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Speech delivered by CMHR President and CEO Stuart Murray at Manitoba UNESCO Schools Conference -

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Good afternoon. Hello!

Thank you for that introduction, and thank you for inviting me to speak with you today. 

I'm told we have people here today speaking some 21 languages and representing 34 different schools in Canada, the U.S., and as far away as Germany.

On behalf of everyone at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, welcome to Winnipeg.

I understand there have been a few comments about the weather.

It's true; there has been a slight chill in the air this week.

But as someone who grew up on the Canadian prairies, I want to assure you that it's not always this cold in Winnipeg.

Sometimes it's much colder.

The truth, though, is that people come to this great province in every season. They simply need a great reason to visit.

And as you're demonstrating today, the cause of human rights is a pretty good one.

We've long held this view at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and it's people and organizations like the Global College here at the University of Winnipeg who are already making our city a recognized destination for human rights learning and dialogue two years before our museum doors are even open.

So let me again salute our partners at the Global College, as well as Manitoba Education, for hosting this important conference. 

And a genuine thanks to you, the students and teachers who are here this week. 

We at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights recognize that the essential ingredient for human rights action is human rights education. 

That's the reason education is at the heart of our mandate as a museum, and I want to acknowledge your leadership for bringing your own insight and knowledge and passion around human rights issues here to Winnipeg.

I want to talk to you about three things this afternoon.

First, I want to give you a sense of why we're building this project called the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. 

This is an enormous project: 

Fifteen years in the making. An investment of three hundred and fifty one million dollars.

In our view, the time and money couldn't be better spent. But as you go back to your different cities and schools and talk about your time in Winnipeg, I hope you'll have an appreciation for why this endeavour is so important.

Second: I'd like to speak with you more about human rights education as a catalyst for action. 

I know we have a mutual passion here. 

This very conference is built upon on the understanding that when it comes to breaking down the barriers that divide us education, learning and dialogue are the most powerful tools we have.

Education is at the foundation of what we do at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and I'll tell you more about our approach to human rights learning.

Finally, I want you to know why you should care about this project after you leave here today.

Your lives have already been enriched with opportunities for travel and learning. 

You will only continue to be beckoned from many directions as you follow your dreams and follow your heart. But I hope you will stay connected with the museum no matter where your own journey takes you.

When I wasn't too much older than many of you here, I followed a dream of my own. I hit the open road managing the rock band Blood, Sweat & Tears. 

It was an incredible experience. From there, my career path has taken me from leading a business to leading a political party; from the health-care sector and now here, as CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

When I was your age, would I ever have guessed that my life would follow such a route?

Never.

And the paths of your own lives will unfold in many directions, and in ways you could never begin to anticipate today. 

Yet there are certain passions, certain convictions, and certain principles that we bring with us wherever we go. 

And as globally aware citizens who have already committed yourselves to the cause of human rights it's my hope that this museum we're building will always hold a place in your heart, and will be a place you think of often and return to many times. 

It's my hope you will come to see the Canadian Museum for Human Rights through the lens that I do: 

As an effective lever for action that allows us to speed up the pace of the most important kind of human progress: the kind that allows all citizens to live in this world free of barrier, and free to be who they are.

But let's start with why we're building a Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

There are many reasons, but I want to touch on two.

The first is to give others the tools to see the world as you do.

You come here today already committed to the cause of human rights. 

Already engaged.

Already endowed with a sense of purpose, passion and principle, and the knowledge that you have it within you to make this world a better place.

It's the job of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to equip others as you are equipped today.

Inspired to take action. Motivated to take action. 

The first step for anyone to be able to take action in the name of human rights is to recognize within themselves the capacity make a difference.

Every one of us can take a stand for human rights. But awakening that realization is the essential first step. 

Combining the inspiration to take action with the tools to make change is a recipe for real empowerment. 

Give people the right tools and they'll do some remarkable things. 

Well, that's what we're doing at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. 

Anyone can be a human rights champion if they have the inspiration and if they have the tools. 

So let's do that. Let's create more champions. 

Let's harness the stories of people making genuine change in the world; overcoming tremendous obstacles; demonstrating remarkable acts of resilience, courage and strength of human spirit. 

Let's learn from those stories. Let's talk about them. And then let's use them to identify new pathways toward building the kind of world that you in this room know is possible.

As a first step, let's build a place that reminds each of us that small acts can lead to big change. And that it's okay to speak up and speak out, even when your voice starts to shake.

We can create the inspiration to make a difference. We know this. And the Museum will ignite the spark in others that already burns within each of you.

We think the opportunity to cultivate human rights champions is a pretty good reason to build a human rights museum. 

And if we can inspire others to take up the cause of human rights, then we can accelerate the pace of change.

It's in part owing to leaders like yourselves that we can look out onto the world and see clear signs of progress. Sometimes, remarkable progress.

As little as ten, perhaps even five years ago, nobody would have taken you seriously if you said that a black person had a legitimate shot at becoming president of the United States. 

It would have been unimaginable.

Ten years ago, few would have even conceived of the idea that same-sex marriage could become legal, or something that both homosexual and heterosexual voters would cast a ballot for.

But look what's happened in the past couple years alone.

I look at the room and I know that most of the students here have grown up in the internet era. 

But at the start of it, even ten years ago, computer culture was almost entirely male-dominated. 

No one would have ever believed that in 2012 the CEOs of companies like Yahoo, Hewlett Packard and IBM would all be women.

So there's been incredible progress in an incredibly short period of time. Barriers standing in the way of universal human rights have been fast-falling. 

In a sense, we are all bearing witness to a remarkable and unprecedented wave of human evolution.

It's been your generation that has helped spur this tremendous change. And I do hope this imbues you with a sense of pride.

But don't stop now.

Because while we can look out onto the world and see the sort of progress I've just mentioned through a different lens we also see enormous human need and grinding human suffering that only continues to persist.

You know this well.

In many schools, bullying is endemic. 

Kids are shamed, taunted and hurt both physically and emotionally, just because of who they are.

Bullying is an affront to human rights, and it's an area where there's an enormous amount of work still to do.

But it's not just bullying.

Across North America, and certainly here in Canada, the barriers encountered by indigenous peoples are manyfold compared with the rest of the population. 

By some measures, we've scarcely made any progress at all in the past several decades. 

Even in December of 2012, when an Aboriginal baby leaves a hospital in a major city in Canada, that child is at dramatically higher risk of poverty, illness, disability, learning challenges, and contact with the child welfare and criminal justice systems than a non-Aboriginal child. 

In other words, before that kid even leaves the hospital, the odds are stacked against them. 

This is simply unacceptable in nations with the kind of wealth and privilege that we have in countries like Canada and the United States.

And while we've seen progress that has been nothing short of remarkable in the areas of gender rights, the rights of women, or the rights of the disabled I don't think there's any one of us in this room who could say that our job is yet finished. 

For too many people, human rights remain far from guaranteed. We continue to live in a world where there remains much suffering, much hurt, and needless barrier to full opportunity. 

So it begs the question:

Can we speed up the pace of progress? 

I know we can. 

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights will be a place where we can knock down those hurdles faster.

If we've seen tremendous change in the last ten years, let's commit ourselves to accelerating the pace of change in the next ten. 

And it's here that I want to talk about why our partnerships with teachers and schools and students like yourselves are so important for our museum.

As your conference today makes clear: 

The seed of change may be planted in the classroom and nourished in the classroom.

But taking a stand for human rights doesn't stop at the classroom door.

You know that. 

It's the same with our museum. 

Yes: You will be inspired, motivated and engaged while you're inside our magnificent building. But you're not going to be at the museum every day of the year.

And this is why over the past several years we've been working to build partnerships with schools and universities, teachers' organizations, ministers of education and human rights scholars across Canada.

Those relationships set the stage for one of the our most important accomplishments from the past number of months, which has been the development of our Learning and Programming department. 

We at the museum are committed to seeing the Canadian Museum for Human Rights have a very real benefit beyond our front doors.

In fact, with our educational partners, we're very deliberately trying to eliminate the boundaries between what we can offer inside the walls of our museum and the lessons and conversations you may have inside the classroom. 

And here's our most recent example:

Just last week at the museum's annual public meeting we were very pleased to welcome the president of the Canadian Teachers' Federation, which represents some 200,000 teachers in cities across Canada. 

Well, Canada's teachers are already at the forefront of human rights education in this country. 

Teachers like those in this room today are already bringing age-appropriate learning around bullying, racism, gender, ability, sexual orientation and other issues into the classroom. 

But what happens if teachers here in Winnipeg have developed an effective classroom resource that expands our kids' understanding of human rights issues? 

Could there be a way that educators in Vancouver or Halifax or Montreal could also have access to those teaching tools?

Similarly, if teachers in other Canadian cities have put together innovative learning resources that are proving effective, could they be shared with teachers here?

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Canadian Teachers' Federation have joined forces to make this happen.

Together, we have made a commitment to work with educators across Canada to build a nation-wide inventory of human rights teaching tools.

The result will be an unprecedented national toolkit for Canada's teachers –– a resource that will open the doors to new ways of teaching about human rights issues, and, we believe, will mark a new era in the way Canadian students, students like yourselves learn about human rights.

The creation of a Canadian Museum for Human Rights is what allows us to undertake a national initiative on this scale. 

In very real terms, this will be a tool that ensures that the kind of work you're doing at the conference today can be shared in meaningful ways with teachers and students across the country. 

And, I know we have students here today from the United States and other nations too.

I want to assure you that you will have full access to these kinds of resources. In fact, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights will always be open to you, both when you visit, but also each time you pick up your smartphone or open your computer.

As our director of new media likes to say, technology is a tool that enables dialogue. 

Social media and the web have become essential tools both for conversation and action, and the museum's offerings will be available to you no matter where in the world you may be. In fact, your contributions from abroad will only enhance the experience we can offer to everyone.

With education at the heart of what we do, we have tremendous opportunity to leverage the contributions that each of us can make as individuals for the benefit of us all.

But the thought that I most want to leave you with and the reason that I hope you'll come to feel the great sense of pride in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights that I do begins with a slightly different take on a quote you've heard many times:

"Be the change."

"Be the change you want to see."

You've heard this as individuals. Perhaps it's even been mentioned during the course of this conference.

But we're taking it a step further. We're building it into the very fabric of a building and an organization. 

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is a place that both stands as a symbol of human rights, but also lives its values.

Ours is a museum where people of every ability will be able not just to feel welcome, but to actively participate. 

And that's because we've changed the way that not only buildings, but exhibits are developed. 

We have a national team of advisors, each of them with a disability, who are ensuring that inclusion isn't something we try and fit in. Instead, we ensure it's built in. 

We consult directly with Aboriginal elders, as well as our Aboriginal youth advisory council. 

Why? Because building a relationship of trust doesn't happen from the top down. It has to start before there's a shovel in the ground.

Right now we're doing the work of determining our admissions pricing. And yes, we need to look at a fair price that will cover our operating costs. 

But we also look at another kind of fairness, and that's an organizational policy that will ensure there will never be a financial barrier to anyone who arrives at our doors. 

A human rights museum must have its door open to all. 

And, ours is a museum where if a person about your age asks if there will be washrooms in the museum that transgendered visitors will feel comfortable using and we got this question last week, incidentally the response isn't a bewildered look.

Rather, the response is, "Yes. Absolutely we will. Because this is your museum, and you will feel welcome here no matter what you look like, where you're from, or who you are."

So when you go back to your classrooms, whether across town, across the country, or across the world know that there is a place that there will always be a place where the language of human rights is spoken freely, and where all people are celebrated, valued, accepted and welcome. 

When you're in need of a moment of inspiration of your own, think of this place, and know that there is always at least one place where the light of human rights shines bright.

Share the kind of pride in this project that we at the museum do. 

Embrace it as your own.

Stay in touch with us. Share your insights with us. 

In 2014, when we open our doors, come visit us. 

And when you do, look forward to leaving full of ideas, full of new energy, and with new tools that will let you build on the kind of work you're doing together here in Winnipeg today.

Bon voyage. Safe travels home. 

I look forward to our paths meeting again soon.

Thank you.