Current and former employees of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg say its management would sometimes ask staff not to show any gay content on tours at the request of certain guests, including religious school groups.
The employees say the practice was common for at least two years and in one case a staff member from the LGBT community was asked to physically block a same-sex marriage display from a passing group.
Late Thursday, after this story was originally published, museum CEO John Young said he would not be seeking reappointment when his term ends in August. He made the announcement to staff in an internal email that was obtained by CBC News.
The email addressed this story and said the idea the museum has been intentionally hiding LGBT content is painful.
“While this is not the museum’s policy, clearly there have been instances that are at odds with our ‘come and see approach.’ That is a failure on our part, and as the head of the museum, accountability for these shortcomings at the museum lie on my shoulders, and I acknowledge the consequences that follow from that.”
Gabriela Agüero, a former program developer and tour guide, had gone public to CBC News with allegations of censorship. She said she was told by her superiors at times to not show the same-sex display.
“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,'” said Agüero.
“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.”
The museum confirmed that from January 2015 until the middle of 2017, schools and classes could make a request for content to be excluded. That included stories about diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.
“We no longer adapt any of our education programs at the request of schools,” said CMHR spokesperson Maureen Fitzhenry.
Agüero worked at the national museum in Winnipeg from September 2017 until June 2019.
A current employee says LGBT tour guides were among staff who were asked to not speak about gay content.
The staffer said the organization stopped requesting employees shield homosexual content following an internal uproar after a staff member from the LGBT community was asked to physically block an alcove in the Canadian Journeys exhibit that has photos of same-sex couples displayed in the shape of a cake and items from two same-sex weddings.
“The staff member was outraged. And there was a lot of outrage within the team,” said the current employee, who CBC has agreed not to identify because the staffer fears losing their job for speaking out.
“There [was] a lot of upset that they would ask somebody to do that and especially … somebody [who] did identify that way as an LGBT person.”