Good evening ladies and gentlemen, friends. I am very happy to be here tonight to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Outwords.
I want to begin by congratulating the contributors to Outwords — all of the writers, editors and photographers that have worked on this important magazine over the last fifteen years.
Outwords has made an incredibly important contribution to not only the Winnipeg LGBT community, but indeed Winnipeg at large by shining a light on LGBT issues and celebrating the people and events that have shaped the LGBT movement.
As a community, the LGBT movement is familiar with many firsts which is why I feel among friends here tonight, representing the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. We too are celebrating many firsts – we are the first new national museum to be established in Canada since 1967, the first to be established outside of the national capital region and the first national museum to be established with financial contributions from other levels of government with a very significant contributions from the private sector and frankly, we think we're the first human rights museum of this scope on the planet.
Scheduled to open in 2012, the CMHR is currently under construction at The Forks. Our official mandate is "to explore the subject of human rights, with special but not exclusive reference to Canada, in order to enhance the public's understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others and to encourage reflection and dialogue."
Notice this doesn't speak about collecting artefacts. It's a very broad and open mandate and it actually speaks of social change. Our goal isn't to find the truth, nor to present "the story"; rather it involves bringing many people together, challenging all to think differently, and to consider other points of view. We will also be learning ourselves. The language that we use to express human rights, what society defines as human rights, evolves through time. This evolution is characterized by struggles, challenges and victories. As we begin to approach these challenging issues, we still need to be a people‐friendly and welcoming place for all ages, genders, abilities, cultures, orientation and beliefs.
It is very important to celebrate each and every human rights achievement, and it is equally important for all of us to remain vigilant. With rights comes responsibilities; in order for everyone's rights to be respected and upheld, each of us has the responsibility to do what we can to ensure that this occurs. It is our responsibility as Canadians to continue to speak out and to ensure our voices are heard.
A right achieved is a right in need of protection. We cannot back down and become complacent. We must remain attentive and aware of the importance of these rights and the struggle to gain them in order to ensure their continued existence and respect. Not just for ourselves, but for every person on this planet.
On that note, I want to affirm my personal belief in the dignity and rights of all people. Like the evolution of human rights, my own knowledge on the subject is in perpetual expansion. I am open to opportunities to have conversations on my own understanding of human rights – the challenges, the triumphs and the common links between seemingly diverse situations and people.
I have committed to ensuring that sexual orientation and gay rights will be an important theme to be explored within the Museum and I will work to further develop the rich partnerships with human rights organizations and LGBT representative organizations, already begun by the Museum team to ensure that the community is involved, engaged and heard.
I want to note that the gay rights we speak of are also fundamental, inherent and entirely basic human rights. The right to be committed to the person we love is not a gay right, it's a human right. The right to raise children with peace and security and with access to education free from discrimination is not a gay right, it's a human right.
I know that many in the LGBT community have seen criticism of the Museum, suggesting we are interested in hearing LGBT stories or that we are biased against LGBT people. While not true, this sort of criticism is devastating for us. Unfortunately, some of the discourse has led members of our community to feel they have no place in the Museum. This is categorically not the case and I hope that those with issues to share will come forward and share them. Removing yourself from the discourse isn't the way to have your voice heard. I am aware that those in the LGBT community and friends of the LGBT community have been hurt before but I am here to say that there is a place for you at the table.
Thank you for inviting me to be here tonight and share in this wonderful historic and important anniversary celebration. This is Canada's Museum and I invite you to be a part of it. I look forward to working with all of you and we continue to develop this unique centre for human rights.