Heritage minister, veterans pan ad for human rights museum

An ad produced to raise money for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is hitting a raw nerve with some veterans.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights ad irks veterans by using Oka Crisis image

An ad produced to raise money for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) is hitting a raw nerve with some veterans. CBC's Ryan Hicks reports. 2:33

An ad produced to raise money for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) is hitting a raw nerve with some veterans.

The ad, put out by the CMHR's fundraising group, Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, encourages people to champion the cause of human rights by donating to the museum.

At one point, the ad features an iconic photo taken during a standoff between the Canadian army and Mohawk warriors in Oka, Quebec. The so-called Oka Crisis, a land dispute between the Mohawk people and the town of Oka, began on July 11, 1990 and lasted until Sept. 26, 1990.

The photo used by the CMHR shows a Canadian soldier face to face with a Mohawk warrior. The photo was used around the world and instantly became a symbolic image from the Oka crisis.

Veteran Allen Deffner watches a Canadian Museum for Human Rights fundraising commercial. He wants the image of a Canadian soldier and Mohawk Warrior from the 1990 Oka crisis removed from the ad. (Ryan Hicks/CBC)
The narrative at that point in the ad states: "It's scary what happens to people when they don't have rights and freedoms like I do. It makes me feel lucky, but it also makes me mad."

Military veteran Allen Deffner wants the photo removed from the ad.

"They could've picked a better image to reflect their values and views without tarnishing the military," he said. "It implies the Canadian military or even the Canadian government in some way did something to abuse the human rights of that individual or a group.

"When I turn on the TV and I see a Canadian soldier put in a bad light for whatever the reason, I personally don't think it's right."

Wanbdi Wakita, an aboriginal veteran and former peacekeeper, was against the Canadian military’s action in Oka. He speaks from the other side of the Oka dispute but agrees with Deffner on the photo being inappropriately used by the museum.

“The more offending part of this is when the armed forces were pitted against us,” he said. “The continuing offending part is continuing to show that clip again when trying to raise funds for the museum.”

Canada’s Heritage Minister Shelly Glover said she doesn’t approve of the use of the image either.

“I stand with the veterans. I don’t believe that was the proper use of that picture. It’s unfortunate. It’s unnecessary,” she said. “The use of images like that to invoke different emotions for fundraising purposes, I think, is unfortunate and unnecessary.”

Kathi Neal, a spokesperson for Friends of the CMHR, said the group stands by the ad. She said it shows how human rights sometimes leads to activism and confrontation.

“It’s not meant to cast the protester or the soldier in a negative light,” she said. “It was not our goal to offend anyone. It was our goal to provide illustrative examples of the types of stories that will be told in the museum.” 

But Wakita and Deffner hope the image will be removed from the ad.

'Help me build it' PSA for human rights museum


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