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Read the exchange between the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and Veronica Strong-Boag

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Hello Dr. Strong-Boag,

Above all, we would like to express our gratitude for your willingness to assist us with our blog. We would like to take to provide you with an update on the review of your blog as to address misconceptions.

As Heather has shared with you, CMHR blogs are intended to consist of interesting short stories on human rights themes and topics, ideally from a first-person perspective, written primarily by CMHR staff as an opportunity to showcase the depth and diversity of their work and experiences. On occasion, we invite "guest bloggers" who have a connection to the Museum or to timely human rights topics. We haven’t invited many guest bloggers to date and the response to your blog internally has helped us to realize that we need to improve our process. An invitation to participate should make our objectives and expectations explicitly clear from the outset.

Your blog entry was reviewed internally and as "Editor in Chief", I felt that it didn’t meet some of our objectives. There was an internal breakdown in process and the unfortunate result was that the blog was posted without full approval. It was removed quickly after posting but you had already been notified that it was live.

We will more clearly ask that guest blogs consist of anecdotal accounts of first-person experiences that illuminate human rights themes, and that they include "rich media" relevant to the story (photos, images). We also make efforts to ensure that guest blogs not be used as, or be perceived as, a platform for political positions or partisan statements. We are still finalizing our internal process when it comes to having guest blogs and moving forward, we will provide concise guidelines regarding entries and allow enough time to allow for a better review cycle.

Thank you again for sharing your blog with us. We regret that we have missed an opportunity. We apologize for the confusion and hope that given that you have a clearer understanding of the intent of our blog, we can find a way to collaborate in the future. I’d be happy to discuss further, if you like.

Sincerely, Angela
Angela J. Cassie
Director, Communications and External

 

Dear Ms Cassie,

I have read your effort at explanation with interest and incredulity. Your suggestion that guest blogs ought to "consist of anecdotal accounts of first-person experiences that illuminate human rights themes, and that they include "rich media" relevant to the story" and that they "not be used as, or be perceived as, a platform for political positions or partisan statements" is both naive and pedagogically unsound for a museum supposedly dedicated to (the promotion of) Human Rights.

It suggests that Human Rights are almost purely about entertainment and that authors can pretend impartiality in dealing with them. Surely this is not the case with the Nazi Holocaust or similar treatments of the world's indigenous or GBLT peoples or, as in this instance, with the continuing oppression of women and girls around the world?

In fact, my contribution was very much both a personal and a scholarly statement, one strongly rooted in the evidence of researchers and activists and my own commitment to a better day for all. It was not intended for entertainment (although I deliberately made it accessible) but for instruction and a reminder that gender inequality needs to be battled.

Since museums and institutions of public memory are not normally intended to imitate Disneyland but to provide serious, although engaging and accessible, observations on the world, I have been a long time supporter of a Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Your letter has been extremely disheartening.

My observations about the federal government are hardly new or unique. In fact, there is a widely held consensus among scholars that the present Conservative administration has been a disaster for human rights of every sort in Canada and abroad. It would have been completely unprincipled for any serious blogger to ignore the link between IWD and unaddressed issues such as Missing and Murdered Women in this country.

Your attempt at an explanation for censorship suggests the Museum needs to engage in some serious self-reflection about its mandate and its apparent subordination to political masters.

Sincerely,
Veronica Strong-Boag, Ph.d., F.R.S.C.
Historian and Historical Consultant

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