Upon arriving at The Forks minutes before the start of the ceremonies marking the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, I was surprised to find myself being ushered away from the actual site of the event and toward the opposite side of the museum, where an empty stage and big screen TV was set up.
The public, it would seem, was relegated to a “viewing stage” set up for the ceremony. A handful of spectators were watching under the dark, heavy clouds that were threatening rain.
Scaffolds and machinery were scattered around the area as workers continued to set up the stage for the following night’s festivities. When the rain finally came down, the already thin crowd began to disperse, while His Excellency The Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, ruminated about a rock at Runnymede.
As I moved along with the crowd, we went from the cold, wet grass to the dry shelter of The Forks Market. I wondered if this opening ceremony was a signal of things to come.
The CMHR has become a polarizing force in the city ever since its announcement. Many people are excited about the museum and the hope it engenders for the future, while others refuse to set foot in what they consider to be a waste of money.
As one bystander put it, ” I feel that it’s a slap against humanity to spend so much on opening up a conversation,” said Naomi Alexander. It’s ironic to be spending millions of dollars showcasing human rights when the money can be spent on protecting actual human rights, she added.
Still, it may have been gratifying for those attending the ceremony or watching live on TV, to hear Gail Asper give thanks to the crowd.
“This is all for you,” said Asper.
The Canadian Human Rights Museum opens to the public September 27,2014.
Top photo by Shireen Seesahai, featured photo by Doug Kretchmer