(Still more) Behind the scenes at the museum

(with fervent apologies to Kate Atkinson, who, incidentally, is awesome, and if you aren’t reading her, you really should be)

Thanks to the miracle of mandatory disclosure of government-funded opinion research, we now have a pretty good idea what Canadians — or, at least, a sampling of focus group participants — don’t want in a federally-funded human rights museum — the slightest suggestion of bias in depicting contentious events, political interference, and any chance of catching sight of a “Welcome to WInnipeg” sign on the way there. So what do they want to see instead?

(That report, incidentally, didn’t come cheap -  $147,926.10 total, in fact, to TNS/The Antima Group, although It’s not clear whether that all went into the focus groups; it may include the cost of telephone or online surveys as well.)

According to the Antima Group’s report — and as teasered earlier in the original comment thread — the groups were asked to “create a list of possible topics and issues that might be presented in the CMHR.” The result was the following list – which is not, Antima stresses, in order of priority:

• Both world wars (and the Holocaust)
• Religious rights (specifically related to apparel)
• The reasonable accommodation debate
• Women’s struggle for human rights
• Aboriginal treaties/Native land claims
• Gay and lesbian rights
• Apartheid
• Amnesty International
• Canada’s peacekeeping history
• Multiculturalism
• Children’s rights, including child labour and the fight against child
• Freedom of speech
• Chinese head tax
• Japanese Canadian internment
• Residential Schools
• Slavery
• Rwanda
• Canadian Charter of Human Rights (and other legislative documents)
• Exile of Acadians to Louisiana (1755)
• Tiananmen square; Chinese rights
Some participants, mainly French speaking, felt the museum should be organized via themes rather than chronologically. The following were suggested:

• International: Right to vote, Aboriginals, slavery, equality, democracy
• What is the definition of human rights in each era?
• Unionization, labour rights
• Women’s rights, Aboriginal rights, etc.

The groups were also asked about “key milestones” in the history of human rights, both in Canada and around the world, as well as issues related to ongoing rights debates – same-sex marriage, for instance – as well as examples of Canada demonstrating, alternately, a betrayal of, or commitment to human rights, with fascinating results. I mean, anyone could’ve guessed that the Charter would be a popular choice, but it was surprising to see the labour movement and workers’ rights and economic justice show up so often on the various lists. Plus. Guantanamo Bay, slavery, abortion, the United Nations, indigenous hunting rights … which is right about when I realized how very, very tricky it would be to put together a sufficiently neutral exhibit on any of the following subjects:

Key Milestones
Some of the key milestones in the international and national development of human rights that were suggested for inclusion in the CMHR by focus group participants included:
• The development of the Canadian Charter of Human Rights
• Abolition of the slave trade
• Labour movements (the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 was
mentioned repeatedly in Manitoba)
• Voting rights for women and minorities
• Creation of the United Nations and the UN Declaration of Human
• Underground railroad
• Abortion
• Same sex marriage
• Democracy and its role in the advancement of human rights

Current Debates
Some of the current debates about the balance between human rights and other objectives that were suggested for inclusion in the CMHR by focus group participants included:
• Human rights versus political or security concerns (e.g. Guantanamo Bay prison)
• Human rights versus economic rights (e.g. quasi-forced labour and low wages in the name of higher standards of living)
• Community versus individual rights
• Trade with countries that have poor human rights records
• Development versus survival of Indigenous people
• School segregation (i.e. gender or cultural/religious)
• Same sex marriage
• Métis hunting rights
• Equal pay between men and women
• The Indian Act
• Stem cell research

Betrayal or Commitment to Human Rights in Canada
Some of the events in Canada that have betrayed or confirmed our commitment to human rights that were suggested for inclusion in the CMHR by focus group participants included:
• Charter of Rights in 1982
• Residential schools
• Japanese internment
• Aboriginal incidents, such as Ipperwash and Oka
• Expulsion of Acadians
• Chinese head tax


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