The Right to Believe at CentrePlace Manitoba

Joralyn Zaballero, of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, poses outside of the CentrePlace Manitoba pavilion.

There must be something in the water out in Manitoba.  Canada’s Central Province, with a population just over 1.2 million, sent 14 athletes to the Olympics.  Seven will be coming home with medals, including Canada’s new posterboy for skeleton.  Jon Montgomery, the bearded redhead who won gold in the event, hails from the tiny town of Russell, Manitoba, 340 kilometers northwest of Winnipeg.

I learned this and more while exploring CentrePlace Manitoba this afternoon, inside the LiveCity Downtown celebration site.  I picked a good day to visit.  While the rest of the known universe – including every last person in LiveCity Downtown – was absorbed in the thrilling men’s hockey final, I had CentrePlace Manitoba all to myself.

Manitoba's charms are highlighted in a multimedia display at the pavilion.

The pavilion is housed in what looks like a postmodern take on a log cabin.   Made of reclaimed elm, the structure has a curved, translucent front, on which a projection of a polar bear floats back and forth.  Inside, a battery of touch screens and flat-screen TVs provides an introduction to living and doing business in Manitoba.  Compared to some of the offerings in other Olympic pavilions, the displays in this part of CentrePlace Manitoba felt a bit dry – more like a homework assignment than a destination for fun.

But tucked away in the back room of the pavilion is its most compelling exhibit.  On display is a scale model of the $310 million Canadian Museum for Human Rights, to be completed in Winnipeg in 2012.  The architecture is dramatic and avant-garde – massive folds and curves overlapping and reaching skyward.  The concept behind the museum is equally progressive.  “It’s a museum of ideas, not of artifacts,” explained marketing director Kim Jasper, who was on hand today to take in the men’s hockey game.

Inside CentrePlace Manitoba is a model of the $310 million Canadian Museum for Human Rights, to be completed in Winnipeg in 2012.

The primary purpose of the museum is to promote dialogue and to encourage people to take action against hate and oppression.  It will include a space for debate, exhibits on Aboriginal concepts of peace and justice, holocaust and genocide memorials and a hall of fame for human rights advocates.  “It’s important to remember, especially during the Olympics, that Canada has many human rights champions, as well,” Kim told me.

For a donation of $25, you can have your photo taken with a sign that says, “Everyone has a right to . . .” (You fill in the blank).  Today, in honor of the men’s hockey final, I asked museum employee Joralyn Zaballero to pose for a picture in front of the big screen showing hockey action at LiveCity Downtown.  The sign she held up said, “Everyone has the right to BELIEVE.”

Minutes after the picture was taken, Team Canada took hockey gold.   Looks like we certainly do have the right to believe.

Remy Scalza

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