Winnipeg to be site of first “national” museum outside Ottawa

For the first time in Canada’s history, a national museum will be built outside the capital region of Ottawa-Hull.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

announced last week at the Fairmont Hotel in Winnipeg that the federal

government has reached an agreement with four public- and private-sector

partners — the city, province, the Friends of the Canadian Museum for

Human Rights and the Forks Renewal Corporation — to establish the $265-million Canadian Museum for Human Rights at The Forks. The museum is

expected to be completed by 2010.

The precedent set is that the new

museum will be on the same footing as national institutions in Ottawa-Hull such as the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum.

Gail Asper, the daughter of the late

Israel “Izzy” Asper who died in 2003

and first conceived of the museum,

vigorously pushed for the Canadian government to have federal funds available for the operation of the rights museum.  

The director and CEO of CanWest Global had approached local organizations such as the WinnipegREALTORS® Association to help pass on the message to the federal government of the importance of funding a “national” museum outside Ottawa.

“We will do whatever we can to support this great cause,” promised former association president Ruthe Penner at the time.

Asper, who took over the museum campaign from her late father, also

visited Harper a year ago and showed the prime minister there was wide-spread local support for the museum as demonstrated by the significant amount of private money donated towards the project.

Harper said the federal government will help provide for the museum’s

annual operating costs of about $22

million — admissions and further fund raising will cut into this amount, so the federal government’s actual contribution has not been decided — in addition to $100 million in capital support. 

Premier Gary Doer also announced during the ceremony that the Manitoba government will increase its capital

support from $31 million to $40 million. 

Doer said the federal government’s decision to provide for the museum’s

annual operating costs allowed the province to increase its support. 

The city has already committed $20 million toward the museum. 

The federal commitment of $100 million is contingent on its partners raising $165 million towards the cost of the museum. So far, about $70 million has been raised through private donations — the Asper family donated $20 million.

Harper also said the federal government will be responsible for ensuring the project stays on budget,

“Rights only flourish in free and democratic societies like Canada, where the principles of fairness, pluralism, and

justice are embedded in the history of the country and the values of its people, as well as the laws of their governments,” Harper said. 

“Manitoba’s rich history of human rights successes makes our province the ideal location for the museum,” said Doer. “In particular, it will be a fitting

addition to The Forks, which is the historic meeting place of aboriginal people. 

“The museum will pay tribute to past human rights successes, while helping to educate and teach us about the struggles of today and tomorrow.” 

The museum is also an important part of Manitoba’s vision for continuing to

revitalize downtown Winnipeg, he added.

“With the MTS Centre, the Millennium Library and Red River College

already thriving, and the new hydro building under construction, there is a

renewed energy and excitement in downtown Winnipeg. The museum will only add to that as it draws visitors from across our province and country.”

 In addition to attracting tourists,

construction and operation of the museum is expected to create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs in the coming years.

“Never before has there been a

collaboration of this scale to develop a national museum, but if ever there were a Canadian cultural institution suited for a private-public partnership, it is this one, because human rights can never be the exclusive preserve of the state,” added Harper.

According to the mission statement of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, it will be a national and international destination — a centre of learning and history where people can engage in dialogue and commit to taking action to combat the forces of hate and oppression. 

The museum will be the largest human rights centre in the world, with a special focus on equipping and educating young people to become human rights leaders and advocates.   

A $50-million endowment fund will provide funds for trips by students to the museum.

The museum’s design is meant to

provide an iconic symbol of Canada as dramatic and inspiring as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

Annually 800,000 people visit the Guggenheim in Spain. Visitors to the museum generate $100 million each year to the city’s economy.

The design for the new museum in Winnipeg includes an abstract glass building with the Tower of Hope rivalling in height Winnipeg’s tallest buildings.

Asper earlier told REALTORS® that her father insisted the museum  have a tower, because people link towers with major buildings and world-class facilities.

Asper further said her father strongly believed that there was no reason a national museum should not be located outside Ottawa and that Winnipeg’s central location made it a natural site for the new national institution.