Opposition parties call for action on harassment allegations at Canadian Museum of History

·2 min read
The federal government received a report in January into allegations of workplace harassment involving Mark O'Neill, the long-time president of the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que.  (Simon Lasalle/Radio-Canada - image credit)
The federal government received a report in January into allegations of workplace harassment involving Mark O'Neill, the long-time president of the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. (Simon Lasalle/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The federal government is being accused of inaction nearly two months after it received a report into the conduct of Mark O'Neill, the long-time president of the Canadian Museum of History.

The report was produced following a complaint filed last summer about harassment in the workplace and was presented to Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault at the end of January.

At the time, the Gatineau, Que., museum said the report made only one recommendation and would not disclose the contents of the document.

"We get the impression that the minister is dragging his feet a little, especially when we know that there is just one recommendation in the report that was tabled in January," said NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice in a French-language interview with Radio-Canada.

"It shouldn't be that hard to apply it or not apply it."

Boulerice told Radio-Canada he was aware of the need to protect the complainant's confidentiality, but said the public needs to be sure the government isn't trying to "stifle" the case.

Conservative MP Alain Rayes echoed the sentiment.

"It is unacceptable that [the minister] has not yet made a decision," he said in French. "The government has asked for an investigation. There is a report and there is only one recommendation, so the minister should announce his [intentions] right away."

The Bloc Québécois, likewise, has called for greater transparency in the file's management, asking that a redacted copy be made public.

A spokesperson for Guilbeault's office said it's unable to provide further explanations to the public at this stage.

"The applicable law in such matters dictates adherence to a defined process and protects all parties involved by requiring its confidentiality," said Guilbeault's press secretary, Camille Gagné-Raynauld.

"Our government intends to comply with all of its obligations, both in terms of complaint handling and the confidentiality of the process."

'Political pressure'

According to three sources, the initial complaint was related to O'Neill's behaviour with employees, as well as his management style and his temperament.

Former employees who worked with O'Neill have alleged that he was unpredictable, ill-tempered and became extremely angry at times. The sources said that while he has undeniable qualities that explain his rise to the top of the organization, he kept staff constantly on their toes.

O'Neill's lawyer, David Law, told Radio-Canada it would be inappropriate for the government to make a quick decision in response to "political pressure."

"Although he is absent from work for health reasons, Mr. O'Neill is cooperating fully with the ongoing process," he said. "The only concerns on the part of the government must be due process, confidentiality and the rule of law."

O'Neill's term as president of the museum expires this year, and the process for selecting a successor is already underway.