Speech by Daniel J. Caron at the Signing Ceremony for the Agreement between the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and Library and Archives Canada

Gatineau, Quebec
October 18, 2010

Ladies and gentlemen,
Hello, and welcome to Library and Archives Canada Preservation Centre.

As you can see, this Centre is a building within a building. It has an outer shell of glass and steel that creates an environmental buffer zone for the interior concrete structure that houses preservation laboratories, document storage vaults and other operations.
 
The Centre seems to be an appropriate gathering place for our event today, as it acts as host to the country’s documentary heritage.
 
As Librarian and Archivist of Canada, I am delighted to be here today to take part in the ceremony for signing the memorandum of understanding between two highly important federal institutions: the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and Library and Archives Canada.
 
This ceremony marks the completion of a sustained effort. Mr. Murray, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Museum, joins me in sincerely hoping that it also marks the start of a long and fruitful partnership between our two institutions, which are both part of the Canadian Heritage Portfolio.
 
This partnership is not new. Back in 2008, just a few short months after the Museum was created, Library and Archives Canada was there to help with its first exhibition.
 
Library and Archives Canada’s collaborative approach has been highly successful. There have been many joint projects with other national museums, such as partnerships with the Canadian War Museum, and more recently, with the Canadian Museum of Civilization, for the exhibition, The “Four Indian Kings”: War and Diplomacy in 1710.
 
Library and Archives Canada and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights collaborated on the Museum’s first Web exhibition, Everyone Has the Right: A Canadian and the Words that Changed the World.
 
At that time, Library and Archives Canada provided curatorial support for content development. The success of that initial collaborative effort called for an encore.
 
In 2009, representatives from Library and Archives Canada and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights met to explore potential collaborative opportunities, notably in the area of digitization, research and loans, as the Museum moved forward with gallery and Web content development.
 
From then on, the two institutions worked to establish a durable partnership that would be mutually beneficial. The Museum would demonstrate Canada’s longstanding commitment to human rights, while Library and Archives Canada would have items from its holdings showcased in the Museum’s exhibitions in Winnipeg, as well as on the Web.
 
The complementary nature of both our institutions makes this collaboration particularly fruitful.
The mandate of Library and Archives Canada is to preserve Canada’s documentary heritage, and to preserve today’s memories for future generations.
 
This heritage can take several forms, such as publications, archival records, sound recordings, audiovisual material, photographs, works of art and electronic records. The Preservation Centre is perfectly equipped to protect these archival records.
 
These records are given meaning when they are presented as part of close collaborations with other institutions, such as with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. These kinds of partnerships allow all Canadians to rediscover and reclaim Canada’s historical and cultural heritage.
 
In this respect, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights represents an ideal showcase for material drawn from Library and Archives Canada collections. Designed to be a major national and international attraction, this Centre of learning will provide Canadians and visitors from around the world with an opportunity to share in the discussion and to witness Canada’s commitment to the fight against hate and oppression.
 
Library and Archives Canada is proud to play a leading role in creating this new national museum by lending items from its collection.
 
As the Museum’s exhibitions draw from Library and Archives Canada archival material and the latest historical research, they will provide the necessary social context for visitors to grasp the events and circumstances that have shaped Canada’s commitment to human rights, at home and abroad.
 
This collaboration provides the ideal conditions to bridge the divide between past and future, to reflect in the present about how our country constructs and preserves its public memory when it comes to human rights issues.
 
Moreover, this partnership will yield countless learning opportunities for visitors about the way the concept of human rights has resonated, and continues to resonate, within the Canadian setting. It is only fitting that Canada’s many achievements in this field find a permanent home.
 
Examples of relevant archival materials for the Museum have been selected from our holdings and assembled before you today by Library and Archives Canada archival experts.
 
Among the archival records on display today is the Canadian Bill of Rights, which was enacted by the Government of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker on August 10, 1960.
 
In some respects, the Bill of Rights is the forebear of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was entrenched in Canada’s Constitution in 1982 by then Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
 
It is impressive to see just how much the history of this Bill provides an excellent vantage point of the progress made with respect to human rights within Canadian Confederation.
 
In the period following the Second World War, which imposed on all countries the endless task of remembering the past, Canada joined the other nations that decided to enact laws to protect the social gains made by their own peoples.
 
The Bill of Rights managed to breathe life into an ambition shared by the entire country to protect certain rights that, until then, had only been implied.
 
Effective to this very day, the Canadian Bill of Rights strengthened the protection of several rights that would later be included in the 1982 Charter.
 
Well before the notions of freedom of speech, of religion and the rights to life and liberty became commonplace in the Canadian public discourse, the 1960 Bill demonstrated the country’s appetite for principles of justice. 
 
And it is with great pride that both our institutions commit themselves today to ensuring that the desire of Canadians for human rights continues to be invigorated for future generations.
 
Without further ado, I present to you the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Stuart A. Murray…
 
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