Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Rights Museum Opening Draws Protests; CEO Says That's What It Is Supposed to Do

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Rights Museum Opening Draws Protests; CEO Says That's What It Is Supposed to Do

Article excerpt

Human rights museum opens in Winnipeg

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WINNIPEG - The head of Canada's newest national museum promised Friday that the towering building will spark debate, and aboriginal protesters proved him correct.

Armed with a bullhorn, the few dozen protesters who were kept outside the fenced-in area tried unsuccessfully to drown out museum CEO Stuart Murray and other dignitaries at the opening of the $351-million Canadian Museum For Human Rights. They called for government action on missing and murdered aboriginal women, living conditions on reserves and other issues.

They also accused the museum of downplaying Canada's mistreatment of First Nations.

"This museum will ignite passion and protest. There can be no other way," Murray told the crowd.

"The Canadian Museum For Human Rights will open doors to conversations we haven't had before. Not all of these conversations will be easy."

The museum has already come under fire by some aboriginal leaders for not using the term "genocide" to describe past Canadian policies toward First Nations. The aboriginal music group A Tribe Called Red pulled out of a planned performance at the museum this weekend in protest.

But other aboriginal leaders say the museum will educate Canadians about how indigenous people have been treated throughout the country's history.

"We will have an opportunity to learn that treaty rights are human rights, that treaties are a solution," Wilton Littlechild, a Cree lawyer and member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, told the crowd.

Crews have been toiling around the clock to finish the exhibits inside the museum -- the brainchild of the late media mogul Izzy Asper -- which looked very much like a construction zone during a media preview tour earlier in the week.

Some of the video screens that showed Dr. Henry Morgentaler and his supporters fighting for abortion rights were not working. Booths that sat underneath a giant media panel on darker moments in Canadian history were empty. A sign explaining the layout of a concentration camp was leaning on the floor.

The museum is to open to the general public in one week, but even then some exhibits might still need "final touches," according to museum spokeswoman Angela Cassie.

Despite the scramble, museum officials and local politicians have been clearly pleased about the stone, steel and glass building, which is only the second national museum outside the Ottawa region.

Designed by architect Antoine Predock, it is designed to bring visitors from the earthy darkness of the stone, subterranean lower levels to progressively lighter and more airy upper floors, finishing in the glass Tower of Hope, which stands higher than the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.

Inside, the museum seems a cross between a sombre educational institution and a high-tech playground. …

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