I was surprised on a walk in my new Winnipeg neighborhood to bump into Gandhi, the political leader famous for his acts of civil disobedience against British colonial power in India’s fight for independence. There is a statue of Gandhi right in the center of the laneway just south of where the new Human Rights Museum is being built. Gandhi looks like he’s out for a brisk stroll with his signature cane and fits right in with the other Winnipeggers walking down the street. I wondered what a statue of Gandhi was doing in Winnipeg.
I discovered the art work was a gift from the Indian government to the Friends of the Canadian Human Rights Museum in 2004, but it was only unveiled in its permanent spot in June of 2010. The statue has caused some controversy because there is talk of renaming the portion of the street on which it stands after Gandhi as well. Some people are upset by this because Gandhi is known to have made statements affirming Arab rights to Palestine in the late 1930’s. A Winnipeg Sun columnist says renaming a street near the Human Rights Museum after Gandhi would be the height of hypocrisy.
On a recent trip to Saskatoon I spotted another statue of Gandhi in the down town area. This statue was also a gift from the Indian government to the city of Saskatoon and was created by Ram Vanji Sutar, the same artist who made the Gandhi sculpture in Winnipeg.
I think I’d like to dig up a paper I wrote in university for my Religious Studies degree comparing Gandhi’s ideas with those of John Howard Yoder, a Mennonite theologian. It would be interesting to see what kind of writer I was almost forty years ago and how the ideas I had then about Gandhi would compare with those I hold now after visiting India.