Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Change of name and mandate

Last weekend The Globe and Mail announced that the famed Museum of Civilization in Hull-Gatineau across the Outaouais river from the National Capital, Ottawa would see its name changed and get a new mandate. The new name will be the Museum of Canadian History, as soon as Parliament can pass the legislation since it is a National Museum.

The Museum of Civilization was built 27 years ago on an architectural design by Douglas Cardinal, it was then the talk of the town, the building is very unusual and at the time required new building techniques, it was opened to the public in 1987, it was or is a museum celebrating civilizations in Canada, in the plural sense, meaning many definitions of civilization and culture and not just of one  dominant group. This was part of the diversity agenda under Prime Minister Pierre E. Trudeau, celebrating the many peoples of Canada.

Native First Nations of Canada are celebrated in this museum since it is built on grounds sacred to the Algonquin. The museum also presents exhibits about early Canadian history and hold exhibits on diverse topics, recently there was an exhibit on Gods and various religions in the world, very interesting, sort of a wide lens approach broadening of the mind. Currently there is a very good exhibit on the Mayan culture with numerous artifacts from Mexico. There is also a small Canadian Postal Museum  and a Children's Museum on the premises and an IMAX cinema. In this re-branding the Postal museum will be closed and packed off to a warehouse.

Today the Hon. James Moore, PC, MP, Minister of Canadian Heritage announced the change in the Museum's name and mandate. Mr. Moore made it clear that this announcement was made on behalf of our dear Leader, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister, a man who has made a point of never going to any museums and cancelling several museum projects in Ottawa, like the National Portrait Gallery on the pretext that there is no money and closing several others. Though there is always money to spend on military monuments or for ever more severe security detail for his entourage to keep the governed at bay.

Mr. Moore was quick to point out that he had the idea of transforming the museum to present a more complete picture of the Monarchy and Canadian history with emphasis on the military aspect. This fits perfectly in the narrative of the current government. We already have a Canadian Museum of War near by, so is this duplication? Do we need more history on the Monarchy? This is a favourite topic of our Dear Leader, he loves the Royals, so his ministers have to come up with projects to emphasize the Royal Family, though the majority of Canadians remain puzzled with this fascination by Harper and company.

What is also curious about Mr. Moore's pronouncement today about the re-branding of the Museum was another announcement last week by same minister that the Laurier House would no longer have any guides, the house is full of personal artifacts, it is a living museum. This house was the private residence of two of the more famous Prime Ministers of Canada who both served long terms in Office, Sir Wilfrid Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie King and truly shaped the history of Canada in the XXth century. Unfortunately for them both Liberals, that is no longer acceptable for the official history of Canada in Harperland. That is another point of the Harper doctrine, demonize the Liberal Party and destroy the legacy.

Now Mr. Moore has also announced that his ministry will spend 25 million dollars on refurbishing the enormous Museum of Civilization. No new money he emphasized, simply money allocated to other projects or salaries now re-directed to this new project. This is what budget cut backs are all about to free money for other things. Why this project now? Well we are on the countdown to 2017 when Canada will celebrate its 150 Anniversary of Confederation (1867-2017). In the meantime Mr. Moore is also involved in closing down many other museums across Canada on Canadian history. What a confused message, no credibility here Minister.

You have to wonder what version of history will be presented in this re-furbished museum. Many are bracing for a very Harperesque version of Canadian History. We saw it this year with the Diamond Jubilee where only photos of Mr. Harper with the Royals where selected for official presentations. Given that Harper has only been PM for 6 years so far one wonders what happened during the other 54 years of our history. All other Prime Ministers being Liberals were omitted and only historical factoids of the dear Leader were emphasized to fit the political agenda. Another example would be the silent treatment the Anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom received or the Anniversary of the Canadian Flag, both came about under Liberal governments. When asked our dear Prime Minister pretends, A) he did not hear the question or B) pretends he does not understand what you are talking about.

So this newly renovated museum will see much cleansing of history. You also have to wonder what can actually be achieved with such a small amount, 25 million dollars is not much money for such a project. The current director was asked what the new museum would look like and he immediately said that he did not know since Parliament would have to decide what would be displayed. Oh, Oh!!!! Neo-Con politicians becoming over night museum curators, good grief!

Sad, I feel we are losing a great museum, it was in fact the most visited museum in Canada. Small minds, partisanship and pettiness have taken over in this case. The Canadian people are the losers.



  1. I've always enjoyed visiting both the Museum of Civilization and Laurier House. I hope the new revisioning does not ruin them.

  2. This sounds alarming. Your PM is scary...

    1. Well he did promise '' transformative changes'' for Canada, I suppose we are getting them.