian heritage, saw justice done, despite all the naysayers and thwarters. The country Inky and I share is one we are proud to be citizens of.

Today, one hundred years after passage of The War Measures Act — the same Act deployed in the Second World War against our fellow Japanese, Italian, and German Canadians, and against some Québécois in 1970 — over 100 plaques will be unveiled at 11 am local time in over 60 cities, starting in Amherst, Nova Scotia then flowing west to Nanaimo, B.C., a first-ever event in Canadian history. This national wave of remembrance, beginning and ending at internment camp sites, will sweep from coast to coast where a wave of repression once passed. These plaques fulfil Mary’s dream.

Lubomyr Luciuk: Remembering a time when Canadians were caged

Ukrainian-Canadian Historical Recognition: Letter

March 23: Letters to the editor – The Globe and Mail.

The Ukrainian Canadian community never sought an apology for what happened during Canada’s first national internment operations of 1914-1920, nor compensation to the survivors or their descendants (Past Wrongs Can’t Always Be Undone – March 21). We asked only that the Government of Canada recognize this historic injustice. That will be done in 2013 when a pavilion dealing with this unhappy episode in Canadian history is unveiled in Banff National Park, complemented by smaller displays at Fort Henry, in Kingston, and at The Citadel, in Halifax, all sites of First World War era internment camps. Our campaign was always about memory, not money.

Lubomyr Luciuk, director of research, Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association