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CMHR begins 2017 in the black: Annual public meeting

News release details

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) has begun 2017 in a strong financial position thanks to the resolution of a long-standing property tax issue, participants in its annual public meeting heard today.

Chief Financial Officer Susanne Robertson reported that Government of Canada funding approved in December 2016 would cover $8 million in accrued costs for Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) to the City of Winnipeg, as well as $2.7 million per year going forward for future PILT payments.

The funding is part of $105.9 million over five years and $6.1 million per year ongoing from the Government of Canada to Canada's national museums, announced in Budget 2016.

For accounting reasons, the PILT accrual was recorded in the CMHR's books for the 2015–16 fiscal year (April 1 to March 31) as an $8 million shortfall that created a $7 million deficit on paper. In the current 2016–17 year, the $8 million will be recorded as revenue, with the Museum's balance sheet in the black.

CMHR president and CEO John Young said 2017 will be an eventful year for the Museum.

"This year marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation, and we are looking forward to being a venue for Canadians and visitors from around the world to explore Canada's human rights history," he said at today's meeting. "This anniversary offers us an opportunity to look critically at our past, to celebrate the human rights champions that have struggled to make Canada a better country, and to imagine the Canada we would like to see in another 150 years."

Interim board chair Pauline Rafferty said the compelling stories told through exhibits, programs and events are central to the CMHR's educational role.

"Over the past year, the Museum has continued to work towards enriching its mandate," she said. "It is doing this by creating a space for education, dialogue and discussion about human rights. We believe it is the Museum's role to get Canadians talking about human rights. "

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. It is the first national museum in Canada to be built outside the National Capital Region. Using multimedia technology and other innovative approaches, the Museum creates inspiring encounters with human rights appropriate for all ages, in a visitor experience unlike any other.

A few highlights of 2015–16 at the CMHR
  • The blood-stained school uniform worn by Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai on the day she was shot by Taliban gunmen has been on display since June. This exhibit will close in mid-March. Malala has become an international symbol for the importance of standing up for girls' right to an education.
  • Another new exhibit,A Perilous Crossing, looks at the story of migrants and refugees who faced a dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean Sea, fleeing war or persecution, in search of peace and security. In 2015 alone, more than one million refugees made this dangerous journey. This exhibit opened in May. It was created by the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, with the cooperation of the Canada Science and Technology Museum and Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders.
  • In the school year that ended last June, more than 30,000 students participated in CMHR educational programs, designed for every grade level from kindergarten to grade 12. The Museum is also piloting a national student program, already bringing high school and post-secondary students from across the country for a human rights learning experience.
  • To date, the CMHR has received more than 30 national and international awards and honours, for aspects ranging from exhibit design and technology, to architecture and construction, to education and inclusive design.
  • To mark the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities an exhibition called Sight Unseen: International Photography by Blind Artists opened in February in the Museum's Level 1 Gallery. Based on the idea that blind people can see in ways that sighted people cannot, the exhibition challenged visitors to re-think what it meant to be blind or disabled. Curated by Douglas McCulloh, Sight Unseen originated at UCR/California Museum of Photography, an affiliate institution of ARTSblock of the University of California, Riverside, and was toured by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions.
  • The Museum's first outdoor exhibition – Let them Howl: 100 Years in the Women's Rights Struggle – opened in February at Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg, marking 100 years since the first Canadian women won the right to vote. The exhibition was created in partnership with Library and Archives Canada. 
  • The Museum also partnered with the Honourable Janice Filmon, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, and the Manitoba Museum for two days of student and public programs about women's rights, including an engaging keynote address by the Right Honourable Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada. 
  • A moving work of art called The Witness Blanketwas displayed December 2015 until June 2016. Honouring the children forced into Indian Residential Schools, this installation by artist Cary Newman includes more than 800 items reclaimed from residential schools, churches and offices in 77 communities. Its opening at the Museum coincided with the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report.
  • As a space and forum for dialogue about human rights, the Museum continued to develop online engagement opportunities. A blog post called "Five women who should be household names in Canada" has reached 26,000 people. Among those featured was civil rights activist Viola Desmond, who will now be featured on the Canadian ten-dollar bill.
  • The Museum's most popular online post marked Holodomor Memorial Day on Facebook in November. To date, it has been shared 1,187 times, reached more than 148,000 people, and received more than 2,500 likes. The Holodomor was a forced famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in 1932 and 1933.

Looking ahead at 2017 

The Museum will present four exhibitions for Canada's 150th anniversary this year:

  • 1867: Rebellion and Confederation was launched in December and runs until the end of May, looking at 30 years of turmoil that led to Canadian Confederation 150 years ago. The exhibition was developed by the Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau, Quebec, and adapted by the CMHR.
  • On March 1, the Museum launches Our Canada, My Story, a video-based exhibition that features the stories of seven remarkable, modern-day Canadians who have worked to overcome human rights challenges in diverse ways. This exhibition is intended to spark discussion about how we are different, how we are the same, and what connects us all.
  • A national, crowd-sourced photography exhibition called Points of View will open just before Canada Day. Based on Canada 150 themes of inclusion and diversity, reconciliation, human rights and the environment, as well as freedom of expression, it will run until the end of the year. The Museum has received more than 1,000 submissions for this exhibition from across the country.
  • In the fall, another new Canada 150 exhibition will open, focused on ways that communications tools and media shaped the human rights landscape during different periods in Canada's history.

The Museum will also offer many opportunities for public participation in Canada 150 activities throughout the year – through in-gallery activities, new school programs, and major public events. Details will be available online and via social media.

Media contacts

Maureen Fitzhenry