The Canadian Museum for Human Rights' (CMHR) 2014–2015 annual report has been tabled in the House of Commons. Titled The Conversation Begins, the report provides an overview of an important year when the CMHR first opened its doors to visitors as the country's new national museum.
"People from across Canada and around the world are visiting the Museum, both in person and online," the report's introduction reads. "Each visitor, each click, each share, each comment, each like, is an act of participating in a discussion about human rights – about where we have been, where we are now and where we want to go in the future. The conversation is beginning and it will continue for a long time to come."
Highlights in the annual report for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2015 include:
- The Museum transitioned from being a construction project to a fully operational national museum. Its official opening was marked by a ceremony officiated by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, on September 19, 2014.
- In the seven months from September 2014 to the end of March 2015, the Museum welcomed 212,000 visitors, above initial projections for 100,000 visitors in this time period.
- Earned revenues were also higher than expected at $1.8 million, despite opening later than originally anticipated. The Museum's 2013–14 corporate plan had projected revenue of $1.7 million in 2014–15, based on the assumption of a July 2014 opening.
- The net loss from Museum operations was $200,000, caused by a mid-year increase in the Museum's accrual for Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) to the City of Winnipeg after finalization of the land value for tax purposes. A decision that would finalize the entire PILT level (including the building value) has not yet been made, pending the outcome of negotiations between the city and Public Works and Government Services Canada.
- The report notes that the 2014–15 fiscal year was particularly challenging financially, given overlapping costs of completing development work and beginning to operate the Museum. This included spending $1.9 million for completion of exhibit development work using money that had been received and left surplus in 2010-11 in anticipation of this future requirement. Due to accounting rules, the timing of this expenditure required it to be recorded in the 2014–15 Statement of Operations as a deficit, although offset by the earmarked surplus recorded in 2010-11.
- Starting in January 2015, thousands of students from kindergarten to Grade 12 were welcomed to a range of educational programs led by Museum staff. By the end of the 2014–15 school year, more than 20,000 students had participated.
- The Museum hosted 326 meetings, events and programs between September 2014 and March 2015 – often organizing multiple events per day. Three-quarters of the groups that attended such events also toured the Museum.
- Public programs included free admission on International Human Rights Day with performances by Indigenous artists; an event with the Sikh Heritage Museum of Canada to mark the 100th anniversary of the Komagata Maru tragedy; an evening discussion about breaking silence around the Holodomor famine-genocide of the 1930s in Ukraine; and Louis Riel Day activities that explored Métis rights.
- Awareness of the Museum grew sharply in 2014–15, when it attracted almost 9,000 news mentions. The Museum was featured on Amazing Race Canada in August 2014 and hosted over 100 international travel writers in September during GoMedia 2014, Destination Canada's flagship media event. A survey done shortly after September's opening events showed a 300-per-cent increase in national awareness of the CMHR (28 per cent of Canadians).
- The Museum welcomed many inspiring human rights defenders from across Canada and around the world. Among them was Maréshia Rucker, who loaned a red dress to the Museum for an exhibit about her 2013 fight to have the first racially integrated prom for students of her school in Georgia, USA.
The 2014–2015 Annual Report also contains fully audited financial statements. It is posted online on the Museum's Web site at humanrights.ca.