Gem and Lita at the CMHR

“A Journey of Inspiration from Darkness to Light”

The worldwide Covid-19 pandemic has completely created myriad changes in our lives in so many ways and therefore we have to make sacrifices in order to adapt ourselves to a new normal. The summer of 2020 that we are experiencing is quite different than any summer in the past as our vacation plans have been derailed by the horrific novel coronavirus. To stop the spread of the disease the government has advised against non-essential travel. Now is not the time to plan for vacations with far-off destinations. People are encouraged to discover and explore our own backyard as a great way to learn acceptance and open our eyes to appreciate the beautiful places and things around us.

Staycation! So be it! Let us be tourists in our own city, in our own province. Awaiting your families and yourselves to immerse in an amazing encounter with human rights on a “journey of inspiration from darkness to light” is the CMHR, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the only museum and the first of its kind in the world solely devoted to the evolution of human rights and its future. And we as Manitobans are proud because we have the only and first national museum ever to be located outside the national capital region. The Winnipeg Free Press reported on 19 February 2019 that the CMHR is already becoming an iconic global landmark and destination. With the arrival of the CMHR the skyline of Winnipeg has changed in addition to the nearby tee-pee-like Esplanade Riel footbridge.

19 December 2008 marked the groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the CMHR as established through the enactment of Parliament Bill C-42. Construction on the site began in April 2009. Queen Elizabeth II unveiled the building’s cornerstone on 3 July 2010. The structure, where the Red and the Assiniboine Rivers meet in Treaty One Land near the place of the historic Metis rebellion under Louis Riel, rests on four massive concrete planted roots that symbolize the connection of humanity to the earth. Atop on three of the roots grow prarie grasses. On 19 September 2014 the museum was officially opened. Total construction cost is $351 million as funded by the three levels of government, Friends of Canada (private donations), and the Asper Foundation of Winnipeg.

Design architect of the CMHR is internationally renowned Antoine Predock from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Showing his genius he makes the exterior of the towering structure of glass, stone, concrete, and steel so rich in symbolism. More than 1669 total custom-cut pieces of blue-green glass panels imported from Germany called the “Glass Cloud” enveloping the exterior symbolizes a dove’s folded wings at rest on a mythic stone mountain built out of Manitoba tyndall stone with the glass spire called the “Tower of Hope” rising to 100 meters, equivalent to a 23-storey building, reaching high into the heavens with a platform providing visitors panoramic view of the city and the surroundings.

Located at the entrance of the CMHR is the bronze sculpture of Mahatma Gandhi, famous for employing non-violent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India’s independence from British rule, to honor his beliefs in human rights message of peace and justice.

Inside the CMHR is designed so that visitors complete a quest-like journey from dark to light as they ascend from its roots to the Tower of Hope through a series of criss-crossing ramps clad in semi-translucent glowing alabaster (quarried from Spain) connecting the eleven main galleries that are spread in 5 floors. Elevators are there, too. The Welcome Wall greets visitors in Canada’s two official languages, English and French, as well as 12 indigenous languages and 24 others.

Built around human rights theme from Canada and around the world, all the main sections of the galleries have painful stories to tell such as atrocities in Canada (residential schools, missing and murdered aboriginal women, forced Inuit relocation, Japanese relocation during World War II, Chinese maltreatment on head tax), the Holocaust and other important genocides (Ukraine’s man-made famine Holodomor, the Ruwanda killings, Srebenica genocide in Bosnia). Aboriginal peoples have their own Indigenous Rights Gallery.

And finally we moved on to the Garden of Contemplation which features shallow pools of water and greenery with basalt rocks from Mongolia. This place is designed as a space for serenity to all for rest, meditation or reflection.

A museum experience on human rights stories that is quite different from fossils and bones but educationally entertaining!