Canada human rights museum stirs controversy as doors open

Fri Sep 19, 2014 2:56pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG Manitoba (Reuters) - Canada's museum showcasing human rights opened in the Prairie city of Winnipeg on Friday, dogged by controversy that began long before the first visitor arrived.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, a tower of glass and tyndall stone, riled cultural groups who question its content. This week, Canadians of Ukrainian and other backgrounds urged a boycott due to "the lack of a meaningful portrayal" of Canada's internment of so-called "enemy aliens" during the First World War.

"This is supposed to be a Canadian museum of human rights and really the internment should be front and center," said Marsha Skrypuch, whose grandfather was interned for about a year a century ago.

Skrypuch said she has no direct knowledge of the museum's contents, but does not plan to visit it and add to any impression that it is inclusive.

"Why would I go now? I would be used."

Musical group A Tribe Called Red pulled out of opening programs over concerns about how the museum presented indigenous issues.

"I don't think you could possibly build a human rights museum without there being controversy," said Gail Asper, a museum board member who championed its fund-raising drive. "What we want is for people to come in, check out the whole museum, see how everything fits together, and then, if they've got concerns, fair enough."

The museum was envisioned by her father, Israel "Izzy" Asper, who founded Winnipeg-based Canwest Global. Canwest became one of Canada's biggest media companies before later sliding into bankruptcy.   Continued...

Fireworks burst over the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba in this picture provided by CMHR-MCDP August 20, 2014.    REUTERS/Aaron Cohen/CMHR-MCDP/Handout via Reuters