Rights of Passage: Canada at 150

Rights of Passage: Canada at 150 presents an overview of 150 years of Canada’s human rights history. Through a multi-media experience, this exhibition explores the key debates and issues that have been central to the evolution of the Canadian conversation on rights and freedoms, justice and equality.

Foundations and Dislocations (1867-1914)

Discover how Canadians talked about rights in the years following Confederation. Although few people used the term “human rights”, they were concerned with freedoms, including freedom of speech, religion, association and the press. However, these rights were narrowly defined and applied only to a privileged few.

Decorated with wooden accents, newspaper effects, and poster bills from the time period, this space includes an antique “magic lantern” that projects still images onto a wall.

Transformations and Interventions (1915-1960)

Two world wars and the Great Depression brought massive upheaval to Canada. Governments intervened in aspects of daily life, such as restricting movement of First Nations people through a pass system, interning Canadians with roots in countries at war with Canada, and restricting freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Many Canadians demanded a new role for government, seeking both political change and a new focus on meeting citizens’ basic needs.

Here you can leap back in time by turning the dials on a radio to listen to historic broadcasts.

Towards the Charter (1960-1982)

The 1960s and 1970s were turbulent years. As people increasingly challenged the status quo, Canadian society also became more diverse. Canadians held great debates on collective rights, national unity and identity. Popular protests and social movements helped steer the conversation towards the idea of a charter of rights and freedoms.

In this time period, you can interact with a vintage television set, and select from 13 news stories that help capture the spirit of the time.

Human Rights in a Contemporary Canada (1982-present)

Since the enactment of the Charter in 1982, human rights have become part of Canadians’ everyday lives. This section looks at emerging human rights questions and debates including:

  • The right to privacy in a digital age,
  • The right to a clean and healthy environment in the context of massive pollution and climate change,
  • The right to a gender identity of one’s choosing.

Explore Canada in the contemporary age with Facing the Future, a digital media interactive featuring holograms and wearable technology.

Defending Sovereignty (past and present)

Hundreds of Indigenous nations reside in what is now known as Canada. Since 1867, these nations have negotiated with a new foreign government – the Canadian state – that has systematically introduced policies to sever Indigenous peoples’ relationships with the land and environment and to destroy their identities and ways of life. This section, which includes elements of traditional medicine, distinctive art and beadwork, explores the concepts of sovereignty and reconciliation as they relate to Indigenous peoples.

In this space, you can watch oral history interviews and short films, or engage with a sound-activated mosaic featuring artwork and perspectives of Indigenous youth.