CMHR welcomes new leader as crucial step towards positive change

Tags for CMHR welcomes new leader as crucial step towards positive change

Exterior shot of the Museum at an upward angle.

News release details

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) welcomes today’s announcement of Manitoba human rights lawyer and advocate Isha Khan as its new president and chief executive officer.

CMHR Board Chair Pauline Rafferty said the appointment is a crucial and positive step towards rebuilding trust in the Museum’s commitment to human rights. The five‐year appointment, which commences on August 17, was announced today by the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Isha Khan

“Isha Khan has the personal and professional experience to lead the organization through the necessary changes that are now underway,” Rafferty said. “Working closely with the CMHR Board of Trustees, she will ensure this important national museum meets the highest standards for inclusion, diversity and respect.”

Khan has dedicated her career to issues of inclusion and equality. For almost a decade, she led the advancement of rights as Executive Director and Senior Counsel with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. Last October, she was appointed by the Minister of Public Safety to coordinate a review of conditions for people incarcerated in federal penitentiaries. She is the board chair of United Way Winnipeg, a member of the Law Society of Manitoba’s Equity Committee and one of the founders of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (Winnipeg chapter). More background can be found below.

Her initial focus will be on ensuring the CMHR fully reflects human rights values in its workplace and everything it does. “I am committed to leading the hard work ahead that will ensure the Museum is a diverse and welcoming workplace for all its employees.”

Khan said she is excited by the opportunity to lead the Museum into the future and find new ways to inspire people everywhere to take action for human rights. “The CMHR has great potential to become a strong and effective national voice for human rights education and action.”

She plans to take decisive action for change at the Museum, informed by employees, stakeholders and the recommendations of an independent, external review commissioned by the CMHR’s Board of Trustees in June. The interim report of the first phase of the review, which contains 44 recommendations for change, was released on August 5. The second phase of the review will begin in the near future.

About Isha Khan

  • Since last October, Khan has worked to review conditions of confinement of incarcerated persons in segregation at 14 federal penitentiaries across Canada. She directed the release of people from segregation and issued recommendations to alter conditions of confinement, including providing better access to mental health services, spiritual programming and other interventions.
  • She served as Executive Director and Senior Counsel of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission from 2015 to 2019, overseeing its operations and administering a statutory complaints mechanism. While in this role, she led the development of a strategic plan to improve the agency through various initiatives including creation of an Elders’ council and a comprehensive wait‐time reduction strategy. She also promoted equality and educated the public about human rights and inclusion at public events, consultations and conferences, and organized the Manitoba Human Rights Awards. From 2010 to 2015, Khan was Senior Counsel for the Commission.
  • She is a member of the Law Society of Manitoba’s Equity Committee.
  • Khan is the board chair of the United Way Winnipeg, where she worked as Director of Organizational Development from 2007 to 2010, creating sound human resources and organizational development practices, and leading policy development and change management initiatives.
  • She currently sits on the executive committee of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (Winnipeg Chapter), directing its operations and delivering workshops on Canadian family law, family violence and racism. She also built community connections through social services, youth and inter‐faith consultation.
  • In 2018 and 2019, Khan was an executive member on the board of the Manitoba Council of Administrative Tribunals, where she oversaw the general operations of this volunteer non‐profit that provides training for government‐appointment members of boards and tribunals on issues such as governance and decision writing.
  • She was a session instructor and lecturer at the University of Winnipeg’s Global College in 2016, teaching an undergraduate course on human rights perspectives in Canada.
  • Khan is the past chair of the Manitoba Community Services Council board of directors, where she served from 2011 to 2016, reviewing applications for funding of community‐based projects.
  • From 2000 to 2007, she managed an active litigation practice in Calgary (Borden Ladner Gervais) focused on labour and employment issues, including advice on corporate mergers and acquisitions.
  • She has also served with the Canada Pension Plan Review Tribunals, chairing administrative hearings across southern Alberta under the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act.
  • Khan is a graduate of the University of Manitoba and the University of Victoria.

Media contacts

Maureen Fitzhenry