September 25, 2016

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is an impressive undertaking. Originally the dream of the late Winnipeg-based media mogul, Izzy Asper, it opened in 2014 after years of debate and controversy. According to the Act of Parliament that set up the Museum:

The purpose of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is to explore the subject of human rights, with special but not exclusive reference to Canada, in order to enhance the public's understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others and to encourage reflection and dialogue (Museums Act).

Whatever that means.

It's an amazing place, with lots of open space, many interactive displays, and a flow that leads one through the various themes easily.

Six different levels, many exhibits, not enough time. Fortunately as one goes up to each new level, the floor space becomes smaller.

The Dirty War in Argentina is passed over rather lightly as is past US intervention in Latin America generally, and the war crimes committed during the American War in Vietnam.

How Canada deals with First Nations peoples is represented through a variety of displays and some are emotionally moving. The word genocide is not used to describe the way Europeans interacted with the Indigenous peoples of Canada and the western hemisphere.

However, there is this telling quote from a government official:

I want to get rid of the Indian problem... Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic...

The Holocaust and the genocide of Rwanda are in the exhibit called Abuse of State Power. Putting it mildly.

I didn't see any mention of the Palestinian people and their plight, which seems odd in a museum dedicating itself to human rights. Nor is the issue of poverty given adequate exposure as an impediment to human rights. State abuse is shown to be a problem while the abuse of people by corporations is not.

The last part of the Museum, is an elevator to the top level for a view of Winnipeg from the Israel Asper Tower of Hope.

The Museum has its shortcomings, but it's essential viewing when in Winnipeg.

Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.

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