Shahen Mirakian, member of the Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC), was one of the Armenians present at the formal opening ceremonies of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In addition to Mr. Mirakian, His Excellency Ambassador Mr. Armen Yeganian attended the CMHR’s opening.
The ANCC has closely been collaborating with the CMHR for over 10 years to ensure that the Armenian Genocide is properly represented in the museum alongside the other four genocides officially recognized by the Canadian government (the Holocaust, the Holodomor, Rwanda and Srebrenica).
“To imagine that there would be a permanent exhibit on the Armenian Genocide in such a unique architectural marvel was truly moving. The grandeur of the place attests to how important it is to remember these instances of horror and insanity that humanity has gone through in the past century,” Shahen Mirakian said in an interview with Horizon Weekly.
He said the museum has a very modern approach to its displays. “Rather than present enormous amounts of information or have exhibits based around a particular artifact or document as you would see in a traditional museum, CMHR’s exhibits are designed to start a discussion and to convey an impression. The Armenian Genocide display like the display of the other genocides is presented from a Canadian perspective. The gallery where the most information about the Armenian Genocide is contained is called “Breaking the Silence” and discusses the work involved in overcoming Turkey’s denial in order for Canada to recognize the Armenian Genocide. The traditional Armenian Genocide display is accompanied by information in digital form both on an interactive table and through computer terminals,” Shahen Mirakian said.
“There are pictures, including a large one of a famished woman and children (of the sort that we have come to associate so closely with the Armenian Genocide). There are also five smaller pictures, one of Canadian nurse Sara Corning who worked in Armenia to save orphans, one of Atom Egoyan promoting his film “Ararat”, one of a Montreal demonstration for genocide recognition from La Presse, another from an Ottawa demonstration from 2004 from Horizon’s archives and yet another depicting the unveiling of the Georgetown Boys farm plaque. There are also supposed to be two physical artifacts exhibited (these were not yet present when I attended) a replica of Armin Wenger’s camera and a copy of his book of photographs of the Armenian Genocide,” Mirakian said.
He informed that there is also going to be a film produced by CMHR for the 100thanniversary of the Armenian Genocide which will be shown in a theatre in the Breaking the Silence gallery. We will be working together with the museum over the next year to assist with the preparation of this film.
“There is a separate gallery on the Holocaust and in that gallery there is a feature on Raphael Lemkin and the definition of genocide. In that particular exhibit, the Armenian Genocide is used to discuss the biological aspects of genocide particularly on Armenian women (how women were kidnapped and forced to take on a Muslim identity). There are pictures of Armenian women marked with tattoos according to Turkish tradition,” Shahen Mirakian added.
He said “this museum is a testament to the fact that the Armenian Genocide has now become common knowledge for any Canadian.” “We have reached the public through non Armenian institutions and the museum will stand for many years and educated many generations of Canadians. We would like to see a more prominent role for the Armenian Genocide as a prototype for all the genocides which followed and as an example of the consequences when justice is not served for a genocide. We will work with CMHR to make sure this happens,” he concluded.