Toward greater inclusion and equity

A comprehensive approach to address systemic racism and discrimination.

We are committed to creating a safe and healthy workplace where everyone is respected and valued.

Exterior view of the Museum.

This page documents the Museum’s work to address institutional bias and discrimination. We acknowledge that systemic racism and discrimination exists in Canada and in this Museum. We commit to acting in accordance with the fundamental principle that every person is free and equal in dignity and in rights.

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Background

Strategy

We have identified key outcomes and strategies that will bring us together with a common purpose of creating a safe, respectful and healthy workplace. We recognize that many of the standard approaches to addressing racism and addressing diversity and inclusion have not worked. We need to do things differently and we need to do it together.

After much consultation with each other and the community around us, we developed an outcome‐based framework that would ensure we are accountable for the changes we need to make in our workplace. We will take an intersectional approach to systemic change to address racism and oppression, colonialism, sexism, heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, ableism and all other forms of discrimination.

Five core outcomes that guide our efforts:

  1. Hearing and considering diverse perspectives.
  2. Cultivating a deep understanding of human rights principles.
  3. Respecting and valuing each other in our workplace.
  4. Ensuring meaningful relationships with our community.
  5. Demonstrating respect for the lived experiences of others in how we care for and tell their stories.

Creating an equitable museum: A framework to create a safe, respectful and healthy workplace sets out specific strategies intended to lead to these outcomes.

Action

We are making changes to the Museum’s policies, leadership expectations and working environment to centre equity and inclusion in the everyday life of the Museum. We recognize that lasting institutional change requires more than updated policies and procedures. It requires transformation in workplace attitudes, relationships and culture.

What follows are some of the measures the Museum is taking, guided by the five core outcomes above, to ensure a safe, equitable, and inclusive workplace built on a foundation of universal human rights.

Content review

We are working under the guidance of an external expert to identify gaps and to improve Black representation in our exhibitions and digital content. Museum staff, academic experts and community members are assessing the Museum’s representation of Black people, communities and histories through an intersectional lens. This process will result in the development and testing of new content and programming, recommendations for content updates and additions, and key performance indicators to ensure that future content development is inclusive and equitable.

Leadership roles and responsibilities

A new position – Director, Equity and Strategic Initiatives – has been created. Haran Vijayanathan was hired in this role in April 2021. He reports directly to the CEO and will work to build a positive and equitable workplace.

In July 2020, the Museum’s Board of Trustees established a Diversity and Inclusion Committee, chaired by trustee Julie Jai. The Committee’s role is to ensure that the mandate of the Museum to promote human rights and respect for all is fully reflected in its internal operations as well as in its programming.

The terms of reference for the Board of Trustees and the performance goals for the CEO and the entire executive leadership team have been revised to explicitly identify their responsibility to ensure equity, diversity and inclusion in our workplace.

Staff advocacy

Museum staff have independently created affinity and advocacy groups and are working with management and executive leadership to help ensure that our collective goals and strategies are anti‐racist, anti‐oppressive and grounded in our collective experience across the institution.

Hiring practices

The human resources department has begun in a thorough revision of hiring processes, including instituting anonymized review of applicants, improving "equivalent experience" criteria, and reviewing job postings and job descriptions for racism and inherent bias.

Anti-racism and inherent bias training

The Museum allocated $250,000 for education in 2020–2021. All Museum staff, management and members of the Board have been participating in training on issues such as sexual harassment and anti‐Black implicit bias. A comprehensive, mandatory and ongoing education program is being developed.

Specialized training is being provided to ensure equity in human resources practices and to ensure personal and cultural safety in the workplace. Human Resources staff are undertaking specialized training in trauma‐informed leadership and toxic workplace dynamics. Visitor Services staff will be offered conflict management training in the near future.

Staff and management have also been creating and participating in a range of formal and peer‐organized learning opportunities. These include anti‐racism and inherent bias reading and discussion groups, independent self‐education using online resources, and learning sessions about human rights at all‐staff meetings.

Respect for gender diversity

In recognition and support of gender diversity, we are reviewing our communications and web content to identify and remove binarygender assumptions and language. All staff have been encouraged to provide pronouns in Museum communications such as e‑mail signatures.

Workplace safety and respect

To provide cultural safety and support, we have created a designated space for staff to pray and smudge, and work is in progress to provide additional spaces for ceremony and recognition of our place on ancestral lands. These ceremonial spaces will also be available to the public.

A working group is drafting a visitor code of conduct to help ensure safety and respect for our visitor services staff by setting clear expectations about respectful dialogue and engagement.

Meaningful community relationships

Museum leadership has been meeting formally and informally with employees, contractors, volunteers, community organizations, leaders and advisors to discuss how we can better serve our staff and our community.

We are having ongoing discussions and have been participating in ceremony with Indigenous Elders, leaders and communities. We regularly look to the Standing Indigenous Advisory Council and Indigenous Education Advisory Group for guidance and leadership.

We are actively engaged in discussions with Black community organizations and individual members of the Black community with the goal of building relationships and informing Museum content and programs.

We have been meeting and consulting with LGBTQ2+ organizations about building stronger relationships of accountability and collaboration.

The Museum recognizes that the strength of the stories we share is directly related to the active and meaningful participation of the affected communities. We are strengthening our existing relationships and reaching out to make new connections and develop new partnerships.

Reports and responses

LGBTQ censorship

During the summer of 2020, it was reported that, from January 2015 (when the Museum began offering education programs) until mid‐2017, the Museum accommodated some school groups who requested that LGBTQ content be excluded from their programs.

On June 19, 2020, the Museum issued a public apology stating that the practice was wrong and contrary to what we stand for.

Racism and discrimination

In June 2020, former and current Museum employees publicly shared their experiences with discrimination in our workplace. The Museum engaged Laurelle Harris to review the extent to which systemic racism and oppression is affecting the organization and its staff, to make immediate findings on an interim basis, and to generate recommendations for remediation and further inquiry. The review was conducted from an anti-racist, anti-colonial, intersectional feminist, trauma-informed perspective.

Read the terms of engagement for the review

Harris is a mediator, arbitrator and lawyer with specific expertise in Women’s Studies and Black Studies. An experienced litigator, she founded Harris Law Solutions to pursue other professional interests including mediation, arbitration, and consulting on issues of equity and inclusion. 

Harris is supported by a multi-disciplinary team with diverse areas of expertise, including Barbara Bruce, an Indigenous consultant and Elder who is president of All My Relations Inc. Bruce is a citizen of the Métis Nation - Michif Otipemisiwak and Two-Spirit. Her belief in Indigenous traditional teachings is reflected in all the work she takes on.

On July 31, 2020, Laurelle Harris completed a Phase One to determine the extent to which systemic racism and oppression is affecting the Museum and its staff. Her final report contains 44 recommendations for change. Harris is currently engaged in Phase Two of the review process.

Harris is currently engaged in Phase Two of the review process.

This page was last updated April 30, 2021.

Our Mandate

Established by the Museums Act, we work to enhance understanding of human rights through reflection and dialogue.

Our History

From big idea to breaking ground to grand opening, discover the story behind building a global home for human rights.