humanrightsmuseum

Architect Antoine Predock's model depicts the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. ((CBC))

A Ukrainian group is protesting the plan for upcoming exhibits at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA) is calling for the creation of an independent committee to decide what content will be featured in the publicly funded museum, which is under construction at The Forks national historic site.

Galleries for the Holocaust and Indigenous rights will be the only topics to have exlusive galleries in the $310-million facility, according to the museum's list of the 12 permanent "zones" being planned.

The rest will feature a series of issues under common themes, such as the so-called Human Rights Revolution.

The UCCLA is the second group to protest that decision. In December, The Ukrainian Canadian Congress also expressed concern that the museum has no plans to have a full exhibit to mark the Holodomor, a genocidal famine that took place in Soviet-occupied Ukraine in the early 1930s.

The Holodomor will be displayed permanently in the "Mass Atrocity" zone, which will  feature detailed information on "many … mass atrocities that have taken place worldwide," according to a spokesperson for the museum.

Narrow focus alleged

Many groups worry the museum has too narrow a focus, said Lubomyr Luciuk, director of research for the UCCLA.

"I think everybody would prefer that the government and management of the museum carefully reconsider the mandate that's been given to it and ensure the contents of the museum are truly inclusive," Luciuk told CBC News.

"You have to draw upon the services and talents and experience of a variety of Canadians who don't come from the Asper Foundation, who don't come from one community, or two communities, but come from a variety," he added.

The effort to build the museum in Winnipeg was launched in nearly a decade ago by Canwest Global founder Israel (Izzy) Asper and spearheaded by the Asper Foundation, his philanthropic organization.

Fundraising in earnest for the project began in 2003 with a $30-million federal grant from the government of Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

Asper died in October 2003, but his daughter, Gail Asper, carried on the fundraising efforts as president of the Asper Foundation and national campaign chair for Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Since then, the three levels of government have committed $160 million in construction costs, and the federal government has also agreed to cover annual operating expenses estimated at $21 million.

Luciuk said the government should cease funding the museum until the issue of the exhibits is settled.

Protest postcards headed for minister's office

The UCCLA has also started a postcard campaign directed to federal Heritage Minister James Moore.

Codie Taylor, a spokeswoman for Moore's office, said he has not yet received any of the postcards.

However, the museum makes its own decisions and operates independently from government, Taylor added.

The museum is expected to consult with various communities, she said.

The museum is slated to open in 2013, and will be Canada's first national museum outside the Ottawa region.

It has been hit by escalating construction costs — rising from an original estimate of $260 million to $310 million and pushing the opening back from 2012.

With files from The Canadian Press