New CMHR leaders to focus on community and collaboration

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A smiling woman and man stands outside in front of a museum building that features a curved glass facade and a tower.

Photo: CMHR, Thomas Fricke

News release details

Two new leaders have been welcomed to the management team of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) as it continues its journey to build a stronger, more equitable organization, CEO Isha Khan announced today.

Riva Harrison brings 20 years of senior leadership experience and a lifelong commitment to human rights to her role as CMHR Vice-President, External Relations and Community Engagement, which she begins today. Most recently, she served on the executive team at Red River College in Winnipeg with a focus on strategic planning and communications.

Haran Vijayanathan, who has extensive experience in human rights advocacy and program management with underrepresented communities, will join the CMHR on April 19 as Director, Equity and Strategic Initiatives. This new position will support the Museum’s work to create an anti-racist, equitable and inclusive workplace. He currently works with inner-city and urban Indigenous communities through Winnipeg’s Mount Carmel Clinic. Additional background on both new CMHR leaders can be found below.

“Riva and Haran have the experience and backgrounds to drive the change we all want for this museum,” Khan said. “Working together with our staff and partners, they will help build a culture that creates space for community and reflects our goals for human rights.”

Last November, Khan unveiled a comprehensive plan to create an equitable workplace that disrupts systemic racism and other forms of discrimination and oppression. Called "Creating an Equitable Museum", the framework is based on five pillars: hear and consider diverse perspectives; cultivate a deep understanding of human rights principles; respect and value each other in our workplace; ensure meaningful relationships with our community; and demonstrate respect for the lived experiences of others in how we care for and tell their stories.

About Riva Harrison:

  • Harrison (she/her) has two decades of experience in strategic planning, public engagement, communications and marketing from her previous roles as Executive Director of Strategy and Communications at Red River College (RRC) and Vice-President of Marketing and Communications at CentrePort Canada, and various senior strategic communications positions with the Province of Manitoba. She began her career in journalism, working as a reporter and columnist in Winnipeg for more than 10 years.
  • With a proven track record of promoting equity and inclusion in the workplace, Harrison led the creation of RRC’s first dedicated Indigenous marketing and communications initiative and its first dedicated international education marketing program. As a leader, she championed employee engagement, diversity training, equity in hiring, Pride activities, student scholarships and bursaries, and RRC’s plan for implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
  • Harrison’s lifelong commitment to human rights and social justice has included advocacy for the LGBTQ2+ community. She was a member of a team that advanced same-sex adoption rights in Manitoba and part of the executive that worked with the RRC students’ association to create a new resource centre for LGBTQ2+ students on campus. As a journalist, Harrison received two prestigious Manitoba Human Rights Journalism Awards.
  • Harrison served as a member of the Travel Manitoba Board of Directors for six years. She also acted as a lead communicator for the Province when the CMHR was first being conceived and developed.

About Haran Vijayanathan:

  • Vijayanathan (he/him) has 15 years of experience in advocacy, strategic planning and program management with historically marginalized and underrepresented communities, including with the Wiisocotatawin Assertive Community Treatment Program at Mount Carmel Clinic and the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP). He also served as national strategic director for Fierté Canada Pride, and was founder of My House: Rainbow Resources in Toronto (York region).
  • Committed to providing a voice for those who’ve been silenced, Vijayanathan was challenged by issues of racism and homophobia involving police treatment of missing gay Middle Eastern and South Asian men during his time as executive director of the Toronto-based ASAAP. His advocacy work helped initiate the Toronto Police Services Board’s Independent Review of Missing Persons.
  • Vijayanathan has dedicated his career to challenging prejudice and discrimination and removing systemic barriers. As program manager of Mount Carmel’s Wiisocotatawin Program, he worked using culturally appropriate supports, including Indigenous models of service provision. His extensive experience supporting people living with HIV and AIDS includes program management and health promotion with the AIDS committees of Toronto and the York Region.
  • Through research and community partnerships, Vijayanathan opened the first LGBTQ2+ resource centre in the York region and was honored with a leadership award that reflects his commitment to community. He was also named 2018 Grand Marshall of Toronto’s Pride Parade.

Images for news release

Riva Harrison
Photo: CMHR, Thomas Fricke
Haran Vijayanathan
Photo: MCDP, Thomas Fricke

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Maureen Fitzhenry