Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Museum to open doors in 2014

CMHR year behind planned date

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The clock is now officially ticking down to the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Winnipeggers, along with tourism officials, can mark Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, on their calendars as the day the first national museum to be built outside of the national capital region opens its doors.

The date is a year behind when the $350-million CMHR had hoped to be open -- but a year ahead of when concerns were being raised it would open.

"I'm over the moon," Gail Asper, national campaign chairwoman for Friends of the CMHR, said following a museum briefing with its industry partners on Monday.

"We have a date now. It looks like it's a beautiful time of year. It's when everybody is back from vacation.

"We'll be having a celebratory weekend of events."

Asper became wistful when she thought about what her dad would think about the day. More than a decade ago, Israel "Izzy" Asper, the founder of Canwest Global Communications, came up with the idea of a human rights museum for the city.

"I know he would ask 'what is taking so long?' -- he really thought it would take three or four years," she said.

"But there have been so many challenges. What he'd be most excited about is we are fulfilling the commitment.

"He knew, and I know, this is a fantastic province, but like a mall, you need an anchor tenant. This museum will be that for tourism here and it will open the province up.

It will be a catalyst."

If there's one thing Asper, museum president and CEO Stuart Murray, and tourism officials can agree upon -- having an opening date makes it easier to not only promote the new museum, but for tourist and business organizations to add the museum to their plans for visiting.

"It has been a very challenging, long discussion and debates which are coming to fruition," Murray said.

"I can't even go to my local Safeway without people saying 'When do you open?' This is the date we welcome the world."

Murray said construction crews have almost completed the interior and the museum has begun the installation of exhibits. He said admission fees and membership details will be set next year.

Murray said the museum's staff will move into the building between Christmas and New Year's Day.

"Everyone on staff is excited," he said.

Brigitte Sandron, senior vice-president of Travel Manitoba, said they will especially market the museum to youths and students.

"They can make a difference," she said, adding the student and youth market is growing faster than any other segment of tourism.

Greg Klassen, senior vice-president of the Canadian Tourism Commission, said the museum will put Winnipeg on the map for tourism.

"We sell Canada as a tourism and conference destination, and this museum is a huge part," Klassen said.

"It is a museum... which doesn't exist anywhere else."

Klassen said there are thousands of organizations around the world that hold conferences and have "mission-based ideas" that will gladly plan to hold meetings here once the museum is open.

"This will be the why of why people choose Winnipeg as a destination."

Chantal Sturk-Nadeau, senior vice-president of Tourism Winnipeg, said the museum "will put Winnipeg on the map and make a lot of Winnipeggers proud."

"Many families travelling through bypass Winnipeg and Saskatchewan. Now they'll stop at our city and stay in a hotel and while they're here they'll also see other things that we have."

Paul Olson, president of the Manitoba Teachers Society, said he was proud the meeting was held in the classroom named for and funded by MTS and its member teachers.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 5, 2013 B1

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