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CMHR displays rarely loaned, historic documents from Library and Archives Canada

Tags for CMHR displays rarely loaned, historic documents from Library and Archives Canada

News release details

Originals include Treaty One and 1982 Act that enshrined Charter of Rights 

Rarely loaned documents from some of the most pivotal moments in Canada's human rights history are on display for a limited time at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), the result of ongoing collaboration with Library and Archives Canada (LAC).

"These documents are among the most important original records in Canadian history," said Gail Stephens, interim President and CEO of the CMHR. "The Royal Proclamation of 1763 marked an important first step in recognizing Aboriginal land rights, while the 1982 Proclamation of the Constitution Act enshrined the guarantees contained in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our collaboration with LAC is bringing these documents to a brand new audience and helps us tell the human rights story of Canada from a legal and legislative perspective."

Climate‐controlled glass cases using low‐heat LED lighting have been built to protect these precious documents. For the 1982 Proclamation of the Constitution document – an original marked by raindrops from the outdoor signing on Parliament Hill by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – the CMHR and LAC worked together to ensure this document is protected from excessive light, preserving the ink signatures from degradation. 

Visitors press a button to activate 20 seconds of light for viewing through "smart‐glass" technology. When the button has been pressed 12,500 times, this document will need to be returned to the LAC vaults in Gatineau, Québec.

LAC has loaned 11 documents and artifacts to the CMHR, most until September 2015. They are now on display in the Protecting Rights in Canada gallery and Canadian Journeys gallery (see attached backgrounder). They include Treaty No. 1, ratified by seven First Nations chiefs in 1871 at Lower Fort Garry. It was the first of 11 numbered treaties – still in force today – signed between First Nations and Queen Victoria after Confederation. The Museum itself stands on Treaty No. 1 land, which encompasses most of southern Manitoba.

"The impressive national collection held by LAC takes on an even greater meaning when items such as these are made accessible to the public via partnerships with institutions like the CMHR," said Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada. "LAC will continue to build on this and other collaborative relationships and initiatives so that as many Canadians as possible can interact with their documentary heritage like never before."

This collaboration between LAC and the CMHR builds on an earlier partnership, when LAC supported the Museum's first online exhibition. 

About the Canadian Museum for 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. Using multimedia technology and other innovative approaches, the CMHR will create inspiring encounters with human rights for all ages, in a visitor experience unlike any other. 

About Library and Archives Canada
The mandate of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is to preserve the documentary heritage of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations and to be a source of enduring knowledge accessible to all, thereby contributing to the cultural, social and economic advancement of Canada. LAC also facilitates co‐operation among communities involved in the acquisition, preservation and diffusion of knowledge, and serves as the continuing memory of the Government of Canada and its institutions. 


Original documents and artifacts on temporary loan from Library and Archives Canada in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Most are displayed in the "Canada's Legal System" exhibit of the Protecting Rights in Canada gallery.

Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982

Original ceremonial copy with signatures

The original Proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982, signed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau on Parliament Hill, 17 April 1982. The document was damaged slightly by rain during the ceremony. A second copy was signed after the public event. The Proclamation formally enacted Canada's newly patriated constitution, and enshrined the guarantees contained in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Notes from the "Kitchen Accord," 1981

Handwritten notes by Roy Romanow, pen on lined paper

This note, drafted in a kitchen of the Ottawa National Conference Centre, is from a late‐night meeting where an informal agreement (the "Kitchen Accord") was reached for a constitutional deal which included the famous "notwithstanding clause". This last‐minute compromise forged by Jean Chrétien, Roy Romanow and Roy McMurtry has been credited with breaking a stalemate at the conference, which would eventually enable patriation of Canada's constitution via the Constitution Act of 1982. Québec's representatives did not endorse this behind‐the‐scenes deal and many Quebecker continue to feel that they had no say in patriating the Constitution and adopting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Western Treaty No. 1, 1871

Ink on paper with affixed seals and ribbon

In 1868, the new Dominion of Canada acquired title to the vast lands formerly held by the Hudson's Bay Company. Between 1871 and 1921, the government negotiated a series of numbered treaties with Aboriginal groups. The first (Treaty One), signed by prominent representatives of Chippewa and Cree First Nations and others, covers a large part of southern Manitoba – including the land on which the Museum stands. It remains in force to this day.

Indian Chiefs Medal, presented to commemorate numbered Treaty Numbers 3 to 8, 1873–1899

Silver medal: third and final medal design for this purpose

This medal was presented to First Nations chiefs, intended to serve as a lasting visual reminder, to all participants, of their treaty commitments. Many contemporary portraits of the First Nations leaders show how these medals were prominently worn. Treaties 3 to 8 cover large areas of what are now Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Northwestern Ontario. 

Royal Proclamation, King George III of England, 1763

This broadsheet copy of the Proclamation, drawn from LAC's published collection, bears the most authoritative version of the text

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 was issued as a statement of King George III's authority after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which left Great Britain as the primary European power in North America. The Proclamation announced a new administrative structure for British North America and established new protocols for relations with Indigenous Peoples. Most importantly, it recognized the existence of Aboriginal rights in the absence of a treaty with the Crown. Section 25 of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) recognizes this proclamation as an affirmation of treaty and other rights and freedoms that pertain to Aboriginal peoples. 

Canadian Bill of Rights, 1960

Signed by John G. Diefenbaker, Printed presentation copy

This Bill of Rights was Canada's first federal law to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and was considered ground‐breaking in its day. Influenced by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the bill in turn influenced Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) which superseded it. Presentation copies, with the Prime Minister's original signature, were distributed across Canada to schools and other institutions.

Study of La Coutume de Paris (Customary Law of Paris), ca. 1793–1801

By Xavier‐Roch Tarieu de Lanaudière, ink on paper, handwritten copy of a published book

The Coutume de Paris codified a range of rights and procedures that had been maintained orally in medieval France. It became New France's only legal code in 1664, providing the basis of civil law, including key expressions of marital and property rights. In 1866, the Civil Code of Lower Canada derived the majority of its rules from the Coutume. This item is one of many reports on the Coutume prepared for the Governor of Québec, with the author determined through handwriting analysis. 

Chinese Immigration Certificates (Head Tax Certificates), 1913–1919

Displayed in the "Overcoming Exclusion" exhibit of the Canadian Journeys gallery. Four certificates in total, displayed two at a time to meet LAC preservation requirements.

These certificates, issued by the Dominion of Canada Immigration Branch, were given to immigrants from China upon payment of a "head tax" enacted by the Canadian government to severely restrict Chinese immigration. Thousands of Chinese labourers helped build the Canadian Pacific Railway, but after the project's completion in 1885, the $50 head tax was directed exclusively at Chinese immigrants. By 1903, the tax had risen to $500 and was only abolished in 1923 when a new Chinese Immigration Act blocked almost all immigration from China.

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