Canadian Museum for Human Rights vows to make changes after allegations of racism, LGBT censorship

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Canadian Museum for Human Rights vows to make changes after allegations of racism, LGBT censorship
Canadian Museum for Human Rights vows to make changes after allegations of racism, LGBT censorship

The embattled Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) says it will make sweeping changes to rebuild the organization more than four months after staff came forward with shocking allegations of racism and LGBT censorship.

The national museum in Winnipeg released a new framework Thursday that includes 40 strategies the organization says it will take to achieve five outcomes. The framework focuses largely on repairing damage to the LGBT community, tackling systemic racism and improving how harassment in the workplace is handled.

"Our approach must address systemic racism and discrimination in our workplace in a meaningful way. It cannot be window dressing. It will take a sustained effort over time," said the museum's new CEO Isha Khan in a news release.

Khan, who started her job in August after then-CEO John Young resigned, said the CMHR has been working hard to challenge its "systems" and the way it operates.

The museum has been in a crisis since June when CBC reported it sometimes forced staff to censor LGBT material. That revelation came on the heels of allegations of racism from former employees.

Shortly after, five current and former employees came forward to CBC alleging they had been sexually harassed by the same male colleague. The women said they felt their complaints to human resources were unfairly dismissed.

The museum said Thursday it will set expectations for all staff on how to identify and respond to discrimination and harassment in the workplace

It will review all current exhibits to find where stories of people from Indigenous, Black, LGBT and disability communities have not been adequately included and make changes as necessary.

An 'aspiration document': Ex-employee

The museum, which is struggling with a sharp decline in revenue, said Thursday it will review complaint mechanisms to identify behaviours that involve discrimination and harassment. It will ensure ex-employees have a way of providing input.

Former museum employee Julie White, who co-founded an Instagram page called CMHR Stop Lying, said the strategies don't go far enough.

"I find it to be an 'aspiration document' with bare minimum effort for real accountability," she said in a prepared statement.

"I want to see less responsibility put on 'all staff members' and more responsibility put on the managers and executive board members who have caused this harm yet are still enjoying the benefits of working at a national museum."

The museum is also vowing to improve diversity in its hiring. It said it will create a program to recruit staff from underrepresented groups at all levels of the organization.

The museum said it will create opportunities for sharing and learning among staff about lived experiences of racism, homophobia and all forms of discrimination.

The second phase of an external review into systemic issues at the museum is currently underway.