Over the last 48 hours I had the privilege to participate as the US Government representative to the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) and the CMHR gala the night before. Both events were impressive, as is the CMHR building itself.
Looking at the CMHR building itself, there are a lot of emotions/impressions that come to mind; imposing, elegant, impressive… just to name a few. A building that inspires those thoughts strikes me as an appropriate place to serve as a platform for learning and a repository of human rights. Striking the right tone with the architecture was no mean feat, and I think the CMHR deserves the accolades it receives for its design. Certainly, in the years to come, the CMHR will serve as a recognizable icon for human rights not only for Canada, but for the world. Bravo.
The gala and the opening ceremony had a number of common themes presented in the many speeches, but something that stuck with me was the repeated insistence that the opening of the CMHR is the beginning of a process, not the end. Without a doubt it took longer than expected to complete the building and put the core exhibitions in place, but this was truly an “opening.” Speaker after speaker, from former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien (during the gala) to Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages Shelly Glover to the estimable CMHR National Campaign Chair Gail Asper, challenged the public to put the CMHR to good use. There were, of course, notes that the CMHR records some of the darker parts of human history, but at the same time it is meant to inspire hope and resolve to learn from those mistakes and build upon the successes.
I think Canada has something to be particularly proud of in the CMHR. My wife, Tracie, and I were humbled and honored to have been invited to participate in the events leading up to the opening, and play a small part in the ceremonies. I am proud the U.S. Government was not only at the ceremonies, but, through the Consulate, also has a home here in Winnipeg not far from the CMHR itself.