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Moving Forward with Humility, Openness, and Action  

WAG-Qaumajuq works with Equitable Solutions Consulting on roadmap towards eliminating systemic oppression at the Gallery


Winnipeg, Manitoba, November 8, 2022: In the fall of 2021, WAG-Qaumajuq made an important decision to be proactive in our efforts to foster a safe and rewarding environment for Indigenous, Black and racialized people. The Gallery enlisted Equitable Solutions Consulting to undertake an organizational assessment of WAG-Qaumajuq operations to identify the ways in which systemic oppressions are manifesting within our institution.  

This assessment took place over the course of a year and was informed by surveys, interviews with current and former WAG-Qaumajuq staff, a thorough policy review, and focus groups. The process was encouraging, with staff and leadership both committed to building a better Gallery for everyone.  

We are eager to share the summary of this assessment, as well as the ongoing action we are taking moving forward, to further the Gallery’s work in engaging anti-racist and anti-oppression praxis. We recognize that no colonial institution is immune to systemic racism and oppression, and we want to be a leader in equity work at the organizational level. WAG-Qaumajuq is at the forefront of cultural institutions taking on this work, and we recognize and welcome the weight of that responsibility. 

A summary of the report, actions, and next steps can now be viewed on our website at wag.ca/equity 

 

Key Facts & Findings: 

  • The workforce at WAG-Qaumajuq is relatively young; Indigenous and racialized respondents were disproportionately younger overall relative to the other employees. 
  • Data suggests that white employees are moving through the organization towards permanency at a higher rate than Indigenous or racialized staff. 
  • Data indicates that systemic barriers are preventing racialized and Indigenous employees from obtaining permanent positions with WAG-Qaumajuq. 
  • Most Indigenous and racialized respondents have been employed with the Gallery for less than five years; all the persons who have been with WAG-Qaumajuq for more than 20 years identified themselves as white. This is likely a function of WAG-Qaumajuq’s efforts to increase hiring employees from marginalized communities, combined with the historic over-representation of white employees.  
  • Women are over-represented within the organization and there is gender parity within the Leadership Team. 
  • Similarly, members of 2SLGBTQIA+ communities are well-represented within the organization. 
  • The number of persons reporting a disability is lower relative to the census average due to possible under-reporting or under-representation of disability. Some microaggressions and concerns with respect to disability being a barrier to advancement at WAG-Qaumajuq were reported.  
  • Fewer Indigenous and racialized employees felt as strongly that they belong at WAG-Qaumajuq than their white counterparts; this is a signal that the workplace culture must shift to improve the employee experience at WAG-Qaumajuq. 
  • Comprehensive recommendations were made in a number of areas of WAG-Qaumajuq’s operations to support decolonization, Indigenization, equity, and antiracism. 
  • The Gallery is allowing time for staff to digest the report’s findings and recommendations. A plan is being put in place to address the recommendations at every level of the organization.   

 

Quotes: 

“Addressing the underlying structures and assumptions of the Gallery as a colonial institution is both necessary and a natural outgrowth of our ongoing work to address the inequities perpetuated by colonialism. It is not the responsibility of Indigenous people to undertake the work of reconciliation alone; as the Director & CEO of WAG-Qaumajuq, I have a responsibility to do my part. We want to create a gathering place where all people feel welcome, especially communities that have traditionally been excluded.” 

— Dr. Stephen Borys, Director & CEO, WAG-Qaumajuq 

 

“This project is part of the ongoing commitment of WAG-Qaumajuq to create a safe Gallery where everyone feels welcome, represented, and included. I am deeply grateful to the people who inspired this project—the Black artists who staged a performance protest in the Gallery, and Indigenous staff who voiced their concerns. We strive for WAG-Qaumajuq to be representative of the city of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba, and I look forward to the ongoing work to implement the report recommendations.”   

— Julia Lafreniere, Head of Indigenous Initiatives, WAG-Qaumajuq 

 

“Art and access to art education play a vital role in helping us understand our past, think critically in the present, and renew hope for the future. By proactively engaging in this assessment, and by welcoming its outcomes and recommendations, WAG-Qaumajuq is confronting the harms caused by systemic racism and colonialism, which are ubiquitous in our society. By implementing a plan of action to interrupt colonialism and racism wherever it is found, including within its walls, WAG-Qaumajuq demonstrates some of the ways cultural institutions can disrupt racism and remove barriers to equity for the benefit of their organizations, their employees, and the communities they serve. In the words of Ijeoma Oluo, ‘the beauty of antiracism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be antiracist. Antiracism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it is the only way forward.’” 

— Laurelle A. Harris, Principal Consultant and CEO, Equitable Solutions Consulting
 

Partnerships

WAG-Qaumajuq thanks Equitable Solutions Consulting and the current and former staff who participated in the surveys, interviews, and focus groups that informed this important work.   

 

Associated Links 

wag.ca/equity  

 

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For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:  

Hanna Waswa
Public Relations Officer
Winnipeg Art Gallery
204.789.1295
hwaswa@wag.ca
 

The Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG)-Qaumajuq is a cultural advocate using art to connect, inspire, and inform. Playing a dynamic role in the community, we are a place for learning, dialogue, and enjoyment through art. Opened in March 2021, Qaumajuq connects to the WAG on all levels, celebrating the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world. The new WAG-Qaumajuq cultural campus is now one of the largest art museums in Canada. To learn more visit wag.ca. 

 

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WAG-Qaumajuq recognizes that land acknowledgements are part of an ongoing dialogue with Indigenous Nations, and we are grateful to live and work on these lands and waters. Institutionally, WAG-Qaumajuq is committed to acknowledging our colonial history and we are actively working to interrogate the Gallery’s colonial ways of being.

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