WINNIPEG - The office of Heritage Minister Shelly Glover says there was nothing untoward in a request to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to provide a complete list of exhibits that refer to the Government of Canada.
With only days left until the museum’s official opening, Glover visited the museum and made the request that entailed staff collecting information on dozens of exhibits.
Museum CEO Stuart Murray told the Toronto Star in an interview that the request and Glover’s visits to the museum were not a sign of political interference by Ottawa. “There is no political interference,” said Murray. “I’m glad they take an interest.”
Since the museum is part of Glover’s portfolio it’s understandable she would come to the museum and ask for information about the exhibits, Murray said.
“She’s taking great level of interest to see how we’re doing; how it’s coming along; what state of readiness we are,” said Murray. “And I’m thrilled and delighted. It shows she’s genuinely interested in the project.”
Glover’s press secretary Marisa Monnin said in a statement that the visit and meetings were business as usual.
“I can tell you that of course the minister of Canadian Heritage has visited the (museum), not only this past week, but several times over several years,” Monnin said.
“She has, in fact, visited almost every single national museum this year, as all national museums report to Parliament through her. As minister she is expected to be knowledgeable about all aspects of our museums. National museums are solely responsible for content as they operate at arm’s length.”
In earlier research, University of Manitoba law professor Karen Busby found some changes in the way some of the museum exhibits — including one of the exhibits on residential schools and Canada’s treatment of refugees — were defined in 2012 as compared to their descriptions in 2013, according to documents obtained through access to information legislation.
The reasons for the changes are not known, Busby said in an interview. “It could have been change of staff. It could have been government. It could have been the board or staff. I honestly don’t know and it could be a combination of all things.”
The Canadian government’s record on human rights — both good and bad — are all part of the museum, including Prime Minister’s Stephen Harper’s apology on Indian residential schools, former prime minister Brian Mulroney’s apology on Japanese interment, former prime minister John Diefenbaker’s Bill of Rights, and former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“All those things are there,” said Murray, the CEO. “That’s our lifeline. That’s our history.”
For close to 12 years the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the brainchild of the late media mogul Izzy Asper, has been in development.
It is scheduled to open this Friday. But when the Star visited Tuesday, the museum was still far from finished. Many exhibits were not yet installed and workers were putting finishing touches on many of the galleries.