Annual public meetings

The Museum hosts a public meeting once a year. This meeting provides an overview of the past year and a Q & A session with Museum Executive.

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Past annual public meetings

Pre-inauguration annual public meetings

Questions and answers: CMHR annual public meeting

The following questions were raised through social media in the context of the CMHR annual public meeting, held December 10, 2013. For questions that were answered during the meeting itself, a summary response has been provided. To listen to the full answer provided at the meeting, please refer to the video of the proceedings.

Will the CMHR feature how Canada was a human rights haven during the American slave trade?
Yes, the trans‐Atlantic slave trade and Canada’s role in it will be treated in our inaugural galleries. Material on Canada’s experience of slavery will be included within our “Canadian Journeys” gallery that looks at Canadian history through a human rights lens. The Trans‐Atlantic slave trade more generally will be included in our “Breaking the Silence” gallery, that looks at a cross‐section of gross violations of human rights from around the world, and the importance of speaking out about these violations today.

Canada as a safe haven during the American slave trade will also be featured in the “Canadian Journeys” gallery in an exhibit on the Underground Railroad. This exhibit will examine the gradual abolition of slavery in British North America in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and will examine the ways in which refugee slaves as well as free Black Americans travelled north to Canada for refuge from American slavery. The exhibit shows that Black Americans, both former slaves and free, enjoyed civil and political rights in Canada that had been denied to them in the United States, but they also experienced racism and discrimination.

Water in the CMHR is from Shoal Lake 40. Amnesty International has found treatment of First Nations violates fundamental Human rights. Thoughts?
Human rights issues of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and internationally are a cross‐cutting issue in our Museum. Every gallery in the Museum contains content on the struggle for Indigenous rights. The “Indigenous Perspectives” gallery in the Museum will examine Indigenous concepts of rights, responsibilities, and humanity, while other galleries will examine violation of Indigenous rights as well as Indigenous Peoples’ mobilization to promote and defend their rights. With regard to the right to water specifically, there is a story on the lack of clean water on reserves in the “Image Grid” installation in the “Canadian Journeys” gallery. Additionally, water is included in the “Everyday Objects” exhibit in the “Human Rights Today” gallery, though this is more in a global context and not specific to Indigenous rights issues.

Can you describe the decision‐making process for gallery content. Who has final approval on content decisions?
The development of content in the CMHR is an iterative process that involves input from the Museum’s internal research and curation staff, external experts, public engagement, and our exhibit designers. An internal committee makes final decisions on content. Gallery approaches and content development is further validated through a fulsome peer‐review process, which involves scholars, academics, experts, community members, Elders, and others whose stories we feature.

Questions and answers: CMHR annual public meeting

The following questions were raised through social media in the context of the CMHR annual public meeting, held December 6, 2012. For questions that were answered during the meeting itself, a summary response has been provided. To listen to the full answer provided at the meeting, please refer to the video of the proceedings.

I want to know why the atrocities of our country are being left out? Do we not need to acknowledge our weaknesses in order to not repeat them?
Yes, we need to acknowledge our weaknesses, and we will. It is essential that visitors are exposed to the dark side of the human‐rights story (including our own) in order to understand why taking action is so important. CMHR content will include examples of Canada’s human‐rights challenges and shortcomings in its core gallery devoted to the Canadian human‐rights journey. But stories of atrocities will not be our only content. Because the CMHR is intended to educate and inspire action, we must also include examples where action has been successful in promoting human rights. Stories that demonstrate resistance, resilience, perseverance and courage in challenge circumstances can inject hope and show visitors that they can make a difference.

Why can't all of the CMHR's galleries be thematic, comparative and inclusive? Why is one community's suffering being elevate above all others in a taxpayer funded national museum when a majority of Canadians do not agree with that being done?
The point of the CMHR is not to memorialize victims or commemorate atrocities, but to educate and inspire action. It is not a “collection” of human‐rights abuses and will certainly not rank them in importance. Museum content will be arranged under a guiding narrative, designed to educate visitors through a journey that moves from the darkness of human‐rights abuse and suffering, to the brightness of enlightenment and action. Visitors will have the opportunity to engage with content based on various events and examples at numerous points along the journey, as well as through public educational programs.

Please provide an explanation for the desertion of so many former employees and their claims of government interference in decisions of museum content.
There is no single reason for the staff departures that have occurred since the Museum’s inception in 2008. The impression created by the news media that there has been a mass exodus because of content decisions is false. Nor has there been government interference in content selection. Content choices have been led by our expert research and curation staff, following extensive consultations with the public and stakeholder groups, advice from our Human Rights Advisory Council, and discussion and review by our governing board of trustees. The Museum is now transitioning from a planning phase to an operational phase. There have been “growing pains” along the way, but we now have funding certainty (since July 2012) and we’re moving ahead with great confidence. It is a very exciting time for a very exciting project.

Has any elected member of parliament, and / or federal department brought pressure to bear in respect to desired content?

Why not hold an annual public meeting in a major Canadian city like Toronto and advertise it well in advance so that those who have critical comments can be heard?
It was deemed most appropriate to hold our second annual public meeting in our home city and at a school, to underscore the educational objectives of the CMHR. Consideration may be given in future to holding this meeting in other major Canadian centres. The CMHR aims to be nationally inclusive by providing a live‐streamed Webcast of the event, and accepts questions via social media and e‑mail. A public notice about the meeting was issued to media on November 6 and posted on our Web site. A media advisory was also issued on December 4. We have also posted meeting invitations on Facebook and Twitter.

Where are the Crimes of Communism being treated in this museum?
Because our Museum is not a “collection” of human‐rights abuses, but an educational experience designed to inspire action for human rights, there are various points in the visitor journey where different examples will be provided, with a focus on impact. While some of the abuses that have occurred under communism will be handled in a gallery devoted to breaking the silence on genocides and other gross human‐rights violation, these stories will also be woven into an overall narrative that will guide the visitor experience throughout the Museum.

Why do five genocides get their own gallery while the atrocities perpetrated by Mao and Pol Pot do not?
We assume you are referring to a gallery devoted to breaking the silence that often accompanies genocide and other gross human‐rights violations. This gallery will provide examples of various atrocities in order to underscore the importance of acting against denial and minimization. The examples will be many, including the Cambodian genocide of the late 1970s. They will be chosen not as means of memorializing victims, or of elevating the suffering of one group over another – but simply in terms of telling impactful stories that promote understanding and inspire action. The five genocides that are officially recognized as such by the Government of Canada will be featured in the context of combatting secrecy and denial. As a national museum, it is our intention to view human rights through a Canadian lens.

Are Canada's first national internment operations going to be covered by an exhibit in the CMHR?
Yes. These examples will be an important part of portraying Canada’s human‐rights journey in the Museum.

Why is the CMHR not being charged any penalties/interest on overdue City of Winnipeg property taxes? Was a deal made and with who?
The property‐value assessment process for a federal museum falls under the Payment in Lieu of Taxes Act (PILT). Finalizing the assessment involves a negotiation process between Public Works Canada and the City of Winnipeg, which is still underway. In the interim, payments have in fact been made to the City at the PILT valuation level.

Was there any public warning of this morning's CMHR event prior to me reading about it in today's Winnipeg Free Press online?
Yes, a public notice about the annual public meeting was issued to media on November 6, and posted on our Web site at that time. A media advisory was also issued on December 4. During the month before the meeting, we also posted notices about the meeting through Facebook and Twitter. To be notified directly about Museum events and announcements, the public is invited to join our mailing list through our Website at

Questions and answers: CMHR annual public meeting

The following questions were raised through social media in the context of the CMHR annual public meeting, held December 6, 2011. For questions that were answered during the meeting itself, a summary response has been provided. To listen to the full answer provided at the meeting, please refer to the video of the proceedings.

Will you be speaking up for the human rights of Canadians today or just documenting them for historical records?
The mission and mandate of the Museum aim to encourage reflection, dialogue and action and the CMHR will demonstrate how other communities have taken action to address human rights issues. The Museum will not be a news outlet but we will aim to be timely and accurate, relying on our partners in the human rights community for developments. Our Human Rights Today gallery (working title) will feature current human rights issues and will enable visitors to interact with content about contemporary issues that they are interested in. Having a collection that is predominantly digitally‐based will allow us to update content regularly as issues develop and situations change.

How will the Museum address concerns that the content will not address contemporary issues that maybe in conflict with Canada’s economic interests?
The objective of the Museum is not to become a voice or opinion leader on past or current situations but to demonstrate multiple perspectives based on sound research and scholarship by multiple parties, providing visitors with a comprehensive perspective. A key element for the Museum, as it develops its content, will be objectivity. We also hope to become a centre for dialogue that will provide a respectful environment for the exploration of contemporary Canadian and international issues. Further, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is a Federal crown corporation; decision‐making related to exhibits and programming rests solely with the CMHR.

Will the permanent Holocaust exhibit cover ALL peoples targeted by the Nazis or will it only show Jewish victims of the Holocaust? 
The approach to the Examining the Holocaust gallery will be very broad. It will extend beyond the Jewish victims of the Holocaust to include all out‐groups targeted by the Nazi regime. One of the features of this gallery will be an exhibit looking at ‘contagion’ – the spread of oppression from Jewish people to include people from many groups including LGBT, persons with disabilities, Roma, etc. The purpose of the Examining the Holocaust gallery is not to memorialize this tragic event but to examine it in detail to glean lessons from it in hopes that it never happens again.

Is there consideration to make the washrooms in the museum accessible for people with arthritis? Will there be benches and/or chairs available for people to sit down when viewing the museum contents? Will the Canadian Museum for Humans Rights be accessible for people with arthritis?
All seating in the CMHR will be designed to accommodate range of physical abilities, including those with arthritis. Every gallery in the museum has seating spaces available to ensure that the journey through the Museum is comfortable and accessible for visitors regardless of ability. The CMHR has created an Inclusive Design Advisory Council (IDAC) made up of eight experts, advisors and activists in the field of disability rights that will assist the CMHR in providing visitors with a universally inclusive and satisfying experience, regardless of age or ability. The CMHR is striving to set a new benchmark for museum accessibility, incorporating inclusive design into all aspects of its exhibits, programming, the building itself, and the Museum’s business practices.

Why can't all 12 of galleries in this taxpayer funded national museum be thematic, comparative, and inclusive? Why should the suffering of ANY community be elevated above all others with preferential, permanent or privileged space in this museum?
All galleries in the Museum are geared towards fulfilling our mandate of promoting understanding of human rights issues and encouraging reflection, dialogue and action. Each and every gallery in the Museum, without exception, has been conceptually grouped into a thematic cluster. All of the galleries in the Museum are inclusive. Canada’s Human Rights Journey gallery for example looks at the history of human rights in Canada from multiple perspectives and includes the stories of many different groups.

The CMHR will not be comparative in terms of comparing genocides, mass atrocities or human rights violations as this does not fit the mandate or mission of the Museum and will serve to fractionalize communities rather than foster inclusivity.

All of the galleries in the Museum house permanent exhibits except for the temporary gallery (located in Root C) and the Eye on the World gallery which have always been pegged as rotating or temporary exhibit spaces.

How did you concretely address the concerns of the UCC regarding too much concentration on the Holocaust as opposed to all of the other tragedies of the world?
We have worked on an ongoing basis with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress to assure the Ukrainian Canadian community that we are listening to their concerns. We will continue to work with them as we develop the CMHR’s inaugural exhibits. With assistance from the UCC, the CMHR has established a relationship with the Holomodor Museum in Kiev and will be working with that museum as we continue to develop content for the inaugural exhibits.

The CMHR exhibit plan includes the Examining the Holocaust gallery because of the powerful lessons that can be learned from this extensively‐studied event about the fragility of human rights. But the Examining the Holocaust gallery is only one part of the “L3 suite of galleries” looking at international human rights history. In the “L3 suite of galleries,” visitors will ascend from the Canadian galleries and encounter a set of three interrelated galleries, each of which look at human rights on the international scene. The three galleries are provisionally entitled Examining the Holocaust, Hope and Hard Work and Breaking the Silence. Together, these galleries explore the growth of international human rights, looking at both the failure to protect and the efforts to protect human rights as part of the same complex reality.

Why was the 2008–2009 archaeological exploration report not released? What do you think of the fact that the report said that the museum did all it could to get around the heritage permits?
It is important to note that following the 2008 excavation, archaeological monitoring and more detailed excavation (mitigation) continued on the site well into 2011 ensuring that the heritage resources were properly managed. Those findings are not available at this time and we anticipate that some additional work will be required in 2012.

The report on the 2008–2009 excavation is only the beginning of the information that will be publicly presented by the CMHR. While Sid Kroeker’s 2010 report is extensive, the subsequent reports will provide researchers, archaeologists as well as new interested parties with a more comprehensive picture.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights spent more than $1 million on archaeology at the site and opened one of the digs to public viewing so that interested visitors could see first‐hand the archaeological work being done at the site. The Heritage Resources Branch (HRB) was in constant communication with all parties concerned during excavation at the CMHR construction site to ensure that all archaeological requirements set by the HRB and Parks Canada under The Heritage Resources Act were met by the CMHR.

Is it the intention of the museum to teach our children that all human rights flow from the holocaust? 
The CMHR exhibits plan takes a long view of human rights history. There is a long and storied history that led to the eventual development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the CMHR will examine the many events, hundreds of years in the making, which helped to create the norms and international and domestic laws we currently have in place today. If we did not look beyond the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we would be missing a major part of the story in terms of human rights history in Canada and around the world.

Do you have a sustainable and definitive business plan for long term success of the business?
Part of the business plan is generating additional revenue through tourism, retail products, restaurants, and traveling exhibits. Our Brand &Business Development team is looking at taking the $21.7m operating and increasing it through revenue generation so that we have a larger budget to work with.

Throughout the presentation provided at the Annual Public Meeting, little was said about onsite human interaction. As direct human interaction is one of the best ways of communicating, what are the ways in which the Museum will promote interaction?
We see interaction among visitors as a major component of the museum experience and are looking for ways of ensuring that these opportunities exist throughout the Museum, in every gallery. The power of dialogue is so important and it is definitely a focus of the museum. Dialogue is critical for understanding the others’ points of view and for developing a relationship with a topic or idea. For example, in the Canada’s Human Rights Journey gallery, there will be spaces for live interactive theatre, as well as an interactive games table and a space for moderated discussion on human rights issues.