Human rights museum CEO steps down amid allegations of racism, discrimination and sexual harassment in museum
WINNIPEG -- The president and CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has stepped down effective immediately amid allegations of racism, discrimination and sexual harassment within the museum.
Thursday evening, the museum's Board of Trustees announced that John Young has stepped down as president and CEO of the museum.
In a written apology from the museum's executive team earlier this week, the museum had said Young would step down after his term ended in August.
The museum's board said it is now facing claims of sexual harassment within the museum.
“These allegations were not properly escalated to the Board of Trustees,” Board Chair Pauline Rafferty, who will be stepping in as interim CEO, said in a news release. “Now that we have a more complete understanding of these events, we are taking immediate action and will undertake long-term steps to address these issues.”
In a statement to CTV News, a spokesperson for the museum said it could not comment on specific allegations, it said there have been two occasions when the museum retained an external party to investigate.
They said in both cases, the museum fully complied with the recommendations of the investigator. They did not say what these recommendations were.
UNION FILES GRIEVANCES OVER SEXUAL HARASSMENT CLAIMS AT CMHR
The news of sexual harassment claims and discrimination within the CMHR does not come as a surprise to Marianne Hladun, the Prairies Regional Executive Vice-President for the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the union representing museum workers.
She said the union has several grievances dating back to October 2018 filed against the museum over allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination, and she said she expects there will be more.
"When you are talking sexual harassment, when you are talking discrimination – it is a really difficult decision to file a grievance because basically, you are putting your own mental health on the line," she said.
"What everybody perceived is that nobody was going to do anything about it anyway."
She said with more employees speaking out about their experiences, she thinks more people will be coming forward.
"People are basically being empowered to say 'maybe my voice does matter'," Hladun said.
She added the union has proposed all museum employees take mandatory anti-harassment training.
"If they seriously believe and are committed to turning this around and making this a place that is the pride of Winnipeg – the pride of Canada – where employees are actually respected, then come to the table, let's work on this together," she said.
"There is a huge culture shift that needs to happen there."
EXTERNAL REVIEW UNDERWAY AT CMHR
This news comes after the museum confirmed it accepted requests to exclude and hide LGBTQ2+ content from some school tours. There have also been allegations of racism and discrimination within the museum.
The Board of Trustees at the museum said an external third-party review is already underway. The findings from this review will be received by the museum by July 31, 2020 with recommendations for change.
The museum said it has also created a new Diversity and Inclusion Committee chaired by Trustee Julie Jai, who is a former member of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The museum said this committee will act on the recommendations outlined in the report.
The museum said it will also be engaging staff to hear more about their experiences and better understand their concerns.
“We know the past two weeks have been difficult for the Museum’s staff and volunteers, its members, donors, and the community – and we apologize for that," Rafferty said. "This is especially true for all those who look to the Museum as a place dedicated to human rights, to building understanding, promoting respect, and encouraging reflection. We recognize that we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard."