Human rights in Canada and beyond has taken its place at the centre of conversation and education with the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights which opened this September in Winnipeg.
This year’s Dr. Bernie Vigod Memorial Lecture in Human Rights speaker was Dr. Clinton Curle, the new head of stakeholder relations at the one-of-a-kind museum. Curle explained why human rights was relevant, and why a museum was needed now.
“You have a series of galleries looking at Canadian scenes. So it’s Canadian history through a human rights lens, but also the Canadian legal system, the Charter, the Human Rights Commissions,” said Curle.
“I think there’s a growing concern around the world that human rights are not being respected, and one of the responses to that is a desire to see more education, and the creation of more public spaces where people can dialogue, reflect, and have conversations about tough human rights subjects,” said Curle.
Amanda Poitras, a double major in human rights and criminology, was one of many students, faculty and public in attendance at the lecture, which spoke of the importance and significance of the new museum.
“I’m interested in the Canadian take on some of the exhibits. They were mentioning the Holocaust exhibit, for example,” Poitras said.
Curle noted that Canadians view themselves as peacekeepers and protectors of human rights, overlooking past actions regarding treatment of First Nations people, the lack of support regarding women’s suffrage movements, and the internment of Japanese in camps during World War II.
“I think that a museum of human rights is not a luxury — it is something the world needs, something that is essential,” Curle said.
Poitras agrees that Canadians need to reflect on the changes in human rights, and on what the changes mean to them and the rest of the world.
“A long time has gone by since World War II. After the Holocaust, people think with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is done now and we have human rights for everyone,” said Poitras. “But we don’t. We still see human rights abuses all over the world. So it’s still an important issue we need to address, and work with it, and to have museums like this to continue to educate.”