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News / July 2, 2020

News Roundup: CEO Departs Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and Controversy Continues

#cmhrstoplying leads to big change at Canada’s newest national museum. Also: NSCAD president dismissal outcry, a Remai Modern discrimination finding, and more.
Walkways at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Photo: <a href="">Timothy Neesam</a>. CC BY-ND 2.0. Walkways at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Photo: Timothy Neesam. CC BY-ND 2.0.

Late last week, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights announced the immediate departure of CEO John Young. Young had previously said he would leave in August, at the official end of his term, following recent allegations of systemic racism, discrimination and claims of sexual harassment at the museum—many of which became public after former employee Thiané Diop started the #cmhrstoplying hashtag and Instagram account in early June. “These allegations were not properly escalated to the Board of Trustees,” said CMHR board chair Pauline Rafferty in a June 25 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.” CBC Manitoba reports that the union wants to see more leadership team members resign, and that Egale Canada has asked for its LGBTQ display contributions to be returned. The Globe and Mail reports that Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said he is watching the situation and has confidence in the board; his office would not say whether federal funding for the museum would be withheld as a result of the workplace problems there.

NSCAD University president Aiofe Mac Namara has been removed by the board of governors after a roughly a year on the job—and many faculty and students are now petitioning that the board to be dismissed, and Mac Namara reinstated. The Halifax Examiner reports that “Mac Namara has been working on a governance review of the board, with the aim of directly addressing potential conflicts of interest and of having the board better reflect the community, especially in terms of its diversity.” On June 25, the board voted 12-5 to dismiss Mac Namara, the Examiner reports, with “no” votes coming “from the two faculty representatives on the board, the two students, and the one Black person on the board, Duane Jones.” Global News reports that the faculty union has issued a statement against the dismissal and that Mac Namara is “shocked” by the move. CBC Halifax reports on calls for greater board transparency and the new advocacy group Friends of NSCAD. On June 30, the board stated in a release, “We cannot and will not get into details on decisions made regarding confidential personnel matters that rest between the board and its president.”

A gender-based discrimination complaint at the Remai Modern merits a court hearing, says Saskatchewan’s human rights commissioner. CBC Saskatoon reports that before referring the case to court, however, the commissioner would like to see the two parties attempt mediation one more time. The complaint was originally filed in 2015.

An Indigenous employee has accused the Royal Alberta Museum—the largest museum in Western Canada—of systemic racism. The Toronto Star reports that “Paulina Johnson, who is from Samson Cree Nation, has filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission over what she says was a toxic work environment that left her feeling abused, traumatized and suffering from depression and anxiety.”

Arts community members are critiquing the Vancouver Art Gallery’s public statements on equity and inclusion. Many of the critiques appear on a recent Instagram post in which the gallery outlines some of its “tangible actions for change” following the hiring of its newest director and CEO, Anthony Kiendl. More commentary and concern also appears on the Instagram post announcing Kiendl’s hiring.

“The Floyd Effect: Amidst anti-racism protests, Canadian art institutions are vowing to do a better job representing diversity. But how much will things actually change?” Galleries West reports.

“Toronto’s culture is nothing without Black artists. But the predominantly white art world is part of the obstacle.” Journalist and critic Kelsey Adams provides her perspective and analysis in the Toronto Star.