TORONTO (Feb. 11)
Plans to build a Holocaust gallery in the Canadian War Museum have been suspended after complaints from veterans groups ignited a heated debate.
The officials of the Royal Canadian Legion and other veterans organizations have complained that they weren’t consulted about the proposed gallery and have asserted that the Holocaust had little to do with the experience of the Canadian military during the war.
The Canadian War Museum, located in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, commemorates the role of Canadians in World War II — and in other wars.
Central to the uproar is a philosophical debate about the uniqueness of the Holocaust as a defining event of the 20th century.
Some veterans organizations have suggested that the Holocaust gallery might more appropriately be housed in the nearby Canadian Museum of Civilization, a larger national institution whose board also manages the Canadian War Museum. Still others, however, including several Ukrainian Canadian organizations, are questioning the need for any sort of Holocaust memorial.
“Our principal concern is that any facility on genocide be inclusive, covering all the groups that suffered,” said John Gregorovich, a veteran who is also chairman of the Ukrainian-Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Gregorovich noted that 14.5 million Ukrainians died during World War II.
Apparently surprised by the strong reaction, officials of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corp., which controls the Canadian War Museum, have backed away from the plan for the gallery, which was first announced last November as part of a $12 million museum expansion.
Expressing their readiness to explore other options for the Holocaust gallery, museum officials released a joint statement to that effect, prepared with the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Jewish War Veterans of Canada and B’nai Brith Canada.
None of these organizations was involved in the original plan to place a Holocaust gallery within the Canadian War Museum, and none has come out in support of the idea.
“We’re very worried that the Holocaust gallery has become a political football,” said Rubin Friedman, director of government relations for B’nai Brith Canada. “In these conditions, B’nai Brith will not push for a Holocaust gallery.”
Canada’s federal heritage minister, Sheila Copps, has appointed Barney Danson, a former Cabinet minister and Jewish war veteran, to the board of the Canadian Museum of Civilization to attempt to broker a compromise.