Canada

Native activists question focus of human rights museum in Canada






The Canadian Museum for Human Rights has featured exhibits on Native residential schools. Photo from Facebook

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights opened to great fanfare in September 2014 but Native activists say it continues to ignore the issues faced in their communities.

The museum, located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, features a series of exhibits that explore the damaging effects of the Native residential school system. But activists say the information makes it seem like racism, environmental, legal and other issues are in the past.

"It’s the Great Canadian Myth on display," Leah Gazan, a member of the Wood Mountain Lakota Nation who has been active in the Idle No More movement, told The New York Times during a recent visit to the facility.

One issue directly affects the museum's operations. Winnipeg's water supply comes from a source whose creation has kept the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation cut off from the mainland for more than a century.

"Canada stole our land, imposed Winnipeg’s water intake on us, then abandoned us to cope with the results you saw today," Chief Erwin Redsky said in a statement to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who visited the reserve in late April.

"That act of colonial theft began what Canada’s new Museum for Human Rights has described as 'a cascade of human rights' implications, including a threat to our very existence," Redsky continued.

As the water surrounding their community provides for the needs of millions of people, residents have been under a boil water advisory for 19 years. They must rely on a ferry to access basic services or a dangerous ice road that has contributed to a number of deaths, the Canadian Press reported.

Trudeau's administration has promised to work with the city of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba to build a permanent, all-weather road to the reserve.

"The Human Rights Museum is very important if they have the courage to address the issues," Buffy Sainte-Marie, the award-winning activist, educator and musician, told CBC News.

Read More on the Story:
A Museum About Rights, and a Legacy of Uncomfortable Canadian Truths (The New York Times 10/6)
Buffy Sainte-Marie calls for adults only exhibit on residential schools at Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CBC 10/4)