Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Iceland's prime minister tours CMHR

Looks to strengthen Manitoba ties while visiting Icelandic festival

  • Print

Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson may be the youngest democratically elected leader in the world, but he knows his history.

After finishing an interview following a tour of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights Friday morning, Iceland's 38-year-old prime minister quietly asked a reporter, "Where can I get a Falcons jersey?" referring to the Winnipeg senior men's team of Icelanders who won Canada's first Olympic gold medal in hockey in 1920.

A member of the CMHR staff overheard the question and immediately started working the phones to secure a personalized jersey for Gunnlaugsson from the iconic team.

Although his weeklong visit to Manitoba and North Dakota centres on this weekend's Islendingadagurinn festival in Gimli -- still referred to as "New Iceland" and home to the largest Icelandic population outside of the island nation -- Gunnlaugsson is also hoping to lay the groundwork for a little business.

He would like to use the cultural ties between Manitoba and Iceland as a springboard to boost the economic relationship between the two.

Both jurisdictions have strong agricultural, fishing and energy industries as well as growing technological, pharmaceutical and engineering sectors.

"Those similarities offer a lot of opportunities to work together," he said.

Before any trade talks can bear significant fruit, he said Icelanders and Manitobans need to be educated about their longstanding relationship.

"Once a person has been here from Iceland and experienced Canada, come into contact with Canadian Icelanders and realized how strong those ties still are, they go back home and tell their friends and family that they've had an amazing experience. Everybody who comes here from Iceland becomes an ambassador for Winnipeg and Manitoba," he said.

The $351-million museum is still a construction site, but Gunnlaugsson was impressed with what he saw and heard as he and other dignitaries walked through with museum CEO Stuart Murray.

"The last time I was here, this was just a hole in the ground. (The museum) will be like stepping into the future. People will come here from all over the world to see it. The technology they're using to show people all of the topics will be breaking new ground," he said.

There's even an Icelandic connection with the museum. Gagarin, a Reykjavk-based provider of interactive media solutions, is part of the technology team.

"When you bring a prime minister here to talk about the fact one of their companies' technology is in the museum, it gives them a chance to feel really proud about our relationship," Murray said.

Construction crews are about to begin working on the "fit-up" for the museum's exhibit areas. Murray said he hopes to be able to announce an official opening date within the next couple of months. That will be done, in part, to appease tourist organizations looking to start booking flights and visits to Winnipeg.

"We're going to be opening in 2014 and we're working very hard toward that," he said.

Gunnlaugsson departed for Grafton, N.D. -- another community with a strong Icelandic heritage -- Friday evening. He will leave for Gimli this morning where he'll stay until Tuesday. He'll meet with Premier Greg Selinger on Monday.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 3, 2013 A1

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Donny 'Golden Boy' Lalonde returns home

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100615 - Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 The Mane Attraction - Lions are back at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Xerxes a 3-year-old male African Lion rests in the shade of a tree in his new enclosure at the old Giant Panda building.  MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos


What should the new royal baby be named?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google