‘Lest We Forget’ is the time to remember and give thanks to all those that have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice so much for Canada as well as the other side of the ‘Lest We Forget’, as a reminder to all of us about how fragile our world, our freedoms are. ‘Lest We Forget’ also asks us to never forget what has occurred and what we have fought for so we never repeat the horrors of our past.
Each Remembrance Day it is with deep appreciation that I honour and remember all that was sacrificed to create a Canada that enables me to have the freedoms which I cherish. It is also with that regard that a November 11th visit to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights was a natural way to not only honour our history but gain a deeper understanding of what was fought for.
The CMHR is more than a museum. The eleven galleries are now all open and provided me the opportunity to interact with our history through the human stories that are part of the human experience which served to deepen my understanding and appreciation of how fragile our freedoms are.
‘Lest We Forget’ the sacrifices made so we as a nation were free to develop our Canadian Bill of Rights that along with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms enshrines into law the society all our soldiers fight for. Through our peacekeeping missions to the times we must stand-up to those countries who oppress the human rights of others. One can not visit the museum’s ‘Holocaust’ exhibit and not come to a deeper understanding about the connections between World War II and the struggle for human rights.
The CMHR captures this time period by sharing stories of the atrocities committed against not only Jewish people, but the disabled as well as those for their sexual orientation. It tells the story of John Dafoe of the Winnipeg Free Press as he petitioned unsuccessfully for our government to allow Jewish people to find refuge in Canada.
World War II was a time of great heroics but also a time where we as a nation remained intolerant to the struggles of Jewish refuges; who the politicians of the day; refused to provide Canada as a safe haven.
The telling of our human stories is very powerful, as you visit the four exhibits that make the fourth floor of the museum their home. Despite the struggles and atrocities of our past, humanity often ignores the human struggles that continue today. Taking the time to listen to the story of Mary Courchene and Residential Schools, as well as the stories of other local and global atrocities, helps one appreciate and understand the journey for equality is not yet realized. Seeing Romeo Dallaire’s uniform with the grim words ‘failed mission’ is a stark reminder of how fragile our freedoms are. It was a failure of the United Nations which was to serve as the symbol and protector of Human Rights, but instead allowed politics to hide the truth from themselves and the rest of the world. It is Dallaire and others who served as witnesses to a genocide which now is a remembrance of our inhumanity as well as reminder of what happens when our voices remain silent to human rights abuses.
Spending the afternoon at the museum allowed me an opportunity to honour our history as a country and a global community. It helped me remember the importance each of us have in protecting our democracy. The ‘Lest We Forget’ reminds us of the sacrifices that have been made to bring our country to where it is today. A Remembrance Day where once again we find our soldiers protecting our freedoms and the human rights of others.
The museum also brought me back to the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike where our soldiers returned from the Wold War I battlefield to low paying jobs. In made me wonder how as a nation we allowed the soldiers who fought for our freedoms in Europe and made our country so proud, only to return to a Canada and have to once again fight for their rights, only now as workers instead of soldiers. ‘Lest We Forget’ not all our battles for freedom are fought on the battlefield but are also the ongoing struggle for recognition of the human rights for everyone. It is about ‘Breaking the Silence’ so we all have a voice.
The Canadian Museum of Human Rights is a place for everyone. Visitors were young, old and included many people with special needs interacting and discovering the importance of human rights. Each visitor having the freedom to share and experience the human stories of all people. Stories you may have never heard before but now can see, interact and experience through video, life size images and technology that brings our history to life.
‘Lest We Forget’ our country’s struggles and all our champions of freedom. Let us remember the battles were fought for our freedoms and the struggle will always continue for as humans we are fragile and so often place our individual needs over the human rights of others. Let us not allow ourselves to get to a place where we take our Human Rights for granted. Let us make sure that in Canada we remain a country that stands up for the equality of others. Let us not only do this for ourselves and future generations but in deep reverence for all those who have sacrificed so much so we could live in a country founded on human rights.
All Pictures taken by James W Hoddinott at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights
Lovely, thoughtful tribute, James. We do forget so many things we shouldn’t.
Thank-you so much. I appreciate your comments as your blog is one that is always thought provoking and always comes from your heart.
Thanks, James. =)