Thank you very much for being here today.
We are so pleased to have Manli Ho here with us to speak about the experiences of her father, Dr. Feng-Shan Ho, during the Second World War. His moving story speaks to the importance of vigilance in the protection and promotion of human rights.
I would like to thank our partners – The Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Winnipeg Chinese Cultural and Community Centre, and B'nai Brith – for organizing Manli's visit and for giving us the opportunity to share her messages of hard work and hope with such a wide audience.
When the Canadian Museum for Human Rights opens to the public, visitors will get the opportunity to encounter hundreds of stories of struggle and perseverance like Dr. Ho's that will inspire people to take a stand for human rights and empower them to create a better world.
I am sure that most of you have seen the architectural icon that is nearing completion at the Forks – we have about 200 people working on site daily to bring the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to life and the base building is on track to be completed by the end of this year. The team at the Museum is also working extremely hard to put together the world-class exhibits, content and programming for the Museum's inauguration.
As this work continues, we look for opportunity to provide our future visitors with the chance to hear stories and personal experiences that enhance understanding of important human rights issues, and inspire people to promote a human rights culture. This is one of the reasons we are honoured to have Manli Ho with us today.
Her father's story, which she will share with us today, speaks directly to the goals of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights; his story shows how interconnected human rights issues are – how an action taken half way around the world can affect us here, at home, in Winnipeg. There are Holocaust survivors in Winnipeg today as a result of his actions. We hope to be able to demonstrate, where possible, the international, national, local connections within these stories. Dr. Ho's actions had an impact on our city!
But what Dr. Feng-Shan Ho's story also shows is that he made a decision not be a by-stander in the face of human rights violations – he made a decision to take a stand for what he believed was right and at great personal risk.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that "The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in times of challenge and controversy." In the times of challenge and controversy, in the face of the Holocaust, Dr. Ho stood strong against the human rights violations that he witnessed.
The Holocaust – the genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany against European Jews – has come to represent the very opposite of what we mean today by a human rights culture. When we look at how the Holocaust happened, we immediately see the huge anti-Semitic system of oppression and murder that the Nazis constructed. But we sometimes don't see that this system was enabled by many individual choices to just go along.
Some people went along because they were afraid. Others profited by going along. Some just didn't care about people outside their circle. Some were even convinced that going along was the right thing to do.
But a few individuals resisted this horrific system of violation through their individual actions. These few individuals were not able to stop the system, but they did make a difference. In some cases, thousands of souls were saved through their actions. Dr. Feng-Shan Ho was one of these rare individuals. He saw what was happening and made a choice to resist.
If there is one thing that we want visitors to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to take away from their visit, it is that they can make a difference. These actions can be small, like standing up for someone who is bullied or speaking out against a racist comment when you hear it. Or in extreme cases such as the Holocaust, these actions can be so big that they risk your own life to save the lives of others — like the actions of Feng-Shan Ho.
Every person can take action for human rights in their own right. The high vision of human rights can only work when individuals, in the course of their daily lives, decide to take action against anti-Semitism, discrimination and other violations. All of our human rights laws and institutions mean nothing, unless individuals like Dr. Ho – and like you and me – are willing to take a stand for the rights of others.