The Canadian Museum of History has started the search for a new director while its current leader remains on leave pending an investigation into workplace harassment.
Mark O’Neill, the institution’s president since 2011, went on leave in August after the board of trustees received complaints of workplace harassment. The board hired an independent investigator, Michelle Flaherty, to look into the allegations, and her work is continuing. The museum has not described the nature of the complaints.
The incident was one of many high-level allegations that have rocked major cultural institutions this year. The chief executive officer of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights resigned after employees raised concerns about systemic racism and homophobia in the workplace, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is in a legal battle with its former director after she was dismissed in July over allegations of creating a toxic work environment.
The federal government has now posted a job advertisement for the position of director of the history museum, with an annual salary range of $226,000 to $265,800. The hiring requires the approval of federal cabinet ministers.
Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s office confirmed the current director’s term ends next June, and said the job is being advertised now because of the length of the hiring process.
“This is standard procedure as most processes take at least six months,” spokeswoman Camille Gagné-Raynauld said.
A spokesperson for the museum board said there was no change in Mr. O’Neill’s employment.
“There is no change in the status of any museum executive team members at this time,” a statement from the board said.
The statement was provided through crisis-communications firm MidtownPR, which the museum hired this past summer to help it through the situation. Documents tabled in the House of Commons this week revealed the museum hired the firm on July 28, on a contract with “no end date” and an hourly rate of $350. The documents do not list a total value to the contract.
The government is also hiring a new chair of the board of trustees. Toronto philanthropist Jim Fleck had stayed on past his term’s expiration in 2019, but was replaced on Sept 30 on an interim basis by Winnipeg arts advocate Jean Giguère.
The Canadian Museum of History is a Crown corporation that runs both the history museum in Gatineau, Que., and the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. The institution reported expenses of $99.5-million in the 2019-2020 fiscal year and received $80.4-million in federal funding.
Mr. O’Neill joined the museum in 2001 and was appointed to a five-year term as director in 2011. He oversaw the rebranding of the institution from the Canadian Museum of Civilization to its current name, and a refocus on the history of Canada.
Mr. O’Neill’s reappointment to another term was controversial. He was one of a few dozen cabinet-level appointments made by the Conservative government in the summer of 2015, in advance of a federal election that fall, and a year before his term was up. When Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won the election, cabinet minister Dominic LeBlanc wrote to those appointees and asked them to voluntarily decline the reappointments. Mr. O’Neill did not, and later received the public backing of then-minister of heritage Mélanie Joly.
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