Art by Larisa | 01May2011 | Larisa Sembaliuk Cheladyn

Need for Canadian content in CMHR

Broken Dreams - sketch
Hi Everyone,

Those of you who are familiar with my work know that I enjoy projects that involve research and interpretation.   "Flowers of the Bible", "Baba's Garden", "Celebrating Women", and the Leonard Cohen collection "Dance Me..." could not have been created without access to libraries, archives and museums.  These facilities have been my life-line.

So I was very excited to hear about the new museum in Winnipeg -- The Canadian Museum for Human Rights.  Those of you who are teachers, historians, writers, composers, lawyers were probably right there with me -- expecting a Canadian facility that would focus on and address Canadian issues with a global perspective.

My presumption has been that there would now be a world class museum with resources that focuses on enlightening us, our students, our children and our visitors with respect to Canadian injustices, Canadian Human rights accomplishments as well as global issues that have deeply impacted Canadians (and were in fact the reason for many immigrating to Canada).

I not only paint, I also teach and I have really been looking forward to directing my students to the new facility and personally exploring the CMHR for some specific information related to sensitive Canadian topics e.g. Residential Schools, WWI Internment, Canadians as Peace Keepers as well as international issues that have had a deep impact on Canadians, such as the Holocaust, the Holodomor and atrocities in Rwanda just to name a few.

However, many of you, like myself have probably become aware that the proposed content of the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights, may not meet our expectations. I refer specifically to the proposed permanent displays, which sadly seem to be short on Canadian content.  This will probably in turn also be reflected in the digitally available material, which usually runs parallel to, and complements permanent displays. Permanent displays are the ones that are always there. They are the displays that give the overall perspective on the issues and how they have shaped and moulded our community/country, and permanent displays exhibit the information that we the visitors hope to have access to at any time. I want permanent Canadian content, I need permanent Canadian content in order to continue my research, paint new paintings and create new collections and I expect that actual and virtual visitors to the museum are anticipating the same.

It appears that there are some who feel that community input into this matter isn’t warranted.  I, however, disagree.  Attached is a Media Release that is being circulated by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association. It is in response to a small group who seems to feel that speaking our mind and demanding that our public facilities offer equal representation is none of our business.  Though the release speaks to issues specific to Ukrainian Canadian concerns with the CMHR it will give you a broader understanding of the issues at hand that effect everyone. Please read it for more background.

I'm not ready to accept this shortfall in public resources. I know I do not live in Winnipeg, but I do visit the city and would visit the museum and I would definitely be one of their regular digital/ virtual visitors.  My tax dollars are going towards this new museum, my community donations have also been directed there. Whether as an individual or as a group  I expect better and hope you support me in letting the Canadian Museum for Human Rights know that they can create the best in the world by working with the Canadian community, not excluding it. 

If you are in agreement please feel free to forward my comments and the attached Media Release.

I appreciate your help and support in assisting me in my research for upcoming projects.

Thank you,

Sembaliuk Cheladyn