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Best New Attraction

What to Expect at Winnipeg’s Gorgeous Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Courtesy Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Courtesy Canadian Museum for Human Rights

By Joelle Kidd

With stunning architecture, a strong mandate, and an eye towards a future of purpose and hope, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is leading the charge for human rights education.

Courtesy Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Courtesy Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Rights for All

Entering into the cool, dark belly of the CMHR feels like the beginning of a journey. This is intentional. Architect Antoine Predock took painstaking care to integrate the building into the land, incorporating elements such as concrete stained the colour of Red River clay, and more than 50 species of indigenous tall grass prairie planted on either side of the building’s concrete “roots”. A massive screen displays video of silhouetted figures writing ‘welcome’ in 36 different languages. Nearby, a fossilized footprint discovered during an archeological dig of the museum’s site in 2008 reinforces this ground’s status as an historical meeting  place; this particular moccasin print is 750 years old.

It’s an impressive start to a visit, one that shows the care taken with every detail in the vast museum. The philosophy is holistic: from the building’s design to individual exhibits, every part of the experience points back to a mandate based around promoting greater understanding of human rights and prompting reflection and dialogue.

The CMHR marks a new generation of museum, one that promotes interaction and hands-on learning, that doesn’t shy away from technology, and is more interested in posing questions than loading visitors up with facts. This is not to say the museum is lacking in material: more than 100 hours of video, 250 artifacts and works of art (including 10 original art pieces), 2,543 images, and 100,000 words of original text are packed into the mammoth space.

Luckily — you guessed it — there’s an app for that. The experience-enriching application is free to download, full of content like an audio tour for self-guided wandering, the ability to sense nearby exhibits, a ‘mood meter’ that allows visitors to rate how they’re feeling and take the temperature of every gallery, and a GPS overlay that adds “hotspots” to a camera’s view of the Winnipeg skyline, pointing out additional attractions in the city.

Moving through the galleries is a conceptual journey from darkness to light, following criss-crossing ramps of backlit Spanish alabaster from the shady entranceway to the sun-dappled Garden of Contemplation, a basalt stone space offering respite and reflection, and up to the glass-walled Tower of Hope, the brilliant panoramic sweep of which symbolizes the impact of changing one’s perspective. Along the way, multimedia exhibits challenge, educate, and inspire. Global events, historic documents, deeply personal stories, and powerful works of art all share the space, providing a deep, rich, and multifaceted view of human rights. Without shying away from the past, the museum points to a better future, highlighting human resilience and ingenuity in the fight for all people to be recognized as free and equal.

Courtesy Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Courtesy Canadian Museum for Human Rights

What You’ll See

The Stories

Lean about historical and contemporary human rights issues through powerful personal stories.
Racial segregation in Canada. A collection of documents and a recreation of a 1940s movie house pay tribute to Viola Desmond, a black Nova Scotian woman who was arrested after sitting in the white-only section of a segregated movie theatre.
Holocaust survivor. Sigi Wasserman, like thousands of Jewish children in Germany, was sent along to Great Britain to escape the Nazis.
Inspiring youth. Craig Kielburger began advocating against child labour when he was only 12 years old. He went on to create an international charity, Free The Children, and the We Day initiative.
A singing activist.
Read about the life of First Nations singer/songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, hear one of her songs, and see the Oscar she won for her song, “Up Where We Belong”.
Lifting the veil. See Quebec artist Andreanne Paquet’s photo exhibit of Muslim women wearing the hijab, which aims to promote understanding and express freedom of choice.

The Artifacts

Keep an eye out for these fascinating items on display.
A ballot box. This unassuming object has historical significance as the box that held the votes cast in South Africa’s 1994 election, in which Nelson Mandela was elected president.
Suitcases. See luggage belonging to Japanese Canadians interred in camps during World War II.
The world’s largest Metis beaded artwork. This record-holder stands 18 feet tall, made by artist Jennine Krauchi with thousands of antique beads dating back to the fur-trade era.
The Proclamation of the Constitution Act of 1982. The original document, signed by Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, enshrines Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
A red prom dress. Worn by Mareisha Rucker, who organized her school’s first integrated prom in Wilcox, Georgia, in 2013.

The Technology

Try out these high tech interactive activities.
The circular basket theatre. An original film exploring Indigenous conceptions of rights and responsibilities plays on a 360 degree screen inside a theatre made from ‘woven’ wood.
Interactive table game. This digital exhibit reacts to shadows of visitors’ hands passing over it.
Lights of Inclusion floor game. A motion sensor tracks movements with colourful spotlights that merge and tremble when visitors interact.
Interactive study table. This long, touch screen table contains information and images about 16 atrocities from around the world.
Digital canvas. A 95-foot canvas in the Canadian Journeys gallery plays silent films that tell individual stories of human rights.

Visitor Information

Visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights website for admission prices and hours. 90 minute guided tours are available, as well as self-guided audio tours for mobile device from the App Store or Google Play. 3-4 hours are recommended to delve into the CMHR’s massive array of content.

More Winnipeg Attractions:

Visit Wild Churchill Without Leaving Winnipeg at the Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

By Dunja Kovacevic

Tundra Treasures

Peer into the little explored but often mythologized world of the Arctic tundra with the Assiniboine Park Zoo‘s landmark exhibit, Journey to Churchill. Cutting-edge technology, top of the line research facilities, unparalleled attention to authenticity and environmental stewardship have set the bar for polar bear conservation centres, now recognized as the “Manitoba Standard”.

Mother bear and cubs by Keith Levit

Mother bear and cubs by Keith Levit

Majestic Manitoba

The story of Canada’s north is still a largely untold one. With environmental crises looming, the role that Manitoba has in protecting the legacy of the north and shaping the narrative of future generations is becoming increasingly important. By dazzling the senses and engaging the public, Journey to Churchill represents a monumental step towards Winnipeg’s growing reputation as a global leader in environmental and human rights.

The ambitious exhibit is both a love song to the untapped beauty of the north and a ringing call to arms. Opened in 2014, it is the first exhibit of its kind, aimed at education about climate change and conservation issues focused on northern species. According to Margaret Redmond, President and CEO of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy (APC), Journey to Churchill is “unparalleled in the zoo world in terms of its focus on northern wildlife and the immensity of the space given.”

Photo by Brad McCann

Photo by Brad McCann

Polar Bear Pilgrimage

Some 10-12,000 eco-tourists and adventure seekers file northward to Churchill, Manitoba’s Arctic jewel, each year in search of the Great White. Aptly named the “Polar Bear Capital of the World”, the wind-swept tundra has become a mecca for the world’s largest terrestrial predators, located at the crosshairs of their migratory patterns. Thrill seekers take to the frozen expanses of the tundra to catch a glimpse of these incredible carnivores.

While nothing can mimic the heart-pounding adventure of interacting directly with the bears in their icy environment, Journey to Churchill offers and experience of observing polar bears and other northern species undetected. Within the expanse of the exhibit are four main areas: the Wapusk Lowlands, Gatewa to the Arctic, Churchill Coast and the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre.

The Gateway to the Arctic contains polar bears and their primary food source, the ringed seal, in adjacent pools separated only by a thin clear wall. Expect dynamic interactions between the animals, who are able to see and smell one another through the wall, as they pivot and thrash in the exhilarating quickstep between predator and prey.

Perhaps most exciting is the Sea Ice Passage, a 10-foot wide acrylic tunnel that serves as the primary vantage point for viewing polar bears and ringed seals beneath the water. The exhibit functions as a “living laboratory” says Redmond, presenting rare and unique opportunities for field researchers to observe behavioural patterns of polar bears and seals beneath the ice.

Along with boundless roaming space, the exhibit features an on-site state-of-the-art research facility. The International Polar Bear Conservation Centre not only promotes conservation research, but is home to the only transition centre for orphaned and at-risk polar bear cubs rescued by Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship. At the centre, they are rehabilitated before being relocated to designated safe areas.

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Staggering Specs

In order to begin construction on the exhibit, 86,699 metres of earth had to be transported. The tundra area of the exhibit, home to caribou, musk ox, snowy owls, and arctic foxes, covers 3,714 square metres. Polar bear roaming grounds within the exhibit span an immense 9,507 metres squared. Pools for polar bears and seals contain a total of 1,959,714 L of water. The indoor Polar Playground and Tundra Grill alone house some 238 people. The cutting edge 360 degree domed Aurora Borealis Theatre measures over 13 metres in diameter, and 5.5 metres high. Despite these scale considerations, the zoo is making every overture towards sustainability, even seeing a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification from the Canada Green Building Council.

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Gathering Ground

Parks and zoos have long been spirited gathering grounds for families and larger groups. With this in mind, the Churchill Coast area is focused on immersive family fun. Children can explore the Polar Playground, which is packed with interactive and educational activities such as a moving ice-mass floor that responds to footsteps. Parents can unwind at the Tundra Grill, a fast-casual cafeteria-style setting with massive windows overlooking Churchill.

Also located within the Gateway to the Arctic is the Aurora Borealis Theatre, which hosts a domed 360 degree viewing screen. An interactive video weaves the interconnected legacy between the people, plants, and animals of Canada’s north. At night, the room is transformed into a bewitching backdrop for storytelling and concerts while the Northern Lights play above.

Visit the Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s website for information on hours and admissions.

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Why Winnipeg’s Convention Centre is a Destination of its Own

With its stunning design and massive footprint, the RBC Convention Centre represents the vibrancy of Winnipeg’s downtown. 

By Joelle Kidd
Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

Even the most lively discussion seems to pause when a group of travellers reaches York Avenue. Suddenly, they are awash in colourful light from glittering bulbs suspended over their heads. Most likely, the colours were chosen by an event organizer; rainbow stripes for the city’s Pride Parade, the logo colours of a corporation hosting a conference. Streetside, it hardly matters—all eyes are gazing upward.

This display is part of what has surely become downtown’s new showpiece. It’s hard not to gush about the newly expanded RBC Convention Centre, with its colourful lights, spectacular glass facade, and airy, open spaces stretching on and on.

What can’t be seen are the years of dreaming and meticulous planning that led to this building’s creation.

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

The Vision

The Winnipeg Convention Centre (as it was then called) has been a staple of the city’s downtown since 1975. Holding the distinction of being the first purpose-built centre of its kind in Canada, the space was imagined as a revitalizing force for Winnipeg. The project had its share of detractors—after all, it involved recognizing the destination potential of a relatively small prairie city. But jump forward a few decades and demand had far outgrown the building’s limitations.

Winnipeg, steadily and surely, has been growing, and with that growth have come numerous attractions: the MTS Centre and the return of the beloved Winnipeg Jets, an award-winning airport, the state-of-the-art Journey to Churchill Exhibit at Assiniboine Park Zoo and the stunning Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The energy is infectious, and the Convention Centre found itself at the heart of it all. With everything from annual trade shows to massive conventions clamouring for the space, it was clear that it was time for an upgrade.

Plans for the expansion began in 2000, when the Convention Centre’s architectural firm, LM Architectural Group, was approached by President and CEO Klaus Lahr. As architect Terry Danelley remembers, “We made drawings, created budgets … and then we waited.” The process of approval for plans and funding led to a 16 year gestation period. Finally, ground was broken for the new addition in 2012.

More than three years and countless man-hours later, in late November of 2015, the project was nearly complete. A one-day occupancy permit was secured to celebrate the way Canadians do: by watching the Grey Cup. The Big Game was being hosted in Winnipeg. It was the perfect time to show off the new space. At the end of the glittering gala that took place in the newly completed City View Room, a shower of fireworks rained over the glass walls.

The showy display was not just a celebration of the city and the event; it was recognition of an accomplishment more than a decade in the making.

Spectacular Space

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

SEE AND BE SEEN

The most striking feature of the new Convention Centre is its glazed facade, the glass walls of the third floor exhibition space (the City View Room) flooding the building with sunlight during the day and transforming it into a glowing beacon at night. This design choice was born out of the need to create a large enough exhibition space by spanning over York Avenue, which presents an architectural challenge: to build across the street without blocking light or disrupting flow. The floor to ceiling windows of the Centre’s public spaces along York Avenue and Carlton Street keep these downtown thoroughfares pedestrian friendly, giving passersby a glimpse at the excitement inside.

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

LOCAL FLAIR

By its very nature, a convention centre has to be able to transform into anything—which makes it difficult to build a space that captures the spirit of its city. From first designs to final result, maintaining a local connection in the building has been an important consideration. In the planning stages, Winnipeg-based companies LM Architectural Group and Number Ten Architecture partnered with a design team from LMN Architects in Seattle. To ensure the design represented Manitoba and its people, they prepared a collection of 18 images of the province, carefully selecting photos that showed off the colours and textures of Manitoba’s many environments. The open design showing the vast prairie sky, colour scheme, and use of wood all reflect these themes. Most impressive is the lighting installation criss-crossing the ceiling of the City View Room, the snaking, geometric pattern of which was inspired by a photo of cracked ice. The commitment to Manitoba’s land and people goes beyond stylistic choices, however: the building is LEED Silver Certified for sustainability, and on the walls you’ll find a donated collection of 60 pieces of Indigenous art.

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

LUNCH BREAK

The original building has been seamlessly integrated into the new addition with its own décor update. Along with multipurpose meeting and conference rooms, the space houses the Centre Place Café. The Centre’s stellar food service team shows off their skills to visitors at this cafeteria-style spot. Full entrées are offered daily for lunch, like fillet of salmon and carved roast beef, ringing in at a very per-diem-friendly $10-$15. In lieu of a dining room, seating is spread throughout the glass-enclosed walkway over York Avenue that separates the original building and the new addition, giving diners a birds eye view of the downtown street.

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

Photo courtesy RBC Convention Centre

CHANGING IT UP

A far cry from the fusty images of chintz and chandeliers that may be conjured up by the word “ballroom”, the York Ballroom is an ultra-modern and tech-integrated addition with free Wi-Fi, massive projection screens, and a stylish mix of hanging pendant and round lights to match the glittering eye candy hanging over York Avenue. The ballroom, like the third floor exhibition space, is infinitely customizeable. This flexibility was proven over one weekend, when the RBC Convention Centre played host to a business forum with attendance in the thousands, a national dance competition, and the biennial convention of the Liberal Party of Canada. Since opening, the third floor exhibition space has hosted events as diverse as a massive boat show, volleyball championship, and International pow wow. Visit the RBC Convention Centre’s website for upcoming events.