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Speech delivered by CMHR President and CEO Stuart Murray at the CMHR's 2012 Annual Public Meeting

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Thank you, Eric.

Good morning!

Thank you to our wonderful hosts at Sisler High School, and hello and bonjour to all who are joining us today, both here in Winnipeg and online.

C'est un grand plaisir pour moi d'être ici avec vous. J'aimerais aussi vous exprimer ma plus sincère gratitude pour votre intérêt dans le Musée canadien pour les droits de la personne.

If you're a reader of our weekly blog –– or if you follow us on Twitter or Facebook –– you're already familiar with some of the work our staff are doing as we build toward our inauguration in 2014.

But public meetings like this are also very important.

They're an opportunity to step back and reflect on the big picture, and they give us a chance to speak directly to Canadians about the work we've been doing over the past year and the steps that lay ahead.

And let me tell you this:

When I step away from my desk and think about where this museum is at today, and what our team has accomplished over the past year, I am very proud.

And here's why:

The process of building a human rights museum –– and getting it right –– is complex.

At every step, to do it right, it means ensuring our decisions reflect what we heard during our national public engagement sessions;

It means ongoing dialogue with communities, human rights advocates, and academic advisors;

It means ensuring our decisions can stand up to the scrutiny and expectations of external reviewers, and most importantly, to the high expectations Canadians have set out for us.

In practical terms, this means building a human rights museum that will be a source of national pride.

There's is passionate debate over how this museum tells certain stories. And there is debate over which stories we should tell.

In fact, spirited discussion will accompany every significant aspect of this project.

This is how it should be.

Human rights are best defended through education and public awareness – which require open dialogue and vigorous debate. There are many ways our subject matter could be approached. Everyone has an opinion, some strongly so.

Our challenge, as the Museum's leadership, is to make the difficult decisions about inaugural program content, knowing there will never be unanimous agreement.

If your museum is intended to memorialize and commemorate, then it might be appropriate to focus only on tragedy. But if your museum is intended to educate and inspire action, then you must also include examples of where action has led to progress on human rights.

So you have to do two things. You have to find powerful ways to showcase the problems – to help people learn why action is essential. And you have to find powerful ways to showcase how action can yield results – to help people learn that they can make a difference.

That is what we mean when we say that we're striving for a balanced approach. We're not talking about sugar-coating history or covering up abuses. We're talking about injecting hope.

And we need to do that through a Canadian lens, using a Canadian perspective and ensuring Canadian examples are included. This is, after all, a Canadian national museum.

So when we talk about positive stories, we are talking about things like Canada's world leadership on same sex marriage legislation. We are talking about a commitment to Truth and Reconciliation and acknowledgements of the abuses of Residential Schools. We are talking about public apologies as a pathway to healing. We are talking about the rise of anti-bullying programs and acceptance of language rights.

But we will also tell the stories of where Canada has fallen short. That will be essential as well. But it can't be the only thing. You cannot simply become a hall of grievances.

Which brings me back to EDUCATION. That is the purpose of school's like Sisler High. And it is also the purpose of our Museum. Our galleries, exhibits and public programs will be designed to educate and inspire action for human rights.

And we are making solid progress towards that goal. That is what gives me pride as I reflect on where we've come, and where we're at today.

A year ago we had a steel-and-concrete shell.

Today, we have an architectural marvel; the exterior of our building fully formed, right down to the final piece of glass.

A year ago we had some excellent blueprints for exhibits and galleries –– blueprints based on a tremendous volume of consultation, collaboration and continued refinement.

But today, we're moving from planning to producing.

Working with some of the most creative firms in Canada and the world, we've started the process of developing the exhibits you'll see when you visit the museum in 2014.

A year ago, we promised that a key focus of this museum would be rich public programming that would offer new opportunities to learn and talk about human rights.

Today, with our doors not even open, we're already making good on that commitment, with public events like the Holodomor lecture series that we offered in several Canadian cities just last month.

Two years before opening –– and we're already making a downpayment on our promise to open new doors to learn and converse and take action on critical issues around human rights.

Our remarkable building at the Forks is the structure of our Museum, but education is the heart and soul.

We're building partnerships with schools and universities, teachers' organizations, ministers of education and human rights scholars across Canada.

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

Our Learning and Programming staff are committed to seeing that this museum benefits every classroom in this country.

Not just when students are visiting the museum, but every day. And this morning, we're announcing an initiative that will make that happen.

I'm very pleased to acknowledge the presence here today of Paul Taillfer, president of the Canadian Teachers' Federation, who has travelled from Ottawa to join us today.

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

They're already bringing age-appropriate learning around bullying, racism, gender, ability, sexual orientation and other human rights issues into the classroom.

But what happens if teachers here at Sisler 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?

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

It's my great pleasure to announce this morning that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Canadian Teachers' Federation have joined forces to make this happen.

Together, we will 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 learn about human rights.

This is not just a great idea. It's an initiative we are already setting in motion, and it's another clear illustration of progress at the museum.

This national toolkit is an important example of ideas being translated into action and collaboration that helps us meet common objectives. I'd like to thank the Museum team for their efforts in bringing us to this point while we are still under construction. Merci Paul and the Canadian Teachers Federation. We are proud to work with you.

This transition –– from planning to operations –– underscores the core of our focus at the museum in recent months, and certainly the focus over the year ahead.

Inside our building, you'll see this shift to operations as we turn on the interior lighting. The Tower of Hope has already become a permanent fixture on the city's skyline and a popular subject for photographers.

You'll see this shift to operations as we bring on key staff in line with our multi-year staffing plans.

Just last week in fact, we posted a number of positions in areas such as facilities management, security planning and retail –– key operational roles that are a part of ramping up to our inauguration in 2014.

You'll see this shift to operations as we make more of the kind of programming announcements like the one we're making today.

And you'll see this shift as we roll out details of our updated inaugural gallery plans in the spring of 2013, and also provide a sneak peek or two at the tools and technologies we'll be using to bring our exhibits to life.

And our opening date will be… announced in the first half of 2013.

Choosing that date is a product of discussion between the museum, our master exhibit designer, the firms who are fabricating our most ambitious and complex interactive exhibits, and our tourism partners, both domestically and abroad, who are working with us to ensure we can leverage the ideal timing to bring a new product to market.

The work to secure the date of our inauguration is happening right now.

We have, without question, some incredibly busy months ahead of us.

During the panel discussion today, you'll hear from people who are helping develop our content and programs.

Our remarkable research and curation team is leading the way on content development. They are an incredibly talented group of academics with top-notch credentials in fields related to human rights.

Our Design, New Media and Collections department is managing production of over 80 different projects – an incredible workload, but they're doing it. 

Our Learning and Programming team is not only coordinating the educators' toolkit we announced today, but a broad portfolio of educational programs for students and the general public.

We have an amazing pool of talented staff. Many have worked at some of the best museums in Canada and the world and in universities across the country. They have worked at places like:

The Canadian Museum for Civilization
The Canadian National War Museum
The National Gallery of Canada
Pier 21 museum in Halifax
The Alberta Art Gallery
Parliament Hill and
The Olympic Games committee

I have never felt more exhilarated about this project than I do today, nor more proud of the people here—people who have taken what was once nothing more than idea, and built it into what we see today.

And we're not done yet.

Whether you're joining us today at Sisler High School, from elsewhere in Canada or somewhere else in the world, I invite you stay in touch with us.

Read our blog. Follow us on Twitter. "Like" our Facebook page.

We are ramping up. It's full steam ahead until our doors are open, and we will continue to have new stories and new achievements to share with you.

Thank you, everyone, for sharing this day with us. Thank you for your interest, your insight, your commitment to human rights issues, and your embrace of this remarkable project.

Le Musée canadien pour les droits de la personne est votre musée. Il vous appartient.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is your museum. It belongs to you. And the progress we've made today is fully yours to celebrate.

I now ask our Chief Financial Officer, Susanne Robertson, to walk you through some of the highlights.