Horrified staff at human rights museum say they were forced to censor LGBT+ displays for religious visitors

Patrick Kelleher June 18, 2020
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Canada mueum of human rights LGBT censor

The Canadian Museum of Human Rights (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Staff at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights have claimed they were forced to censor LGBT+ content when giving tours to certain groups.

The museum, which is based in Winnipeg, has come under fire after current and past employees said they were encouraged to censor certain materials over the course of two years.

In one instance, a staff member said they were asked to physically block a display about same-sex marriage from a passing group.

“When I complained about it, [management said]: ‘Well, that’s what we request and we have to honour the requests from the schools because they pay us for those tours,'” Gabriela Aguero, a former tour guide and program developer at the museum, told CBC News.

Staff member at human rights museum in Canada said she felt ‘horrific’ guilt after she blocked an LGBT+ exhibition.

Aguero said it was “horrendous” and spoke of her sadness at having to tell her gay co-workers later what had happened.

“It was a horrific sense of guilt and very painful,” she said.

The museum has admitted that between January 2015 and mid-2017, it had a policy whereby schools and classes were allowed to request that the museum would not show their groups LGBT+ content.

It was a horrific sense of guilt and very painful.

Special visitors such as diplomats and donors were also reportedly ‘protected’ from LGBT+ exhibitions.

A current employee claimed that LGBT+ members of staff were among those instructed to censor queer content for visitors.

LGBT+ staff members were also asked to censor content.

One of those employees was reportedly asked to block an alcove in an exhibition that showed photos of same-sex couples in the shape of a wedding cake.

Staff expressed their outrage to management following that incident, which led to the policy being scrapped.

A spokesperson told CBC that they no longer adapt their programs at the request of schools.

The controversy comes just a week after former staff at the museum claimed they had experienced racism and mistreatment while working there.

Black, Indigenous and other people of colour began sharing their experiences on social media last week.

The museum’s CEO John Young said they would work to identify “shortcomings and blind spots” to improve working life for staff.

In a statement provided to PinkNews, a Canadian Museum for Human Rights spokesperson confirmed that LGBT+ content was excluded for certain school groups.

“This was wrong and should never have happened,” the spokesperson said.

They confirmed that the policy was scrapped in 2017 after staff raised concerns.

“The Museum is extremely concerned about the experiences being shared by current and former Canadian Museum of Human Rights employees about systemic discrimination, racism and homophobia,” the spokesperson added.

“In keeping with our mandate and mission, this museum must be a role model that reflects the highest standards of diversity and inclusion, both internally and externally.”

Lawyer Laurelle Harris will now conduct an independent review on complaints of racism and other forms of discrimination at the museum.


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