Canadian Museum for Human Rights under siege must repair damage: former employees, union

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The CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights left after three weeks of controversy surrounding the national institution, but former employees say more needs to be done to bring about real change.And a national LGBT rights group says that so much damage has been done, it now wants the museum to withdraw its exposed stories.

“Frankly, I don’t think they deserved the right to present our stories, and I don’t think they have the credibility or authenticity to present our stories,” said Helen Kennedy, CEO of Egale Canada. Friday in an interview with CBC News in Toronto.

Kennedy has said that she wants the Winnipeg museum to replace an exhibit on gay marriages with an explanation of how it sometimes forces staff not to show LGBT content – and in some cases, deliberately concealed it.

“We believed it. It is the highest human rights institution in this country and they betrayed us, they betrayed our stories, “she said.

Helen Kennedy, executive director of the national LGBT advocacy group Egale Canada, says the damage to the museum is significant. “I don’t think they won the right to present our stories. “(Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

“People gave their personal stories and personal information knowing that it would be available to the public. This was not the case. They were hidden. We were ashamed and this cannot continue. ”

Museum president and CEO John Young resigned Thursday night after allegations that staff were forced to censor LGBT content for at least two years, as well as allegations of racism and harassment sexual behavior from current and former staff members.

His departure came after five women CBC told the museum’s human resources department dismissing their complaints of sexual harassment by a male colleague and two weeks after former employees began sharing stories of alleged racism within the CMHR.

“These allegations have not been properly forwarded to the board of directors. We should have been aware of these incidents, and it is unfortunate that this is not the case, “wrote board president Pauline Rafferty in an internal email to all staff on Thursday.

In February Young said in an interview that he wanted to continue his role as CEO, but after allegations from staff began to emerge, he said last week that he would leave at the end of his term in August.

John Young resigned from the position of CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on Thursday evening. He told the CBC in the spring that he wanted to stay for another multi-year term. (Gary Solilak / CBC)

But in a statement announcing his departure, Rafferty said that Young and the board of directors “agreed that it was in the best interest of the museum that he resigned, with immediate effect.”

Former program assistant Liam Green said this should only be the first step. He said that systemic discrimination against people of color inside the museum must be tackled.

Green, who is gay, said he found it difficult to express himself when he knew his colleagues were forced to censor the content.

“I was also in situations where I felt that my voice as an employee and as a queer person was not taken seriously. “

Thiané Diop is a former employee of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights who launched the hashtag #cmhrstoplying in early June. (Jaison Empson / CBC)

Former employee Thiané Diop started the hashtag #cmhrstoplying three weeks ago and is following the museum’s progress closely.

“Part of me finally feels validated in a way I haven’t known in years,” she said on Friday in reaction to the CEO’s departure.

“I look and wait. I’m not jumping up or down or I’m not very excited yet, but I’m interested to see how it continues to develop. “

Buck doesn’t stop with the CEO: union

The union, which represents about 160 employees at the national museum, is calling for accountability beyond Young and wants an on-site counselor to be hired and staff to turn.

“We know there are still managers and executives in the museum who were responsible for making decisions not to deal with some of the harassment complaints,” said Marianne Hladun, executive vice-president of the Alliance. Public Service of Canada, Prairie Region.

The museum’s board of directors says it has created a new diversity and inclusion committee. He also promised to launch a full-scale review of the museum’s establishment and its policies after a lawyer in Winnipeg has completed his investigation into allegations of discrimination.

The council apologized to staff, donors, volunteers and community members in their statement Thursday.

Rafferty took over the role of Young until a new CEO was found. The CEO of the Crown corporation is appointed by the federal government.

After a series of controversies forced the president of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to leave his job, the union there says more needs to be done to protect employees. 2:01

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