If you are of any nationality other than Canadian, don’t be deterred in thinking that the Canadian Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg is of interest solely to Canadians. This incredible building encompasses global stories of the struggle for human rights and decency. It’s a place for all peoples of all nations to think and learn and remember.
A Human Rights Museum for All
The museum is symbolically located in an area of Winnipeg known as The Forks, a meeting of the Red River and Assiniboine River where members of Inuit and Métis nations have gathered for centuries. The aboriginal or native people of many lands have been subjected to some of the world’s most degrading violation of human rights.
The First Nations people of Canada receive a fair share of space dedicated to their presence on this planet. Other galleries are dedicated to the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide and the Srebrenica Genocide in Bosnia. The fight for women’s right to vote, equal access those with disabilities, for labor rights and for the right to die are among the issues explored with sensitivity and purpose.
This is not a place for the light of heart.
I was inspired to learn of Viola Desmond, a hair dresser in Nova Scotia who, in 1947, was removed from a movie theater for sitting in the wrong section. She was black and is considered the Rosa Parks of Canada. Viola will soon be the new face on the Canadian $10 bill.
Her story is one of thousands told here, of individuals who became a voice for right.
The Journey of Human Rights Understanding
There’s a lot of walking in this museum and there’s a reason why. The galleries are all very sedate and with limited lighting for these very serious subjects.
But as you move from one gallery to the next, you travel along magnificent ramps of Spanish alabaster lit from the inside. Symbolically, you are traveling from a place of darkness. Through greater knowledge of the issues, you travel into lightness and understanding. Noting that the ramps are lit from the inside reminds us that the individual light of human compassion also comes from the inside.
The person who spearheaded this space is Israel Asper, who was inspired after his visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. His goal, among many, was “to enhance the public’s understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others and to encourage reflection and dialogue.”
We wish him well with that goal. Our contribution to that end is to simply encourage you to visit Winnipeg and this fabulous museum that celebrates our basic rights as human beings, whoever and whatever we are anywhere in the world.