Manitoba

Non-profit suspends talks with Canadian Museum for Human Rights over planned exhibit on gay purge

A non-profit that is mandated to memorialize the LGBT purge of federal employees has suspended negotiations with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights over a planned exhibition.

Gay purge exhibit planned inside CMHR now on hold after museum hid, censored LGBT content

CMHR spokesperson Maureen Fitzhenry says the museum has been in touch with the LGBT Purge Fund to discuss the group's concerns.  (John Woods/Canadian Press)

A non-profit that is mandated to memorialize the LGBT purge of federal employees has suspended negotiations with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights over a planned exhibition.

The LGBT Purge Fund, which had been in talks with the museum about creating a permanent exhibit tentatively planned to launch in 2022 or 2023, is now calling for a transparent accounting of what happened along with an action plan from the CMHR.

"The allegations are very serious and must be met with an equally serious response," the group said in a prepared statement Monday. 

The LGBT Purge saw thousands of civil servants, including Canadians in the military and RCMP, fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation. It lasted from the 1950s into the 1990s.

The LGBT Purge Fund was created to manage a multimillion-dollar fund from a class-action lawsuit settlement between the federal government and LGBT Canadians who were employed by the RCMP, the public service and the Canadian Armed Forces. 

The non-profit group said it is required by the settlement and a court order to mount a major exhibit at the CMHR about the federal LGBT purge. 

CBC News revealed last Thursday the national museum in Winnipeg forced employees at times to not show 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 LGBT staff were forced to censor tours. In at least one case, a staff member from the LGBT community was asked to physically block a same-sex marriage display from a passing group. 

Photos of same-sex couples in the shape of a cake are shown at a display inside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. (Teghan Beaudette/CBC)

"Immediately upon learning of these allegations, we contacted Museum officials to share how deeply troubled and shaken we were by the nature of the claims," the LGBT Purge Fund said.

The statement from the LGBT Purge Fund follows a decision by Pride Winnipeg to cancel a planned welcome gala for the Fierté Canada Pride conference at the museum in 2022. 

Former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray also announced his resignation from the fundraising arm of the museum in response to the censorship.

And after the story broke, the museum's CEO John Young announced he would not seek reappointment when his term is done in August. In an internal email, he said accountability for shortcomings at the museum lies on his shoulders and he acknowledged the consequences that follow.

Young and his executive team then issued a public apology for the CMHR's censorship a day later.

The LGBT Purge Fund said it is reassured the museum has hired a lawyer to conduct an investigation into allegations of discrimination as well a quick response from museum brass about the allegations.

The group said it will make a decision about the future of its relationship with the museum in due time while continuing to honour Canadians who experienced the LGBT purge. 

CMHR spokesperson Maureen Fitzhenry said the museum has been in touch with the LGBT Purge Fund to discuss the group's concerns. 

"We understand and respect their desire for transparency and their emphasis on the need for the Museum to move beyond words to demonstrate its commitment to eradicating systemic racism, discrimination and homophobia in its workplace," she said in a statement Monday.

Gay purge exhibit at CMHR now on hold

CBC News Manitoba

12 months ago
1:29
A non-profit that is mandated to memorialize the LGBT purge of federal employees has suspended negotiations with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights over a planned exhibition. 1:29

now