Museums of Winnipeg

By Edith & Jessie-Eloise Hislop
This item appears on page 14 of the May 2021 issue.

A 2017 road trip from Calgary to Ottawa was part of our personal celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary. A highlight of that trip was Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Our top priority was visiting the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (85 Israel Asper Way, Winnipeg; 877/877-6037,, at the Forks, where the Red and Assiniboine rivers have been a gathering place for people for thousands of years. The museum, which opened in 2008, spans seven floors and included an excellent restaurant featuring local cuisine.

One day was not enough to see all the exhibits. What we remember most was the time line of thinkers and civilizations, which displayed 100 key ideas about human dignity, respect and responsibility that have been an intrinsic concept for humanity for at least as long as people have written on the subject.

The second floor, called Canadian Journeys, was ringed by 30 small rooms that each explored a theme, such as the treatment of temporary foreign agricultural workers, the Chinese exclusion, labour rights and the 1919 Winnipeg general strike, and internments of Canadians of “enemy ancestry” during the First and Second world wars.

There was also a haunting display of birch trees supporting red dresses on hangers, which swayed gently in the air currents, symbolizing the thousands of missing and murdered First Nations women.

Higher floors included searing presentations about the Holocaust and other genocides and about those who have fought against oppression and for reconciliation.

This museum is not an easy touristic site but is very thought-provoking and meaningful.

We also chose to visit the Manitoba Museum (190 Rupert Ave. Winnipeg; 204/956-2830) to see the Hudson’s Bay Company Museum Collection (

At that museum, one can climb aboard one of the finest ship replicas in the world, the “Nonsuch,” which re-creates the original ketch that sailed to Hudson Bay for trade in 1668. It was the success of that venture that encouraged the creation of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC).

The collection was gathered 100 years ago to celebrate the company’s 250th anniversary, and it was first showcased in the Winnipeg HBC store on Portage Avenue. Now comprising over 10,000 artifacts, half of which originated in First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities, it illustrates both traditional and fur trader ways of life as well as the history of Western settlement.

With vacant lots interspersed among the buildings downtown, Winnipeg is a hard city to love at first glance. Take the time to discover the wonderful neighbourhoods, attractions and ethnic restaurants away from the central core and, as we did, you’ll want to extend your visit.

Calgary, AB, Canada