I used to look at the image of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on the back of this country’s $10 banknote with pride.
Now I can only see hypocrisy, and believe the museum should be removed from our currency.
The CMHR was once the dream of Winnipeg lawyer, politician and media mogul Izzy Asper to have a place where students and the public could learn about issues, achievements or examples of a betrayal of, or commitment to, human rights. The CMHR became the country’s first national museum outside of Ottawa when it opened in my home province of Manitoba in 2014.
Of course I was proud.
Then last week it was reported by CBC that management of the crown corporation and national museum would sometimes ask current and former employees to not show any LGBTQ content on some tours, at the request of certain guests or religious schools. Winnipeg museum staff said the practice was common for at least two years. I was sickened by the thought.
The museum has confirmed that from January 2015 to the middle of 2017, tours could request certain content be excluded. By participating in the act of censorship and suppression of the truth, the CMHR becomes an example of the type of discrimination the museum was designed to identify.
In light of the news coverage, CMHR CEO John Young announced he would not stay on at the museum when his term is up later this year. More recent news reports indicate a Winnipeg lawyer has been hired to lead a review into complaints of racism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination at the museum.
We can hope the review will be more transparent than the museum has been.
I have followed the CMHR from the time it was only a vision, through years of negotiations to secure millions and millions and millions of dollars in governmental funding and private donations, and then watched as the architectural wonder was constructed. I moved away from Winnipeg before the museum officially opened, but have visited the CMHR each time I have returned to the city.
I will certainly visit the museum again when I next return to the city as there is so much to take in, but I believe the institution no longer deserves a place of honour on our currency.
Museum management has failed the people of this country by not fulfilling its mandate and holding itself up to its intended high standard. The museum has not been true to what should be common elements of inclusion, diversity, respect and honesty.
Next to the banknote image of the museum is text from section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms quoting that ‘Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination…’
It is disappointing to hear the news that Canadian Museum for Human Rights could not live up to its potential, particularly in a month where the entire world is looking closely at human rights, and during a period we now accept annually as Pride Month where LGBTQ celebrations and parades have been limited because of COVID-19.
In light of the disingenuous actions of the museum management, I urge you to contact Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and finance minister Bill Morneau (minister responsible for the Bank of Canada) and demand that the image of the museum be removed from the backside of further issues of our $10 bill.
It no longer has the same value.
To voice your concern, email