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2014: The dream becomes a reality!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

For the past four years, I have looked out my office window on Main Street and watched the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) emerge from the ground.

I’ve watched the sun come up over the construction site, which is now a finished building that CMHR staff will move into on January 6. For the first time, we will no longer don hard hats and steel-toed boots to go inside. 

Today, we begin a very special year. On September 20, 2014, the Museum will open. This is a dream that is becoming a reality. Announcing an opening date on November 4, 2013 has sparked a lot of momentum for people who cannot wait to get into the building and see what it’s all about.

The CMHR is already driving economic activity in Winnipeg. It’s already promoting human rights. And it’s facilitating education – which is what we’re all about.

Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” That is the premise on which this national Museum was built.

Mandela’s passion for human rights and his determination to make the right decisions – not the easy decisions – have had results that will multiply ten-fold because of his legacy.  The attention to his passing has renewed awareness of what he has done. I have a quiet sense of gratitude to have been alive during Mandela’s incredible human rights journey. His work brought change.

The beginning of a new year leaves us looking forward to positive change.  Canada’s new national museum is not only changing the landscape of Winnipeg’s skyline in remarkable ways, it is changing the human rights landscape of Canada.

Stuart Murray at his desk with moving boxes in the background CMHR President and CEO Stuart Murray. Photo: Maureen Fitzhenry / CMHR.

Many people have decided that this museum is something important that is worth supporting: the Government of Canada, the Province of Manitoba, the City of Winnipeg and over 7,500 people – locally, nationally and internationally who have contributed $142 million of their own money to further human rights education. That investment is a powerful statement.

The Museum is a fulcrum, a tipping point that will make all the other great things about this city stand out as well. The people we’ve taken to look at the inside of the building have all had the same reaction – that this place is stunning, and that it’s a game changer for Winnipeg.  

One of them is prominent Canadian travel writer Adrian Brijbassi, from Vancouver. Adrian is a former editor at The Toronto Star who has worked at New York Newsday and the Vancouver Sun. He now edits a Web site called Vacay.ca, and does social media for the Canadian Tourism Commission. He regularly appears as a travel commentator on CTV Newsnet, TSN and The Huffington Post. This is what he had to say on December 18 in an article called “Winnipeg vaults to tourism prominence”:

“The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is immediately the most outstanding tourist-focused building in Canada — and right now there’s nothing in it but construction material. When it is filled with innovative and interactive displays … the CMHR will herald a new era for a city overdue for a tourism reboot.

 “The CMHR is 260,123 square feet of wow. It explodes out of the landscape to grab your eye and break any prejudice you have held toward the city…. It joins the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, and Toronto’s CN Tower as the notable architectural landmarks in a country whose cities have been far too focused on building pricey hotel/condo towers than fantastic public spaces. 

“The CMHR does for Winnipeg what the I.M. Pei’s Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame did for Cleveland — create a reason to go. So much so, in fact, that Winnipeg earns the distinction as the No. 5 Place to Visit in Canada in 2014, according to Vacay.ca’s team of travel experts.”

That list will be published online today! It’s a reason for pride.

The CMHR is not my museum – it’s yours.  And when the CMHR opens its doors in September, everyone is going to have a very proud moment.

Happy New Year everyone!

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