Here’s what the CMHR means to me

Mena Gainpaulsingh, CEO of the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

This job is personal for me.

I didn’t know just how personal it would be when I first walked into the Canadian Museum for Human Rights for my job interview.

Back then, I was blown away to think that I might work in a place where I would be inspired each day, surrounded by examples of the courage and perseverance of leaders like Viola Desmond, Nelson Mandela and Louis Riel.

Now, three years later, the Museum and organizations everywhere are evolving to challenge systemic racism and oppression in their own operations as well as in society. That evolution is incredibly important, because as I think about the Museum’s impact on my family, I’m also struck by how it is an example of its potential impact across the country and worldwide.

            As the mother of a bi-racial child, I sometimes fear for the world my son will grow up in, and what it might do to him. Whether it will make assumptions about him because of the colour of his skin. Whether he will be safe, respected and understood as the loving boy that he is, and the compassionate man I believe he will become.

This is why I am so grateful we have a national museum dedicated to furthering human rights, helping us all move beyond opposing racism and toward becoming actively anti-racist. We need the Museum’s to show people that it is possible to change and to help others change too. Because I don’t want my child to have to live with the same systemic racism that my generation and my parents faced.

Supporting and promoting human rights is complex and nuanced work. As an organization and as a country, we have so much to learn. And unlearn. But we need your help to continue this important work. I hope you’ll join me and many others like you and donate to the critical work of the Museum. There may be no more important time than now to promote and raise up human rights. Simply go to and donate online.

I often meet people who want to be allies but aren’t quite sure how to proceed. That’s why I’m so grateful that the Museum is a place to learn, both in person and online. It can feel vulnerable to ask questions and learn new behaviours. It’s even harder to unlearn old behaviours. Even as someone who has been involved in this work for 20 years, I continue to learn more about human rights every day. And that’s thanks to the Museum feeling like a safer place to ask the important questions and grow. It’s so important that the Museum makes people feel welcome, so that we can inspire folks to take action to fight against the prejudice and violence we still witness every day.

Around the world, massive refugee camps are home to millions of people displaced by persecution and genocide. Here in Canada, Black people, Indigenous people and people of colour are experiencing violence and discrimination. Members of the LGBTQ2+ community continue struggle to be treated with respect and dignity and live free of the fear of violence. Women continue to fear for their safety and experience discrimination due to their gender, often in their own homes.

This is the not the legacy I want to leave to my child or future generations. I want my son to grow up in a world where he feels safe. Where he can live in peace. Where he will, in the famous words of Martin Luther King, Jr, “be judged not by the colour of his skin, but the content of his character.”

We must do more NOW to create that future. 

The Museum is part of the solution – celebrating icons who made a difference and inspiring the next generation of Viola Desmonds, Nelson Mandelas and Louis Riels to take a stand for human rights.

This is a tumultuous time. We’ve been given good reasons to feel as though our human rights are tenuous, or up for debate. It’s at times like this, when we all feel a little less secure, that the world most needs the Museum and its message that human rights are always critical. We need to be reminded both of how far we’ve come and how far we have still to go. The world needs a beacon of hope, stories of overcoming great hardships, and a reminder that “evil prevails when good people do nothing.”

Please join me and other good people and donate today to help to build a kinder, safer, more peaceful world that my child – and everyone’s children – can grow up in.


Mena Gainpaulsingh
CEO, Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

P.S. As the mother of a bi-racial son, I worry everyday about the way that he’ll be treated – whether he’ll get the respect he deserves. As a Canadian, and as a woman of colour, I also worry about the way our communities and our world will move forward amidst this unprecedented turmoil. But I know this: to make it through, we need beacons of hope, and examples of what can happen when we work together. That’s why I’m asking you to support the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. As Canadians, we have to work together to resist racism and discrimination – in ourselves, in our organizations and in our communities. We must struggle even harder for a brighter future when we are faced with the immense challenges of our stormy present. Through the Museum, we can truly make a difference, for my child and for yours. Please donate today. Simply go to and donate online.