Andrew and I have visited the Canadian Museum for Human Rights a few times since it’s opened. (Including to attend a screening of the fabulous Last Objectors documentary). I still don’t feel like I’ve explored it all, not closely enough anyway. There’s a lot to learn. And, absolutely stunning architecture to boot. If you’re in Winnipeg, it’s definitely a must-visit attraction.
The museum doesn’t so much provide answers, as raise questions. I guess it’s post-modern in that sense. It exposes people to a range of perspectives on human rights, as well as informing people about a range of human rights struggles over the years from the civil rights movement in the United States, to the Holocaust and Holodomor, to residential schools in Canada. All of these are topics we could all stand to learn more about.
But the Museum also explores some lesser known stories, including the stories of the Mennonites. Yes, in this vast enormous museum, there are a few mentions of Mennonite people. Here are a couple examples:
“Banned from the Ballot” – This exhibit discusses how during World War I, Prime Minister Robert Borden banned Mennonites, Quakers, and other Conscientious Objectors from voting. Yeah, you wouldn’t want someone voting for peace now would you? Of course, the other question this raises for me is: Were Mennonites even voting 100 years ago? When did that start? Because I was always under the impression Mennonites didn’t participate in politics until much later. Anyway, this isn’t mentioned in the museum, but soon after this, Mennonites were banned entirely from immigrating to Canada.
“Freedom of Belief” – In a display about different freedoms, a tongue screw used to torture early Anabaptists and a picture from Martyrs Mirror is on display. I love the fact this is right next to a copy of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (one of Andrew’s favourite writers). Howl is on display to illustrate “Freedom of Speech,” as it was a controversial poem at the time and Ginsberg was even brought to trial for obscenity. Of course, in more recent decades, Mennonites have not been too kind on our poets, either. But that’s a topic for another post.
Anyway, there is so much material at the museum, much of it electronic, that I’m sure I may have missed a few Mennonite mentions.
Mennonite or not, this museum is worth a visit (or two or three).