A step forward for human rights

The University of Manitoba and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) signed a memorandum of understanding May 30, establishing a partnership in education and research.

In a press release, David Barnard, president and vice-chancellor for the U of M, said the partnership gives the university an important opportunity “to help shape leaders, enhance our community and conduct research that changes the world.”
“Human rights are at the core of our work,” said Barnard.

Angela Cassie, a spokesperson for the CMHR, said that the museum has common priorities with the university.

“The reason we’re interested in this is to challenge people to take action for human rights.”

The university and the museum have already set their sights on future projects.
The two institutions are planning a lecture series scheduled for fall 2013. One lecture topic, “Fragile Freedoms: The Global Struggle for Human Rights,” will celebrate the opening of the museum.

According to Cassie, the series will “bring some of the world’s foremost thinkers on these topics to Winnipeg.”

The university will also play host to a series of seminars beginning this fall called “Critical Conversations: The Idea of a Human Rights Museum.”

Barnard said that, along with the development of exhibitions, other projects include educational and training programs.

The archival studies faculty will work with the museum to research, analyze and preserve human rights records and archives throughout the country, he said.
Students in the Asper School of Business will be creating and analyzing a survey for the benefit of the museum, said Cassie.

“It gives those marketing students some practical experience working with a client,” she said.

There will also be internship and volunteer opportunities available to students through the university, said Cassie, who believes that the partnership will start to position Winnipeg as a place to come to for human rights studies.

Twenty per cent of the employees at the new museum are U of M graduates, which Barnard said he sees as an example of a local opportunity for graduates to use their skills.

Elizabeth Mitchell, a U of M law student, said that that she hoped the partnership would present new opportunities for students and faculty.

“I think it is very exciting for the university,” said Mitchell.

The CMHR will serve on the advisory board for the new Canadian Journal for Human Rights being launched out of the faculty of law. It is the first academic journal in Canada with a focus on human rights.

“I think the memorandum of understanding is an absolute must,” said Donn Short, assistant professor in the faculty of law and editor of the new journal.

Short indicated that the presence of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights was one of the reasons he chose to come to the U of M.

Due to the museum and the university having identified human rights as a strategic initiative, he said the journal was “calling out to be done.”

According to Short, the partnership makes ventures like the journal possible.

He said believes the U of M is “perfectly situated” to become the place where academics would want to participate in conferences about human rights issues.
Barnard said that the memorandum will enhance the university’s position “as a leader in Canadian and global rights research, promotion and advocacy.”