Canadian Museum for Human Rights vows to improve handling of harassment, diversity

The embattled Canadian Museum for Human Rights says it will make sweeping changes to rebuild the organization, which includes ending the practice of having non-Indigenous staff deliver an Indigenous blanket exercise and amending exhibits where diverse people haven’t been properly included.

The national museum released a new eight-page framework Thursday that includes 80 tasks 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 former CEO John Young resigned, said in the news release the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) has been working hard to challenge its systems and the way it operates.

The organization said it will ensure that tours and programs with primarily Indigenous content will be delivered by Indigenous people — including the Kairos blanket exercise, which is meant to educate people on the effects of colonization over time from an Indigenous perspective.

Having the blanket exercise — and tours with mostly Indigenous content — led only by Indigenous people was a recommendation in a recent external report into systemic racism at the museum and followed complaints from Indigenous staff.

The museum has been in a crisis since June when CBC News revealed 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 went 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.

Promises to include executive-level diversity

The museum, which is struggling with a sharp decline in revenue, said Thursday it will require human resources staff to get new training on investigating harassment complaints. It says all staff will be trained in the area of unconscious bias in harassment investigations and be required to report sexual harassment to HR.

The organization is also going to review complaint mechanisms to identify behaviours that involve discrimination and harassment.

The museum is also vowing to improve diversity in its hiring and prioritize the recruitment of BIPOC and LGBT staff at the executive level.

It is promising to review all exhibits and identify where stories of LGBT persons, people of colour and people living with disabilities have not been adequately included and make changes as necessary.

The museum also says it will issue a meaningful apology to Black and Indigenous people in the future, which will include remediation of financial harm in demonstrable cases.

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

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