Canadian Museum for Human Rights

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights today shone a spotlight on 10 stories from its 10 core galleries, sharing the diversity of content that visitors will find in the museum when it opens in September.

“The Museum will share stories of human rights from Canada and around the world through film, text, immersive technology, artifacts and art,” said CMHR president and CEO Stuart Murray at a news conference Wednesday. “While the museum’s scope is global, the stories we feature are intensely personal. Today we are sharing some of these stories, through video, artifacts and the presence of two people whose experiences will be featured in the museum. To see all of these stories gathered in one place is truly inspiring, as both the fragility and strength of human rights are on full display.”

Museum staff, including directors and researcher-curators who developed the exhibits, helped spotlight 10 stories – one from each of the 10 core galleries – including:

• South Africa’s historic election of Nelson Mandela 20 years ago

• Indigenous perspectives, explored through a poem from an Innu poet, songwriter and documentary filmmaker and a spirit panel – an original work of art collected as part of a nation-wide program engaging aboriginal youth.

• Teenager Maréshia Rucker, who used social media to convince other parents and students to hold a racially integrated prom in 2013 in Georgia, U.S.

• Canadian children’s rights advocate Craig Kielburger, a modern-day human rights defender and the co-founder of the Free the Children charity and We Day

• Andréanne Pâquet, who created a photo exhibit promoting understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims by exploring the reasons women choose to wear the hijab

• A child-friendly exploration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights through illustrated flip-cards

• The 1940s experience of Viola Desmond, a black Nova Scotian businesswoman arrested and charged after sitting in the whites-only section of a movie theatre

• Tawney Meiorin, the British Columbia firefighter who was fired after failing a newly instituted fitness test and challenged her case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada

Two Canadians whose stories are featured in Museum exhibits — Sigi Wassermann and Ali Saeed — shared their stories with media in person.

After a nationwide attack on Jewish homes and synagogues known as “Kristallnacht” — the night of broken glass — six-year old Sigi Wassermann was one of thousands of Jewish children whose parents sent them all alone to Great Britain to escape the genocidal violence to come. Wassermann has lived in Winnipeg for many years, but only in the last few years began sharing his experiences.

“For many years, I did not speak publicly,” said Wassermann. “Now, I speak about my experience when I am asked. I feel the stories of the Holocaust must continue to be told. This is why I shared my story with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.”

Ali Saeed lived through Ethiopia’s Red Terror, a time in the late 1970s when Ethiopia’s military rulers tortured and murdered hundreds of thousands of people. Saeed was imprisoned in Ethiopia and Somalia, and tortured, for promoting freedom of speech. He now leads an annual fundraising event in Winnipeg to raise awareness of political killings and disappearances.

“I have been struggling for freedom and human rights for the last 40 years,” said Saeed. “This museum, representing Canada and the whole world, is where the stories of human rights are told. After 40 years of struggle, this is a place where I feel I can breathe. I am extremely grateful for that.”

Museum galleries are currently being fitted up for the September opening. The museum’s master exhibit designer is Ralph Appelbaum Associates, whose list of achievements includes the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Newseum, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

For information about the museum’s opening weekend celebrations, including preview tours, the Canadian Concert for Human Rights and RightsFest programming and activities, please visit the museum’s website at www.humanrights.ca.

The CMHR is the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. It is the first national museum in Canada to be built outside the National Capital Region. Using immersive multi-media technology and other innovative approaches, the museum will create inspiring encounters with human rights as part of a visitor experience unlike any other.