Mistrust not a thing of the past at the Canadian Museum of History

·3 min read
A workplace assessment of the Canadian Museum of History released in 2021 shows that employees are reporting low levels of trust in management.  (Jonathan Dupaul/Radio-Canada - image credit)
A workplace assessment of the Canadian Museum of History released in 2021 shows that employees are reporting low levels of trust in management. (Jonathan Dupaul/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The internal crisis continues at the Canadian Museum of History, one of the country's leading cultural institutions, that has not had a permanent CEO at its head for more than two years.

According to a report produced by a consulting firm, the museum employees have "a low level of trust" in the management team in place, which includes many interim senior leaders.

The report suggests that the institution located in Gatineau, Que., is still shaken by the allegations of a toxic work climate that surfaced in 2020.

In the eyes of many museum employees, according to the report produced by the firm BDO, "bad behaviour is common and left unchecked" within the museum.

Canadian Museum of History
Canadian Museum of History

The Canadian Museum of History hasn't had a permanent chairman and CEO since the retirement of Mark O'Neill in April 2021. He had not held office since the summer of 2020, following a workplace harassment complaint.

The museum has been under the direction of interim CEO Caroline Dromaguet for nearly two years.

And while her appointment would have helped instill confidence, the number of positions held on an interim basis "creates a sense of instability within the organization."

Choosing the next museum CEO is in the hands of the Trudeau government, but the file has been dragging on for months.

Stabilize the leadership team

The BDO report is based on a survey of more than 300 museum employees, 49 in-depth interviews and four focus group sessions.

Internal survey: approval of various statements  From 0 (lowest level of agreement) to 5 (highest level of agreement)

According to BDO, it is essential for the government to "stabilize the leadership team" by "resourcing key leadership positions on a permanent basis."

For now, according to the museum, one in eight vice-president positions are held on an interim basis and 11 out of 45 senior management positions are also held on an interim basis.

The federal government almost named a new CEO to replace O'Neill last year. However, the prospective candidate did not speak French and the government didn't proceed with the appointment once the situation was reported on by Radio-Canada.

A new hiring process is underway and the outcome will be announced in due course, according to a spokesperson for Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez.

Sense of belonging

Whoever takes the reins of the museum will nevertheless inherit a motivated workforce.

In its report, BDO found a strong sense of belonging toward the museum among employees, with many of them stating they found their "dream job" there.

"Employees are proud to work for [the museum] and believe their work is interesting and meaningful. There is a sense of 'prestige' and accomplishment given the unique and valuable contributions [the museum] offers Canadians," the BDO report reads.

However, many employees would like the museum to better reflect Canadian diversity.

"There is a strong common perception that there is a need to increase representation of racialized people and Indigenous peoples within the organization at all levels and roles," states the report.

BDO said it has found "reluctant hopefulness" among museum employees about the institution's future.

The museum should "establish core values" and set expectations on acceptable behaviour and hold people accountable, the report suggests.

Jonathan Dupaul/Radio-Canada
Jonathan Dupaul/Radio-Canada

Future transformations

On its website, the museum lays out a series of measures to respond to its employees' desire for change, including redefining the organization's values and modernizing its operational governance structure.

"There is still much work ahead. But we could not have come this far without the generosity of the museums' employees, who gave their time and valuable feedback. We are committed to maintaining an open dialogue with all employees, through respectful and transparent communications," the museum said on its website.

BDO's report is dated April 2021 and was recently posted on the museum's website.