New light display at Canadian Museum for Human Rights a ‘symbol of hope’ during pandemic, CEO says

A swirl of multicoloured lights inspired by the aurora borealis now shines in Winnipeg’s downtown.

The new display on the exterior glass surrounding the Canadian Museum for Human Rights began Friday evening to mark the International Day for Human Rights.

For museum CEO Isha Khan, the day marks an opportunity to think about how much progress has been made for human rights — and a chance to look toward the future.

“It’s really a day for celebration of how far we’ve come in terms of protecting and preserving certain freedoms that we have as human beings,” Khan told CBC host Janet Stewart. 

“It’s also this day to think about the work that we have ahead of us.”

She said she hopes the museum’s new lighting display brings joy to people who see it.

WATCH | Museum CEO explains meaning behind new lighting display:

Human rights museum CEO hopes new light display is ‘a symbol of hope’

3 hours ago

Duration 4:14

CBC’s Janet Stewart talks to Isha Khan, CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, about a new light display at the downtown Winnipeg site. 4:14

“It’s been a tough couple of years and we’ve lit up the museum this year just to be a symbol of hope and a bit of a beacon of light that people need,” she said.

“It’s a place where people can come and learn and reflect on human rights, engage in dialogue. And that’s what we’re here for.”

The light display will appear every night from sundown to midnight until Feb. 20.

And at 7 p.m. every night, the lights will change to a bright blue to honour health-care workers and other front-line staff working during the pandemic.

“Health-care workers have been on the front lines of COVID working hard, and we want to recognize the work that they do to keep us together, healthy and safe as a community,” Khan said.

At 7 p.m. every evening, the lights will change to bright blue to honour front-line staff working during the pandemic. (Travis Golby/CBC)

“It goes far beyond just our hospitals. There’s people every day who’ve been working through this pandemic for us.

And I look at the work that our health-care and front-line workers do as the symbol to us that we can pull together, we can care about each other and we wanted to acknowledge that.”

Khan, a human rights lawyer, took the helm of the museum last summer, as the institution faced allegations of racism, homophobia, sexism and censorship.

A report later found museum employees had experienced systemic racism and other mistreatment at work.

She said restoring the faith of staff and the trust of the public in the museum is something she thinks about often.

“You do that by building relationships, by really thinking hard and reflecting and digging deep inside you about who you want to be as a human being and how do we actually treat others around us with worth and dignity?” she said

“And that happens in the smallest moments of every little interaction we have with each other and in big things like initiatives that we have at the museum to story tell, to showcase and raise awareness about struggles and courage and freedom.”

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