The staff at a human rights museum was told not to show gay content to school groups

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights lit up for Pride in 2013.Aaron Cohen/CMHR
  • Current and ex-staffers at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights say administrators instructed them to avoid showing LGBTQ content to certain guests, including school groups and diplomats.
  • The museum admitted the accusations are true, but says the policy was discontinued in 2017.
  • One employee said the policy was rescinded after an LGBT worker was made to physically block an exhibit with their body.
  • Federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a statement that the CMHR "should not be perceived as condoning homophobia or engaging in self-censorship."
  • On social media, other ex-employees have accused the museum of racism, using the hashtag #CMHRstoplying

Staff at a human rights museum in Canada say they were instructed to keep certain visitors away from exhibits that dealt with LGBTQ issues

Current and past employees of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg say administrators told them numerous times to reroute group tours at the request of certain guests, including religious school groups, diplomats, and donors, according to The CBC.

"When I complained about it, [management said], 'Well, that's what we request and we have to honor the requests from the schools because they pay us for those tours,' " former program developer Gabriela Agüero told the CBC. "It was horrendous because then I had to go sit with my gay friends on staff and tell them I did that. It was a horrific sense of guilt and very painful." Advertisement

The museum has confirmed the allegations, saying that from 2015 to 2017, it allowed schools to request certain subjects be excluded from tours.

"We no longer adapt any of our education programs at the request of schools," CMHR spokesperson Maureen Fitzhenry said.

A couple kiss and hold a sign reading "Everyone has the right to love" at a CMHR event in 2010.Aaron Cohen/CMHR
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An anonymous employee told the network the policy came under fire after a queer employee was made to physically block off a display in the museum's "Canadian Journeys" exhibit that included photos of same-sex couples and a pair of wedding cakes.

After that, the unnamed staffer said, school representatives would use their own bodies to hide LGBTQ content.On Twitter, Agüero accused the museum of being involved in "racism, nepotism, and discrimination from incompetent meritocrats."Advertisement

The museum at night.Aaron Cohen/CMHR

Federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a statement that the museum "should not be perceived as condoning homophobia or engaging in self-censorship.

"Its role is to expose the realities of those whose voices have been silenced, not to silence them even more," he added.Advertisement

Glen Murray, a former mayor of Winnepeg and candidate for leadership of the Green Party announced on Twitter he was resigning from the CMHR board "over this betrayal of its mandate."

Murray, who is openly gay, said he was "shocked there is no public apology or outreach to communities."

The CMHR has come under scrutiny in recent weeks, with ex-employees speaking out on social media using the hashtag #cmhrstoplying to address discrimination against Black and Indigenous staff.Advertisement

Story from @mswhite204 #cmhrstoplying #cmhr_mcdp

A post shared by CMHR STOP LYING (@cmhrstoplying) on Jun 12, 2020 at 6:29pm PDT

The museum has hired attorney Laurelle Harris to lead a review of those and other discrimination complaints, CTV reports.

"I acknowledge it is not enough for the Museum to make statements opposing racism," museum CEO John Young posted on Facebook.

"We must identify shortcomings and blind spots, both within ourselves as individuals and within the Museum, and take concrete steps to improve," he added.

The world's first museum dedicated to human rights, the CMHR opened in 2014 with a mandate "to enhance the public's understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others, and to encourage reflection and dialogue."

In June 2019, special Pride month tours took guests through exhibits "that focus on stories about the rights of people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities in Canada and around the world."Advertisement

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