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Project Origins

Israel Asper. Photo:Gideon Lewin

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is the realization of a dream of the late Israel Asper, OC, OM, QC, LLD, a philanthropist and founder of CanWest Global Communications Corp.

As a proud and grateful Canadian, Asper wanted to create a place where Canadians, and especially young Canadians, could learn about human rights and the importance of protecting these rights. The Museum can be seen as the culmination of his life’s achievements.

Throughout his lifetime, Asper supported many youth and education projects. Through the Asper Foundation, he created a program to educate Canada’s youth about the history of the Holocaust and the value of protecting human rights for all. The program drew young Canadians from around the country, but Asper felt there was more to be done. 

Asper thought Canada should have a place where students could learn about a broad spectrum of human rights issues from a Canadian perspective. When Israel Asper died in 2003, his family continued to pursue his vision, including his wife Ruth (Babs), and their three children, Gail, David and Leonard. Gail Asper played a pivotal role in building widespread public, corporate, union and individual support for the idea. In 2008, the Government of Canada established the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to explore the subject of human rights, with special but not exclusive reference to Canada.

In 2014, the City of Winnipeg honoured Israel Asper’s remarkable achievements by re-naming the portion of the street in front of the Museum Israel Asper Way.