Canadian Museum for Human Rights’s board said an external, third-party review of the museum is underway, in a June 25, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Museum of Human Rights CEO resigns after allegations of systemic racism

WINNIPEG — The president and CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has resigned following recent allegations of systemic racism, discrimination and claims of sexual harassment at the Winnipeg facility.

The museum’s board of trustees says John Young has agreed that it is in the best interest of the museum that he step down, effective immediately.

“We will act quickly to improve museum processes and our policies, and to rebuild relationships and trust with our staff and those we have let down, especially the Black and Indigenous communities, people of colour and LGBTQ2+ communities,” board chairwoman Pauline Rafferty said Thursday in a news release.

“We apologize unreservedly for what has happened and we know that the fight against systemic racism, homophobia, inequality and all forms of othering must be ongoing, and must be a priority.”

Rafferty said the allegations were not properly brought to the attention of the board of trustees.

She said now that the board has a more complete understanding it is taking immediate action and will undertake long-term steps to address the problems.

Rafferty is to take over as Interim CEO until a new leader is in place.

The board said an external, third-party review of the museum is already underway.

The board said the review will focus on experiences with systemic racism and other forms of discrimination, along with the censorship of LGBTQ2+ content shared by current and former museum staff up until June 22.

The preliminary findings of the report are to be received by July 31 and include recommendations for “meaningful cultural change within the museum.”

This initial review is to be followed by an institution-wide examination of all museum policies and practices and will enable current and former staff to share additional experiences.

Earlier this month, leadership at the museum apologized for censoring displays about LGBTQ history at the request of some school groups.

Six members of the executive team signed an apology that said the practice was contrary to everything the museum stands for.

The museum said it stopped the practice of hiding content in 2017.

A week earlier, the museum announced it would conduct an external review following social media posts alleging a racist and discriminatory work environment.

The controversy became public after the museum posted images of a Justice for Black Lives rally and current and former employees began responding that it was hypocritical because of racism they faced working at the museum.

Other current and former employees also posted online how they were asked to avoid showing displays of LGBTQ history to certain school groups.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, the union that represents staff at the museum, said these issues have been raised with management since 2018.

Earlier this month, Federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said he takes very seriously the apparent cases of self-censorship of LGBTTQ realities at the museum.

Former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray said he resigned from the board of Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights over what he called “this betrayal of its mandate.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2020.

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