Museum for Human Rights CEO resigns after LGBT censorship, allegations of racism, harrassment

The president and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights resigned after allegations of sexual harassment and racism at the Winnipeg institution, in addition to complaints that employees were forced to block LGBT content.

John Young had said earlier that he would resign at the end of his term in August. But the museum's board of directors said in a statement late on Thursday that it believed it was in the museum's best interest for him to step down immediately.

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The resignation comes later five women they told CBC that they had been sexually harassed by a male colleague and felt that the museum's human resources department had dismissed their complaints.

CBC also reported the museum forced officials sometimes to censor and block LGBT content for certain guests, including groups from religious schools.

These reports prompted requests for Young to leave immediately.

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"We apologize without reservation"

In a statement Thursday night, museum chairman Pauline Rafferty said the allegations had not been brought to the attention of the board.

"We will act quickly to improve museum processes and our policies and to rebuild relationships and trust with our staff and with those we have disappointed, especially indigenous and black communities, people of color and LGBTQ2 + communities," the statement said.

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"We apologize without reservation for what happened and we know that the fight against systemic racism, homophobia, inequality and all forms of otherness must be continuous and must be a priority".

In an internal email sent to all employees on Thursday night, Rafferty apologized and said the board and Young, with the support of Federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, agreed that it is in the museum's interest that the CEO leave immediately.

Earlier this month, former employees published stories of alleged racism on Instagram through an account called CMHR Stop Lying.

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Gabriela Agüero, former program developer and museum guide. (For sale Lyza / CBC)

Later, Gabriela Agüero, a former museum program developer and tour guide, told CBC that she was forced to protect the LGBT content of certain tour groups and claimed to have been sexually harassed by a male colleague.

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Agüero said Young's departure is a good first step, but he asked other managers involved to leave as well.

"If everyone who is participating in this hiding, distortion and abuse is still in the institution, nothing will change.

"They need to go deeper than that."

Defense groups criticize museum

Egale Canada, a national LGBT rights advocacy organization, said it has been heard by many Canadians in recent days who are concerned about censorship reports.

"Trust has been lost and there needs to be a lot more action and a lot more engagement before we can expect it to be repaired," said Jennifer Boyce, the group's director of communications.

The Michaëlle Jean Foundation, launched by the former governor general, also criticized the museum, saying it was deeply concerned by allegations of racist and homophobic discriminatory practices.

The charity organization encourages popular youth and arts initiatives for social change.

"We must take a firm stand against discrimination of all kinds and demand responsibility, transparency and concrete actions from the museum's leadership, as the allegations are being investigated independently," the foundation said in a statement.

Rafferty will serve as interim CEO until a replacement is found.

The museum hired Winnipeg's lawyer Laurelle Harris last week to investigate discrimination at the museum. But his investigation, which is being assisted by consultant Barbara Bruce, will not examine allegations of sexual harassment. The museum said it has already hired two outside lawyers to investigate these allegations.

Rafferty said the board of directors has established a diversity and inclusion committee chaired by curator Julie Jai.

Jai is a former member of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. She said Thursday that the museum will work to listen and address employee concerns.

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