Will peace have its museum in Canada?

Bancroft, Ontario. Population: approximately 4,000. If all goes as planned, the small municipality located halfway between Toronto and Ottawa will be home to the Canadian Peace Museum in 2025. The project is led by Chris Houston, a former aid worker of British origin who left war zones to make a difference in other ways.

“In Canada we have the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, but no peace museum. There are peace museums in Australia, Germany, Belgium, France and Spain,” says the creator of the project in an interview by videoconference.


Chris Houston, Founder and CEO of the Canadian Peace Museum

The Canadian pacifist tradition has nevertheless left its mark, he argues.

Chris Houston gushes through Lester B. Pearson’s role in resolving the Suez Canal crisis, Canadian John Peters Humphrey’s key contribution to the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Lt. -General Roméo Dallaire during the genocide in Rwanda.

“Canada is not a perfect country, far from it, indigenous peoples were victims of genocide. However, we must talk and learn about all this,” argues the former humanitarian worker, who worked for Médecins sans frontières (MSF), the Red Cross and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Chris Houston’s last humanitarian assignment was in Yemen, for the WHO.

He came back broken. Diagnosis: complex post-traumatic stress disorder. “It was an accumulation of all my years spent in conflict zones. But I came back from Yemen with a completely different perspective,” he says.

“Let’s say that it makes us appreciate serenity, peace,” he continues.

A promising project, according to the mayor

He has been in Bancroft for several years, where he plans to lay the foundations of his museum. Ban-what? “It’s not a big city, but in a city like Toronto, the museum would be one of dozens of options. Here, it will be the most interesting indoor attraction,” argues Chris Houston.

Bancroft Mayor Paul Jenkins supports the project – “how can anyone be against it?” », he says on the other end of the phone. And he foresees a fairly promising pool of visitors. “There are still five to six million vehicles per year that pass through here, so that’s still a lot of people,” he argues.

The municipal representative is also delighted with the fact that an indigenous component is planned. “There is a well-established historical Algonquin population here, so we don’t just see it as a global issue,” he says, recalling the truth and reconciliation process initiated in Canada.

The museum’s board of directors and advisory council have two indigenous representatives. There was no Quebec presence until we brought this item to the attention of Chris Houston. “I am aware that this is a gap that needs to be corrected,” he said.

Barely a few days later, Quebecer Danika Bouchard, senior analyst at the Philantra Foundation of the National Bank, joined the advisory board.

The collection

The exact location of the museum has not yet been determined. The financial package is not finalized – the museum has just obtained its charitable status, and its founder has approached the governments of Ontario and Canada to rally them to his cause.

At the same time, it is still necessary to plan to fill the exhibition rooms. And the collection, Chris Houston welcomes, is starting to take shape.

The White Helmets – Syrian civilian rescuers who came to the aid of bombing victims in rebel areas in Syria – are ready to send two ambulances that were deliberately targeted in the northwest of the country.

The Women of Peace around the World group, established in Geneva, wants to offer its exhibition A thousand faces of peace, portraits of 1000 women who deserve a Nobel Peace Prize. “Who starts wars? Men. Who does the peacemaking work? The women. Who receives the Nobel Peace Prizes? Men ! “, says Chris Houston.


The exhibition A thousand faces of peace in 2010 at the main European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva.

Peace by Chocolate, founded by Syrians who fled civil war to settle in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, is set to move the small shed that served as its first retail outlet to Bancroft.


Peace by Chocolate’s first boutique in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The Hadhad family, of Syrian origin, settled in Canada after fleeing the civil war.

“You see a bit of the narrative arc of the museum,” summarizes its designer.

He and his team believe that the haven of peace will open its doors at a pivotal moment. Divisions within Canadian society, wars in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip, a trend towards militarization… how do we navigate it? “That’s what museums are for,” replies Chris Houston in his Scottish accent.

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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