The Asper family foundation had been taking grade nine students to Washington to learn about human rights, but it struck Gail, who led the trips, that they were learning U.S. history, not Canadian. She tried taking students to Ottawa, but museums there are sadly lacking in the field of human rights.
“We’ll build one right here,” her father said.
“Are you nuts?” she asked him.
Perhaps, but he went ahead anyway, persuading politicians to come on board and hitting up wealthy friends for early donations. Winnipeg, he said, was perfect – the centre of a country where children from all over Canada should be sent to learn their history and know why justice matters. The child of Russian Jews who fled persecution and found a haven in Canada, Mr. Asper wanted the museum to tell the stories of wrongs that have been righted and wrongs that still need to be righted.
It hasn’t been particularly easy – early political reluctance was followed by squabbling over what the museum might hold – but it is being built, relatively on schedule, and will at some point become as much a symbol of the city as the Jets logo.
“We want to be the human rights capital of the world,” says Gail Asper.
She also promises that it will be a place of hope and promise rather than one of sad memory: “You don’t want to see a place where people want to leap off the Tower of Hope in despair.”...They may want to leap off it once they see how much her nutty shrine to victimhood is costing them.