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Canadian Museum of History reveals researcher was fired for harassment

Reasons for employee firings are usually kept under wraps for privacy concerns, but the museum said it had no choice but to disclose its reasons for dismissing Dr. Patricia Sutherland after she was interviewed on a high-profile radio program.

An Arctic researcher whose dismissal triggered a Facebook campaign and petition for her reinstatement was fired for harassment, the Canadian Museum of History said Thursday in an unusual disclosure.

Reasons for employee firings are usually kept confidential for privacy concerns, but the museum said it had no choice but to disclose its reasons for dismissing Dr. Patricia Sutherland after she was interviewed on a high-profile radio program.

"Following the CBC's As It Happens broadcast this evening featuring Dr. Pat Sutherland, the Canadian Museum of History has no choice but to inform Canadians that Dr. Sutherland was terminated for harassment following an 18-month investigation done by an independent third party which was initiated by the former president and CEO Dr. Victor Rabinovitch," the museum said in a statement. "Although the Museum had provided CBC's As It Happens with the above statement prior to the broadcast as per their request, unfortunately the CBC chose not to share it with their listeners."

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On Twitter Friday @cbcasithappens said: "the Museum's lawyer emailed our producer at 6:02 pm ET with a statement. We had already gone to air in Eastern Canada. Unfortunately the timing meant our producer had left for the day. We fully intend to read the statement in tonight's program. For the Museum to conclude that As It Happens 'chose' not to air its comment is both incorrect and ludicrous."

On the program, host Carol Off interviewed Dr. Sutherland about her recently published research on a small stone crucible unearthed on Baffin Island in the 1960s. The crucible would have been used for high-temperature metal work, which the indigenous people in the Arctic did not practice. Dr. Sutherland believes the thousand-year-old vessel, which would have been used in the manufacture of jewelry or small tools, is a Norse artifact, suggesting the Vikings were not only trading with indigenous people in the Arctic around 1,000 A.D. but also living and working there.

On the program, Off asked Dr. Sutherland whether she might have been fired from the Canadian Museum of Civilization (which was renamed the Canadian Museum of History last year) because her research was out of step with government views of Canadian history.

Sutherland agreed and said the recent interest in the Franklin expedition, a doomed British foray into the Arctic in the mid-19th-century, reflected the current government's position on the Arctic, one that emphasized Canadian sovereignty and historic ties to Britain.

Sutherland did not return messages asking for further comment Friday.

There is already evidence elsewhere in Canada that the Norse lived in North America long before the arrival of other Europeans: the L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site in northern Newfoundland has evidence of a Norse settlement also dating to about 1,000 A.D.

Dr. Sutherland was also featured in a CBC program that aired earlier this year called Silence of the Labs, which focused on federal cutbacks to research.

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A spokeswoman for the museum said it would be making no further comment.

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National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

Kate Taylor is lead film critic at the Globe and Mail and a columnist in the arts section. More

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