Canadian Museum for Human Rights
by Keiko Miki
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights Opens September 20, 2014
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) recently announced that its official opening will take place on September 20, 2014. More than 13 years ago CanWest founder Israel (Izzy) Asper had a vision to build a national human rights museum in Winnipeg. With his untimely passing in 2003 his daughter Gail Asper took over the project.
Gail Asper, National Campaign Chair of the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, has worked diligently to ensure that the legacy of her father’s dream to ‘reach for the stars’ would become a reality. Through the generosity of major private donors, the federal, provincial, municipal governments and committed individuals across the country, the Friends of the Museum has successfully raised $142 million to date of the goal of $150 million. The total cost is now $351 million. In 2007, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights became a Crown Corporation to become the first national museum to be built outside the national capital region, and solely dedicated to human rights.
In 2000 Art Miki and I were invited to meet with Izzy Asper to discuss what we thought about having a human rights museum. With the achievement of Redress for Japanese Canadians still fresh in our minds we felt it was a great idea and an opportunity to highlight the experience of Japanese Canadians in Canada.
The Japanese community, particularly in Winnipeg, has supported the project over the years. I have been on the Advisory Council of the Friends of Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The Manitoba Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association held a fundraising concert organized by Pamela Okano of Hinode Taiko. The National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) has contributed financially and has provided information about the Japanese Canadian history of internment and dispossession that will be part of Canada’s Human Rights Journey exhibit.
Winnipeggers are familiar with the historic significance and development of The Forks where the Assiniboine and Red Rivers meet. The architect Antoine Predock incorporated influences from the Canadian landscape into its design. The glass exterior is shaped like clouds with the wings of a dove. The inside of the museum has amazing features like the lit alabaster walkways, the Tower of Hope, and the Garden of Contemplation that will inspire visitors. Having toured the building while still under construction, I found it to be an incredible experience!
The important component of this project is the unique educational experiences for young and old, especially students, to learn about past injustices, to empower them to take action, and to prevent future human rights abuses. The interactive exhibits and enhanced technology developed by museum designer Ralph Appelbaum will be fascinating but there will also be opportunities for dialogue and reflection.
The Canadian Teachers’ Federation is involved in setting up programs for students. A travel program will attract 20,000 students every year from across the country and around the world. Your support will fund students to attend the Museum and help ongoing programs for future generations. To make a donation you can go to www.friendsofcmhr.com. For more information and photos visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights website, www.cmhr.ca.
Keiko Miki is a member of the NAJC Human Rights Committee