Essay submitted by Isha Khan
President and CEO, Canadian Museum for Human Rights
The view from the Israel Asper Tower of Hope at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is tough to beat.
But beyond The Forks, the train tracks that have brought settlers to and from our city for years, and the wide expanse of prairie around us, there’s something just as inspiring: the people who make our city home. We are a remarkable community: fiercely proud and motivated to build a better future for all of us.
What does that better future look like to you?
To me, it looks like a city of people who value each other, regardless of where we come from, what we look like, who we love and how we choose to live. A city where our children know they have every opportunity to succeed, surrounded by love and support. A city where we are measured by how we care for those most in need of a hand up — and where we don’t shy away from confronting hard truths about why inequality persists.
We all know there’s a long road ahead to make that better future a reality.
For thousands of years, Indigenous people have called this place home, but early European settlers created a legacy of genocide that lives on today. Despite generations of newcomers from around the world who have put down roots in this city, there is still hate and division. Despite a long tradition of 2SLGBTQ+ activists and allies, there is still fear to live authentically. Even with all the wealth in our growing city, there are Winnipeggers who go hungry on our watch.
To me, taking action on these issues and many others isn’t just something we ought to do. It’s something we have to do, because we are all entitled to the same rights and dignity. That’s why we are not the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, but for Human Rights. A better future won’t happen through hope alone: it’s on all of us to make the change we want to see.
As you read these words, there are community programs and organizations within shouting distance of you, in every neighbourhood, doing the work to keep our community together. Each of them needs your support. Want a city where everyone is fed and housed? Want a city where everyone is free to express their faith? Want a city where public art shares stories of our past and hopes for our future?
Then how are you going to make it happen?
Generations of Winnipeggers have asked themselves that same question, and their answer has often been giving to the organizations, programs and gathering spaces that are cornerstones of our community. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights wouldn’t exist without them.
Take a look at the Israel Asper Tower of Hope and you will see it appears unfinished, just as the task of building a culture based on human rights is unfinished. Just like the vision of a Winnipeg where everyone lives free and equal, in dignity and rights, needs your help to be fully realized.
So, I ask you this: What does our better future look like to you? How are you going to make it happen?
Isha Khan (she/her) is a lawyer, educator and community leader dedicated to building a culture of human rights in Canada and beyond. Her professional experience includes her tenure as Executive Director and Senior Counsel of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, where she advanced several important rights-based initiatives and public education campaigns. She is also a dedicated community volunteer who serves as Board Chair of United Way Winnipeg. In August of 2020, she began her role as CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Throughout her life, Khan has helped build communities where everyone is respected and empowered to reach their full potential. She continues that work at the Museum, engaging people around the world in a growing movement for hope and human rights.