Day 22 – June 28 – Winnipeg, MB

When we travelled across Canada in 2014 I went to the cemetery where my mother’s parents were buried. Her mother died in Nov. 1935 and her father in June 1936 so my mom and her three older sisters were orphaned about five years after they arrived in Canada from Scotland. My mother was 6 when her dad died. I think the eldest sister (there were four girls, just like my family) was 16.

We did find both of the graves, although they were buried in different sections of the cemetery; but not too far apart. Since my grandfather William Young had served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in WW I he was buried in the miiitary section. Brookside Cemetery was primarily created as a verteran’s cemetery. There are 10,400 military graves there. It took us quite awhile (with help from the administration office) to find my grandmother, Catherine Young’s grave. We discovered that she had no marker, just a round disk with the grave number – 249. They were likely too poor to buy one and grandpa may have been sick (he died of TB from being gassed in the war) and perhaps not working since he died only 7 months after she did. Grandma Young died of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix.

John and I both felt strongly that she should have a marker. It did not matter that we never knew her, nor that our mother had no memories of her, she was important to people during her lifetime. We drove across the road to the memorial company and ordered a marker. I had to phone one of my sisters to get the dates for it and she phoned our other sister to say what we were planning and they both said they would help pay for it. We also had the date of Grandfather Young’s birth put on his stone. The memorial company sent photos of the finished stones in 2014 but since we were back in Winnipeg again I wanted to pay my respects and we went back to Brookside.

The marker we had chosen for Grandmother Young was the same as my mother has at Mt. Ida Cemetery at home. I was sad to see that all of the white inlay on the letters and the Scottish heather in the corners has worn off. They have had a lot of rain in Winnipeg this spring and there is water sitting in low spots all over the place. Grandma’s grave was not in water but the ground was quite soft and her marker was dirty. We washed it all off before we left.

I had spent time in our hotel room this morning catching up on some banking so by the time we went to the cemetery and found the graves and got to the Human Rights Museum it was after 12. The museum opened in September 2014 only three months after we were in Winnipeg the first time. It is a huge building with 8 floors if you count the scenic view level at the top. By the time it opened construction and contents cost $351 million dollars. It is a beautiful building and the galleries are really nicely done telling about all the different types of inequality and prejudice and racism that people have experienced in Canada over the centuries, plus a really good exhibit on the Holocaust and what led up to it. But it was also the biggest waste of space I have ever seen! There were huge areas of emptiness on all levels. I think the architect must have expected to have several thousand people on every floor at the same time. I bet if they did not build everything on such a massive scale the cost could have been halved.

The museum is located not far from The Forks, the hub of downtown Winnipeg at the confluence of the Red River and the Assiniboine River. The location was selected specifically due to the historical importance of the area.

There were three huge pieces of art by indigenous artists.

This bead and embroidery panel on felt is at least 30 feet tall.

About 1/3 of the Garden of Contemplation on Level 3.

The internally-lit alabastar-lined ramps zig-zagged back and forth from levels 2 to 6. There are one kilometer of ramps to get from the first floor to Level 7. An elevator takes you to the top of the tower on Level 8.

It was a beautifull day today so the views of Winnipeg were really nice from the Tower of Hope.

Your eyes are not playing tricks and the photo is in focus. This an artwork by Chinese-born Ai Weiwei, artist and dissident. It has travelled the world and came to Winnipeg from Austin, Texas where it had been for two years. It is entitled “Forever Bicycles” and is made up of 1,254 stainless steel bicycles from Shanghai Forever Co. It is 9 meters (30′) tall and arrived in pieces aboard four semi-trailers. It took about a week to set up. The sculpture is site specific and is modified to accommodate and enhance the area in which it is displayed. A company from London dismantles and sets it up in each location. It will be in Winnipeg for two years – with a possible one year extension.

The sculpture alludes to the bikes that flooded the streets of China, Ai’s home country, during his childhood. Despite their seeming omnipresence, bicycles remained financially out of reach for many, including Ai’s family.

The view from Forever Bicycles to the human rights museum is intentional. Ai is known for his human rights-related activism; he is openly critical of the Chinese government’s stance on that topic and democracy.

It was almost five o’clock and the museum was getting ready to close as we left. We headed back to the hotel to rest our weary feet once again before walking down the street for dinner. Tomorrow we leave Winnipeg, and Manitoba and head into Ontario. There are very few roads above the Trans-Canada Highway in northern Ontario but we have found a few and will be toodling along driving through forests with rocks and water for the next few days. The four-day drive from Kenora to Sault St. Marie in 2014 was some of the most boring days of any road trip we have done; so I do not expect a lot of exciting scenery. Maybe, since we are not just following the northside of Lake Superior this time, we may see a bit of difference, but we are just going to be a little higher in the Canadain Shield so I doubt it.

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