Friday, 5 April 2013

More on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

When I was a child, my parents made a real effort to immunize me and my siblings from ethnic prejudice and discrimination.  It was only when we received phone calls asking for someone who bore an English name, when my parents would pick up the phone and have lively conversations with someone I had never met, that I realized my parents had two identities.  One of them, I knew, and the other was a foreign construct - someone whose name was English.  Later on, when the conversation came up, I came to understand that both my parents who bear beautiful Ukrainian names, were "re-named" upon entry into public school.  And it turns out, the more I ask around, it wasn't such a rare practice - actually it was the practice! 

The immigrant experience is never soft and easy, but for generations of Ukrainians up until very recently, it has been doubly tough.  Change your name, lose your culture, stop associating with people from your ancestry, and make sure never to show recognition of any cultural artifact from your past - the reason why there were so many "Ukrainian jokes" in the past... 

I haven't toured the Winnipeg located Canadian Museum for Human Rights yet, but as a Canadian citizen of Ukrainian descent I know this taxpayer-funded museum is dedicated to the human rights stories that will inform and include all parts of the human community.  I also know that the Ukrainian Canadian stories around Canada's first national internment operations and the Holodomor in Ukraine during the 1930's, and crimes of communism are human rights stories that need to be told. 

Citizens collaborate in the creation of a just society. Inclusion, diversity, and recognition of each other's humanity is part of the social fabric everywhere I cherish.  Schools, churches, community events, and my neighborhood are inclusive, diverse and respectful of the human condition - at least we try. It is all about balancing a variety of interests, and needs these days. Ignoring one or the other needs or interests invariably leads to someone feeling left out.  The great thing about our Canadian system is our attention to individual inclusion.  Everyone has the right to speak, champion a cause, and draw attention to inadequacies that require redress. 

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights has a responsibility to make all Canadians feel belonging within its walls.  As a tax-funded institution, the content in its galleries, and pertinence of its message is compromised without adequate focus on the important stories brought to its attention by Canadian citizens of Ukrainian descent.  In consideration of Canada's historic openness and generosity of spirit, much less its moral standing on freedoms and respect for humanity, Canadians can accept no less. 

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