Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights incoming president and chief executive officer Isha Khan poses for a portrait, Aug. 10, 2020, after being named as it's next leader.

David Lipnowski/The Globe and Mail

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, embroiled in controversy over allegations of a racist, toxic workplace, has named a new president and chief executive officer.

Human rights lawyer Isha Khan, former executive director and senior counsel for the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, will begin in the position next week. Khan, 46, has no museum experience, but has worked for years as an advocate for human rights, working with organizational change and workplace culture. Most recently, she was appointed by the Minister of Public Safety to co-ordinate a review of conditions in federal penitentiaries.

She joins the museum at a difficult time. An independent report released last week found that racism is “pervasive and systemic” within the federal museum. The third-party investigation was ordered after public allegations of racism, censorship (suppressing the museum’s LGBTQ content), and inaction on the part of management in dealing with allegations of sexual harassment.

Story continues below advertisement

“I think that dismantling systemic racism, discrimination, oppression has to be very deliberate and thoughtful work,” Khan said in an interview on Monday, shortly after Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault announced her appointment. The announcement indicated she will take “decisive action for change” and ensure the museum is diverse and welcoming for all employees.

In the interview, Khan said discrimination, abuse and harassment will not be tolerated. “I’m going to work with the staff to bring about some change within the walls and build the trust of the community around us.”

Khan was born and raised in Winnipeg, where she earned her undergraduate degree before studying law at the University of Victoria. She has lived and worked in Calgary, and has been back in Winnipeg since 2007. She is the board chair of the United Way of Greater Winnipeg and a founder of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women’s Winnipeg chapter. Her family is of Pakistani origin.

“It’s 2020, and it’s still pretty unfortunate that it’s remarkable that there is a woman of colour in a leadership position like this, that that’s something that we talk about,” Khan said. “But that said, I’m a realist, and I think my appointment does break down some barriers, and if I can be part of that, if I can be part of modelling what a representative work force should look like or having diversity in leadership positions, I’m pretty happy about that. I feel proud.”

Ms. Khan’s appointment follows the departure of John Young, who had been scheduled to step down as CMHR president and CEO in August. He resigned early after public criticism began on social media when the museum tweeted in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The museum was also accused of altering tours on request from some religious schools, omitting LGBTQ content.

Ms. Khan declined to comment on the specifics of the report, but noted that she will follow its recommendations, and do so with transparency.

The report, titled “Rebuilding the Foundation,” revealed that staff at the museum who persisted in efforts to address racism in the workplace were penalized, some branded by management as “troublemakers,” “difficult” or “angry.” Employees who were Black, Indigenous and people of colour reported being passed over for promotion in favour of equally or less-qualified white candidates.

Story continues below advertisement

The report said employees were subjected to racist treatment from visitors too, and management did not take action.

Staff were treated by management as being “over-sensitive” or emotionally weak for being unable to handle the discrimination, the report said.

One former employee, a Black woman who was about 20 when the harassment began, reported being stalked by a white museum member in his 60s. This went on for about two years.

The report found that LGBTQ content was hidden or omitted six times in 2017 and once in 2015.

It noted that the museum “neither explicitly acknowledged nor apologized for the racism perpetuated,” although it acknowledged that LGBTQ content was hidden, and apologized. “The apology has been viewed by many as tone deaf at best,” the report stated.

Its 44 recommendations include that the museum issue a “meaningful apology to Black and Indigenous people that is action-based.” It also recommends that a Black Canadian history tour be launched within 12 months, and that tours and programs with primarily Indigenous content be delivered only by Indigenous people. A number of recommendations call for training.

Story continues below advertisement

A second phase of the review will further explore the extent to which sexism has been an issue at the museum, as well as gendered racism, and barriers to employment for people with disabilities.

“I think that if people understand and are really driven by the mandate of having a respectful, inclusive workplace, we can get through this,” Khan said. “That also means doing some work to identify what discrimination and harassment look like so people can call it out and know how to respond to it.”

The Globe has five brand-new arts and lifestyle newsletters: Health & Wellness, Parenting & Relationships, Sightseer, Nestruck on Theatre and What to Watch. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies