The five most romantic stories at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Friday, February 12, 2016
This is one of two rings made by Lieb Krycberg – one for himself and one for the woman he loved -while they were prisoners in a concentration camp. Photo: Aaron Cohen/CMHR

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner – are you ready for romance?  We certainly are - the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is all about love for humanity, but sometimes it’s about romantic love, too.   In honour of all the romantics who fight for human rights every day, we’re counting down the five most romantic stories featured at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights:

5. The Ring

Lieb Krycberg made a silver finger ring from a spoon while he was an inmate of a concentration camp in the Second World War.  He engraved the ring with his initial, L, and with the initial M for Miriam, a fellow prisoner with whom he had fallen in love.  Lieb also engraved the ring with both their prison numbers and then made another similar ring for Miriam.  Both Lieb and Miriam survived multiple concentration camps and after the war, they reunited and Lieb proposed.  Miriam declined, but she did keep her ring.  The copy of the ring on display at the Museum was originally Lieb’s and is on loan from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.   

4. Jeanette Corbiere Lavell

An image of an alcove with pictures, small digital display screens and text on all three walls. On the back wall, there is an image of a man and an Indigenous woman sitting and smiling together.
The woman’s rights alcove in the Canadian Journeys gallery. The story of Jeantte Corbiere Lavell is shared here. Photo: Aaron Cohen/CMHR

Jeanette is an Indigenous Canadian who lost her rights because of love and then fought to get them back again.  In 1970 she married David Lavell, a non-Indigenous man.  Under Canadian law, an Indigenous woman who married a non-Indigenous man lost her “Indian” status.  The law took away her rights to live on reserve, inherit family property, receive Treaty benefits or participate in the affairs of her community.  She even lost the right to be buried in the cemetery with her ancestors. By comparison Indigenous men who married non-Indigenous women did not lose their “Indian” status, or any of the rights attached to it. Jeanette decided to challenge the law and her case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.  She lost her case, but she and other Indigenous women never stopped fighting for their rights.  In 1985 the law was finally changed – Indigenous women could marry who they wished without losing their status.

3. Wilcox County High School Integrated Prom

Two mannequins positioned behind a transparent glass wall wear a black tuxedo and a red prom dress.  Other items are displayed along with the outifits, such as an eye mask with feathers, an open book with pictures, and a plaque.
The prom dress of Maréshia Rucker and the tuxedo of Brandon Davis, two organizers of the first integrated prom held for students at Wilcox County High School. Photo: Jessica Sigurdson / CMHR

Can you imagine not being able to take your sweetheart to prom because of the colour of their skin?   For many years, students at Wilcox County High School did not have to imagine it. The high school had no official prom – instead, parents organized private, segregated celebrations each year – one for white students and one for black students.  Then, in 2013, a group of graduating students decided it was time for this to end, and organized the first-ever integrated prom for the kids at their school.  Their facebook event page was called “Love Has No Color: Integrated Prom.”  They faced opposition from some members of the community, but in the end the event was a success.  Afterwards, the school decided to hold an official, integrated prom in 2014.

2. 143Band

A man wearing a black t-shirt, jeans and sunglasses stands to the left of a woman wearing a black dress and a multicoloured scarf around her head and neck. She is giving a peace sign with each hand.
Afghan musicians Diverse (left) and Paradise (right) in Kabul in 2013. Photo: Courtesy of 143Band.

Love makes you stronger - having a partner to help you fight for what’s right can make all the difference sometimes.  That is the case for Paradise and Diverse, the stage names of a couple who make up the Afghan rap group 143Band.  Together they make songs that challenge and call out discrimination against women and domestic abuse in Afghanistan.  143Band’s song “Nalestan” is featured in the Museum’s listening stations along with other songs connected to or inspired by human rights issues.

1. Chris Vogel and Rich North

Black and white image of two bearded men standing beside one another. Both men are smiling and looking down at something that is out of view.
Vogel and North following their wedding ceremony in 1974. Photo: University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections, Winnipeg Tribune Fonds, PC 89 (A.3267).

Over forty years ago, on February 11, 1974, Chris Vogel and Rich North became the first same-sex couple to be married in Manitoba, and the second such couple in Canada.  Vogel and North said that they had gotten married to challenge the misconception that homosexuals could not have loving, long-term relationships the same way as heterosexuals.  It would be many years later, in 2005, that same-sex marriage would become legally recognized by the Canadian government.  Their story, along with the stories of many other Canadian same-sex couples who have chosen marriage, are featured in our Canadian Journeys gallery.