A visit to the Canadian Human Rights Museum is a teacher’s dream come true. It will open your eyes to the educational possibilities not only for our students but for everyone. There are no words that can accurately de-scribe the architectural splendour of the museum as it quickly becomes apparent the thought that went into the design of this building inside and out. As a teacher when you enter the museum you will see the Donor Board which recognizes ‘The Manitoba Teacher’s Society’ as a major contributor to the museum. We should be proud of our financial contribution but also proud of the ongoing commitment we as teachers make daily in creating inclusive environments that are welcoming for all of Manitoba’s students.
The Human Rights Museum is located where people, cultures, history and business all come together in a picturesque backdrop allowing us to better understand our journey to-wards a fair and just society. The view from the Tower of Hope is as awe-inspiring as is the architecture throughout the building from the limestone complete with the imprints of fossils from long ago, embedded in this magnificent Manitoba stone. The ramps made from the shimmering alabaster, known for its mystical healing powers, imported from Spain meanders through all exhibits finally leading you to the Tower of Hope.
As you await your tour silhouettes will write ‘Welcome’ in a multitude of languages as you stand in the lobby anticipating what lies ahead. Your journey will begin opposite the ‘Donor Board’ as you are moved from the darkness of the lower levels to the light offered through the over 2000 panes of glass that make up the museum. The sun shining through each unique pane of glass offers the image of a glass cloud as you walk through the museum eyes wide open. Despite the museum’s architecture that has unmistakably altered the Winnipeg skyline, it is the content of the galleries that makes this national treasure a must visit. It is the powerful stories of human suffering, mixed with perseverance and hope which guarantees the CMHR as a must see for Manitoba schools and educators. We would be remiss, if we didn’t ensure all our students understand humanity’s experience with human rights as told through interactive displays and endless hours of video clips. The technology used to tell each story brings the human element to every story told.
Experiencing each story helps one realize that the time has come where we need to re-define the world we live in. We are living in a time where despite a world with endless potential we are mired in war, poverty, environmental issues and where many people’s human rights still remain unrealized. In our current world we have over 30 million people still living as slaves. We live in a world where the equality, dignity and freedom of too many people are compromised.
Every person should live in equality, dignity and freedom. Towards this end, the global community recognized that it had to go far beyond simply prohibiting genocide, but instead develop a vision which protected the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of all people.
Teachers and schools throughout Manitoba have not only financially contributed to the building of the museum; we are also contributing to creating an inclusive society that is founded on recognizing the Human Rights of every student in our classroom. Schools throughout Manitoba are founded on the ‘Philosophy of Inclusion’ by developing an environment where everyone feels safe, valued and accepted. In Manitoba schools we differentiate, adapt or modify our instruction so that all students can access an appropriate education. By creating a positive school climate based on developing respect for self, others and property we teach our students the importance of building communities that our safe. Schools in Manitoba participate in community and global service learning initiatives that address issues surrounding poverty, education and equality. Schools are active in Education for Sustainable Development as we help students understand the value and importance of our planet. We do not only speak of Human Rights, we make them an integral part of our classrooms.
The Canadian Human Rights Museum will soon be the most sought after educational field trip. Each of the galleries is interactive and engaging for students and adults alike. The galleries that I was able to see will certainly not only provide information but encourage those important conversations as we think about what is happening in our world and communities in regards to Human Rights. Each gallery could be a stand-alone lesson, as it would be easy to spend all day in one gallery exploring and discussing the information and concepts shared. As a visitor, you are not a passive participant as each gallery encourages you to become engaged and interactive. It is hard to imagine this museum is in our back door and we will not need to go to Ottawa to benefit from one of our national museums. One of Canada’s National Museums is found right here in Manitoba. It is in our backyard and is something for all of us to be proud of.
When we are finally able to take our students into the Canadian Human Rights Museum the first Gallery called ‘What is Human Rights’ will augment all those values of citizenship we teach in our schools. The journey in Canada and the world to recognize every person’s human rights has been long and difficult. Students will be able to interact with the timeline that helps them understand the important people and times in our past where Human Rights have been advocated for. The visual image of the video which is in French and English as well as has two images of people signing the narrative point out quickly this museum was designed with access for everyone in mind. The staircases and elevators ensure that each gallery can be accessed by students and adults with disabilities. The museum like our schools strive to be inclusive.
The last stop before leaving the museum you will be offered the time to relax in the ‘Garden of Contemplation’ which offers a breathtaking view of the ‘Golden Boy’ sitting atop the Manitoba Legislative Building. This is a time for all us to reflect on what we have seen, what we have experienced. The pools in the ‘Garden’ are encased by basalt which serve as a perfect resting place for visitors to contemplate our world, the stories and possibilities which the museum brings out.
Without a doubt the Canadian Human Rights Museum will guide our conversations that as a society we seem reluctant to have. We need to allow our students to see the world through a different filter. Our students need to see the historical and current struggles of humanity. Our students need to see there can be a future with a society founded on the principles of Human Rights to create a world that is more thoughtful, a little kinder and recognizes every individual’s right to equality, dignity and freedom.
The Canadian Human Rights Museum is more than a building. It is a place filled with the stories of our history, but more importantly a place that offers us the lessons needed to bring us to a future where Human Rights matter.
This Blog was published in the November issue of the RETTA Record the River east Transcona School Division’s Monthly Newsletter