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Culture according to Ottawa

After Angela Cassie, acting director general of the National Gallery of Canada (NGC), now Françoise Lyon, president of the institution’s board of directors, has decided to address the media with the obvious objective of stopping the whirlwind of criticism that has been taking place. for a few days.


It should be noted that the institution’s management carried out a large number of dismissals, including four executives, in order to implement a strategic plan called transform together and he intended to make the Ottawa Museum more inclusive, both among its staff and in its exhibition rooms.

The ten minute interview I had with Mr.me Lyon was preceded by the publication of a letter on the NGC website in which he attacked “certain media outlets” that allegedly adopted “a discourse marked by intolerance and a flagrant lack of discernment” when dealing with “initiatives related to the racism, diversity and decolonization”. adopted by the museum.

In short, pay attention to the media: by paying close attention to the means used by this state corporation to deploy its strategic plan, which has caused numerous layoffs (a topic of interest, it seems to me), it could be accused of being intolerant.

METERme Lyon was quick to tell me that this passage aims above all to protect its general manager. But I recognize that these words are very surprising from the president of the most important museum in Canada, because the reports and chronicles published or broadcast in recent weeks have largely focused on the concerns raised by this commotion and on the departures of various figures important in the world of museums.

Precisely, on the subject of layoffs, Angela Cassie could not provide her exact number during her interview tour. For her part, Françoise Lyon confirms that there have been 25 in the last four years (corresponding to the period in which Sasha Suda, who drew up the strategic plan, was CEO).

Françoise Lyon cannot say if there will be more layoffs in the coming months. “It’s not planned […] But it is an organization that moves and changes. If something dramatic happens and we have to fire someone, it will be done in accordance with good governance practices. »


PHOTO ARCHIVE PRESS

Françoise E. Lyon, President of the Board of Trustees of the National Gallery of Canada

I stopped at how the decision to part ways with four top executives was recently made. This is where we enter the fog. It is fascinating to see how the responsibility of such an institution is variable. Françoise Lyon began by telling me that the decision had been “validated” and “endorsed” by the Board, but she added that “normally, we do not intervene in these types of management decisions.” […] We do not interfere in the decision-making process.”

I also hear this vague language from the Canadian Department of Heritage, which likes to say that NGC is a Crown corporation and is responsible for its governance. But when a major crisis occurs, it is the minister (Pablo Rodríguez in this case) who is questioned and who must act.

So who really runs the National Gallery of Canada? Is it Justin Trudeau?

Françoise Lyon published her letter and offered a series of interviews on Thursday, the day after a series of questions that Deputy Martin Champoux, a spokesman for the Bloc Québécois heritage, posed to Minister Pablo Rodríguez. The latter defended himself during the ensuing press scrum by saying that he had sent a letter to Mr.me lyons.

“The board and I understood that he wanted to make sure that we had proceeded with the best possible governance rules and that we had been respectful of the way it had been done, Françoise Lyon told me. Unequivocally, the answer is yes. It is clear that we have been rigorous. »

Despite the many reactions to this reorientation of the NGC, Françoise Lyon intends to continue supporting the implementation of this strategic plan. The next step will be to find a person to take over the general management permanently for the next six months.

The President also recognizes that the #MeToo movement and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are among the drivers of this change.

I learned from this crisis that the strategy used to establish this plan suffered greatly from the absence of a communication plan. We wanted to act urgently and with obvious recklessness. How can we imagine that we are going to change the course of such a ship without public opinion and the media getting involved?

Governance professors have here a formidable example of failure all along the line. They tell us that they want to transform this museum so that it speaks more to all Canadians. But we forgot to tell all Canadians what we were doing.

The media did their job. And now they insult them and brandish the words “intolerance” and “lack of discernment”. Is this how we view culture and free speech in Ottawa? If so, I’m not impressed.


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