On Dec. 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and, commemorating this, yesterday was Human Rights Day. In reflection of this important day, I’ve been reminiscing about my trip to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Although I visited the museum in the summer, the experience is fresh in my mind, so I thought I would share some photos (all taken by myself or my family) and thoughts about the museum in this post. This isn’t a complete list of every exhibit in the museum; rather, it is my way of reflecting on Canada’s history of human rights and sharing hope for the future of the world. I hope this post inspires you to reflect, ask questions, and, most importantly, speak up and take action.
Even the architecture of the building was designed with human rights in mind. According to the museum’s website, architect Antoine Predock’s design was chosen because it “achieves a complexity relating to the diversity of human experience.”
These words from Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights greet visitors when they enter the museum. It is a thought-provoking entrance, because as you explore more of the exhibits it becomes clear that, though all human beings may be born free and equal, not all human beings are treated that way.
I think that in Canada, we like to champion our country as having a history of positive human rights. This isn’t the case, though. This exhibit featured this quote from a residential school survivor. Residential schools were the government’s attempt to “strip the Indian from the children” and were classified by many as a genocide.
The REDress Project was created by Jaime Black, a Metis artist, to honour the missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, according to CTV news. Currently, the Canadian government is preparing an inquiry about missing and murdered Indigenous women, and this installation serves as a chilling, yet powerful reminder of the issue.
Speaking of Canada’s not-so-stellar human rights record… During the Second World War, Japanese Canadians, even people who had lived in Canada for most of their lives, were forced into internment camps. A sign posted with this exhibit opened with a question that I think is still very relevant today: “How do international conflicts affect the way we see our neighbours?”
As I have previously written, Malala Yousafzai is a huge inspiration for me. The museum featured both her Nobel Peace Prize, shown above, as well as the clothes she was wearing when she was shot by the Taliban. Again, though chilling, this was an incredibly powerful exhibit. It is a reminder of what some people go through just to fight for the human rights to which many of us don’t give a second thought.
The back of the inflatable vest on the right, according to the sign posted under the exhibit, says “Not to be used for boating. Not a lifesaving device.” And yet, this vest was worn by a child who was rescued in the Mediterranean Sea in 2015. The compass, the sign says, was the only navigational tool aboard a boat of over 100 people who were fleeing from Libya to Italy. Much like that shocking photo of Alan Kurdi, these objects give people who would otherwise only hear about it on the news a real image to grasp. Real people wore these vests; real people used that compass to try to navigate their way to a new life. Real people are facing this scary reality every day.
A quote by Martin Luther King Jr. adorned one sign in the museum, and I think it’s particularly fitting for what is happening in the world today: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
I’ll leave you with a photo of a message that flashed across a television screen in an exhibit which was, if I remember correctly, about genocide.