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Published on July 13, 2020

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts terminates the contract of its Director General and Chief Curator

Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion. Photo Bernard Fougères et Jean-François Lejeune

It is with regret that the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has announced that it is terminating Nathalie Bondil’s contract as Director General and Chief Curator of the Museum. This decision is effective as of today.

In the past year, the Museum has seen the departure of several key employees and been made aware through disturbing accounts of employees, some of which were reported in the media in recent days, of a clear deterioration of the workplace environment. The issue was brought to the attention of the Museum’s Board of Trustees last October and the Board immediately engaged Cabinet RH, an external human resources management consultant, to examine the situation and conduct an independent workplace climate diagnosis in certain of the Museum’s departments.

The report submitted by the firm revealed, in particular, a significant and multilayered deterioration of the workplace climate, described by some employees as “toxic.” Given seriousness of the report’s conclusions, the Board of Trustees began discussions with Ms. Bondil to resolve the situation.

*“Our primary responsibility, as members of the Board of Trustees and based on principles of good governance, is to ensure compliance with the organizational culture and values of this institution that has been a point of pride for Montrealer’s and Quebecers for 160 years. It was our responsibility to provide clarity on various rumours that had been circulating both within and outside the Museum. Given the seriousness of the reported facts, our commitment toward the employees, whose daily actions exemplify the Museum’s values, was without question,” *said Michel de la Chenelière, President of the Board of Trustees of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

In recent months, the Board of Trustees made several attempts to bring about a resolution of this situation which was becoming steadily more problematic. These attempts were met with inflexibility on the part of Ms. Bondil and her denial of several of the report’s incontrovertible findings. Unfortunately, the Board’s efforts did not yield the desired outcome, and allegations of psychological harassment in the Museum’s Curatorial Division have persisted.

The issue of the dual role of Director General and Chief Curator was also brought to light through this process, which ultimately led to the creation of the new position of Director of the Curatorial Division, in the interest of the Museum and its staff.

Today, Nathalie Bondil’s categorical rejection of a settlement proposal that would have allowed all parties to undertake an orderly transition until the expiry of her contract in June 2021, convinced the Board of Trustees to terminate Ms. Bondil’s employment as Director General and Chief Curator immediately.

The Museum’s Board of Trustees has taken action and made decisions which, given these circumstances, it believes to be in the best interests of the Museum based on principles of good governance and its fiduciary duties. Ms. Bondil has made significant contributions to the development of the Museum. In the judgement of the Board, this decision is in the best interests of the Museum.

“We had hoped these that discussions would lead to an amicable and constructive arrangement between the parties, but in light of Ms. Bondil’s comments and reaction, we have come to the conclusion today that this will not be possible. It is unfortunate that a remarkable relationship of over 21 years between the Museum and Ms. Bondil should end in this way. However, it is also sad to see that the Museum’s humanist image as articulated by Ms. Bondil herself was not reflected within its very walls. The decision therefore became necessary for the greater good of the Museum” concluded Mr. de la Chenelière.

As of the departure of Ms. Bondil and pending the appointment of a successor, the interim leadership of the Museum will be assumed by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, represented by Michel de la Chenelière. An international recruitment process will be initiated shortly.

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