Canadian Museum for Human Rights employees say sex harassment complaints dismissed by human resources

Five current and former employees of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights say they were sexually harassed by the same colleague and say their human resources complaints have been dismissed.

The women, who performed on CBC News, claim that the man who works with visitors at the Winnipeg national museum, grabbed and touched them, stared at their genital areas and made inappropriate comments about them and other women for years.

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Gabriela Agüero, a former program developer and tour guide, said she saw the man approach women and aim at them. She said that he also approached her several times and asked her to go places, even when she refused and asked him to stop inviting her.

She said he was allowed to continue working at the museum after an internal investigation into his conduct. "It left us traumatized because we all had to continue working with him, being in the elevators, in the cafeterias, everywhere".

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Gabriela Agüero, a former program developer and museum guide, says she was horrified after she went to HR with another woman about a male colleague and, instead of feeling heard, she felt unprotected. (For sale Lyza / CBC)

Agüero, who said she left the museum after being bullied by her manager, said she went to the museum's human resources department after the man clapped his hands and said to a much younger employee than him: "Oh, you're so a meeting while looking it up and down.

Agüero and his wife, Madeleine McLeod, now 26, went to HR together in 2018 to report the incident.

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"And then essentially [the HR director] asked me [whether I thought] he maybe meant "I'm so hot because of the weather, like it's hot outside". So when she said that comment, I already knew I was going nowhere, "McLeod said in a telephone interview from Vancouver, adding that the museum is usually very cold.

"I felt very underestimated by her, just the whole interview was not very pleasant. I ended up being very emotional and I thought about giving up immediately because I thought I didn't want to work for the institution that promotes human rights, and they can't even deal with a right so basic human ".

This current employee, whom CBC News is not identifying, says she was harassed by a male colleague and saw him harass new employees and watch young visitors inappropriately. (Jeff Stapleton / CBC)

McLeod, who started working at CMHR in 2017 and left in July last year, said before going to HR that he told the manager about the incident, and his response was: "& # 39; Oh no again & # 39; ", so I'm assuming that at that moment, [the man] had previous notices. "

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CBC News contacted the man on Facebook, but did not receive a response until publication.

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A current museum employee said she was harassed by the man, saw him harass new employees and look at young visitors inappropriately.

"They have just been hired, looking at them inappropriately, touching them, feeling that he can do that," she said.

CBC News agreed not to identify the woman because she is afraid of reprisals for speaking out.

The official said that several complaints had been made to HR about the man, investigations had been initiated and an outside lawyer was brought in to analyze the allegations.

She said she was shocked when she started experiencing the behavior at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

"Why can't these people understand that you are working in a place where you are promoting rights for all, human rights?"

Union wants anti-harassment training

The union representing museum officials said it was aware of cases of sexual harassment.

Canada's Public Service Alliance said there were some complaints resolutions, but they are not always suitable for employees.

The union said it had already approached management before asking some members to file a complaint after they were not satisfied with the way HR handled complaints.

Three weeks ago, the union said it made a proposal in contractual negotiations with the museum to create mandatory anti-harassment training for all museum employees, including management, but those proposals were rejected.

"The union will continue to push for anti-harassment training this week during contract negotiations, and we look forward to seeing more openness from management over this proposal," said Marianne Hladun, PSAC regional executive vice president for the prairies.

2 external criticisms of harassment

Museum spokeswoman Louise Waldman said that although CMHR was unable to comment on a specific case, it twice hired an outside lawyer to lead investigations into allegations of sexual harassment.

"In both cases, we accept your findings and follow the recommendations provided."

Waldman said that all complaints of sexual harassment are handled according to the guidelines outlined in the CMHR Workplace Respect Policy.

She said the museum requires all employees and managers to conduct respectful training in the mandatory workplace, which it is reviewing and updating.

The women's allegations come a week later CBC News Revealed the museum sometimes asked the team not to reveal gay rights-related content at the request of certain guests on excursions, including groups from religious schools.

Officials said the practice had been common for at least two years, and in one case, a member of the LGBT community team was asked to physically block a showing of same-sex marriage from a passing group.

After the story was published, the museum's CEO, John Young, said that would not seek renewal, and the former mayor of Winnipeg, Glen Murray, resigned from the museum's fundraising arm in protest.

John Young, CEO of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, is not seeking a nomination when his term ends. He acknowledges that there are deficiencies in dealing with racism in the institution dedicated to the principle of human rights. (Jaison Empson / CBC)

A day later, the CMHR issued a public apology for excluding and even hiding LGBT cases.

Federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a statement that the government is committed to promoting healthy workplaces where harassment is not tolerated.

"We do not tolerate harassment, abuse or discrimination. Everyone deserves a healthy work environment. As mentioned earlier, we respect [CEO John] Young's decision not to pursue a new mandate … and we hope that the next transition will be beneficial for the museum's educational mission and for the dedicated CMHR team. "

Last week, the CMHR announced the hiring of Winnipeg's lawyer Laurelle Harris to investigate allegations of discrimination at the museum after former employees began publishing stories earlier this month in social media about racism they say they experimented while working at the institution.

Agüero said he hoped that, when he spoke, life would improve for the women who still work there. "I am always of the idea that there is a hope for change … We can change things together," she said.

"Because of [the police killing of] George Floyd in the United States and what happened, we have no right to leave things as they were. "

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