Canadian Museum for Human Rights — believe in possibility of new vision for our province

Winnipeg has been on a roll with significant capital projects such as the Winnipeg Floodway expansion, the new James Armstrong Richardson International Airport redevelopment and the soon-to-be-completed downtown Manitoba Hydro office tower. Just this week, a new luxury 100-room hotel was announced as part of the Winnipeg airport redevelopment.

Future airport patrons may come from all corners of the globe to visit our planned Canadian Museum for Human Rights, a project unique to Winnipeg and Canada with the potential to become one of the icons defining the nation.

The museum presents Canada with the opportunity to influence and change attitudes toward human rights. Its youth and educational component will have an intergenerational impact. Human rights stories will be told to enrich people’s understandings of human failures and victories. It will position Canada as a place where democracy and diversity are respected. 

Located at The Forks, an historical meeting place first used by aboriginal people 6,000 years ago, the museum’s world-class design will become an identifiable feature of Winnipeg’s skyline.

Winnipeg REALTORS® plan to be actively involved in helping the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights with their private-sector fund-raising capital campaign. 

Gail Asper, the campaign chair of the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, wrote the following to describe the importance of the museum to Winnipeg and Manitoba, which appeared in the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce’s summer 2008 edition of The Chamber Wire.

It’s about opportunity

History proves that it takes the strength of a new idea to totally transform a community.  The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; a country/western entertainment Mecca in Branson; Disneyworld in Florida, to name just a few, have transformed regional, isolated communities into booming tourist attractions and vibrant communities. Now, it’s our turn. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is a rare, but precious gift to this community, given by a federal government bold enough to break with precedent and take a leap of faith. 

In the words of one of our donors, “it’s once-in-a-lifetime, unique, iconic, historical and monumental project that will far surpass anything our city has done in the past.”  

In more practical terms, it means the infusion of $100 million in capital and an ongoing infusion of $22 million annually from the Canadian government into Manitoba. In a sense, we’ve managed to leverage $105 million in private investment plus $60 million in combined provincial and civic investment for a combined return of approximately $650 million of federal dollars into this community in the next 25 years alone.  Bravo Manitoba! This translates into more than 1,000 direct jobs for Manitobans during construction and nearly 500 creative jobs each year thereafter. 

But, hold on a minute — these are just the benefits the Museum itself will generate. What about the possibilities we haven’t yet begun to imagine?  

On the human rights theme, with the combined efforts of University of Winnipeg’s Global College and University of Manitoba’s Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice, we will create an international human rights destination with limitless possibilities for leaders’ summits, think-tanks, mega-conferences and opportunities to attract young people here for world-class, post-secondary study in human rights. 

In addition, Rotary International will fund trips for thousands of students from around the world to travel to Winnipeg as part of an international human rights program — in addition to the 20,000 students who will come here annually as part of the Museum’s education program.   

In terms of tourism, we have an opportunity to leverage the museum’s draw and develop new reasons for coming to Manitoba.  Why not a national portrait gallery, an historic Upper Fort Garry site, professional football in a state-of-the-art new stadium, a Winnie the Pooh museum, a re-developed Assiniboine Park, not to mention the world-class cultural offerings we already have here and need to market more boldly.  Build it and they will come! And if they come, you can bet that new hotels, boutique hotels, an expanded convention centre, bus tours, river tours, cultural tours, restaurants, entertainment complexes will follow, infusing millions of dollars into our local economy.   

In terms of training and development opportunities, imagine global companies sending their employees here for sensitivity training and to learn how to integrate across cultures and borders. Imagine a national training centre for peace keepers and others or a place for new immigrants to learn of the history that made this country great.  

Imagine real estate selling for a premium, especially in the area around the museum and the new taxes generated, not only from museum operations but all the other entrepreneurial ventures.  Imagine the museum becoming the catalyst to draw this community, and, indeed our world, closer together, learning to respect, care for and include each other and valuing what each of us brings to the table.  And imagine the pride we will all feel in knowing the role Winnipeg played in creating a better world. 

Now is not the time to be stymied by cynicism. Now is the time to start believing in possibility and a new vision for our city.     

And if we do, who knows  maybe one day Chicago will aspire to be the “Winnipeg” of the South.