An independent review is underway at the Royal BC Museum after employees called out systemic, individual racism at the institution. (Twitter/RBCM)

An independent review is underway at the Royal BC Museum after employees called out systemic, individual racism at the institution. (Twitter/RBCM)

Royal BC Museum faces allegations of systemic racism, toxic work environment

Formal investigation, survey and training launched at museum

Results from a survey on race and discrimination at the Royal BC Museum are “not good,” according to the museum’s board chair, Dan Muzyka.

The internal survey was sparked by the resignation of Lucy Bell, the former head of Indigenous collections and repatriation, who cited racism and a lack of diversity during her parting speech in the summer of 2020.

Muzyka, who took on the role of board chair in June, was on the line during the virtual speech.

“I can say that I was very disappointed and sad, for sure,” he said. Bell, a Haida woman, had worked at the museum – a crown corporation – from 1995 to 2020 as part of the Aboriginal Cultural Stewardship Program.

Following her speech, a formal public service agency investigation was initiated – a process that’s ongoing – and the museum hired diversity inclusion consultant Alden Habacon to conduct training, interviews and a staff survey. Other staff members have since voiced concerns about racism at the museum.

Muzyka would not go into the details of the results, saying the institution needs time to process the information. But he did say that “in general, the survey results are not good.”

“Everything from the [Equity, diversity and inclusion] committee, to management, direct dialogue and educational programs are going to be … crafted because now we know where some of the issues are in the organization,” Muzyka said.

READ ALSO: Repatriation efforts work to heal and connect through history: Royal BC Museum

The First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) issued a statement Jan. 25 saying it was disturbed by reports of ongoing systemic racism and toxic working conditions at the museum.

Cheryl Casimer, political executive for the First Nations Summit and member of the FNLC, says her first reaction to hearing of Lucy Bell’s speech was disappointment.

“It just seems to be never-ending, the level of systemic racism that First Nations people in this province, in this country, continue to be subjected to,” she said. “It’s just overwhelming, how much of it exists. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

While the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and B.C.’s adoption of Bill 41 – the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act – have pushed ahead, the impact has not trickled down, Casimer said.

“Obviously it hasn’t gone far enough,” she said. “It always seems to be a top down approach in these instances but it doesn’t really make it to the ground where it really matters.

“If you’re going to be a provincial organization or institution…you need to be held accountable to the standards that have already been set.”

Since the reports of racism, the museum says it has begun restructuring at the executive level and developing a comprehensive training program for executives and staff. Muzyka says a full-fledged structure review should be completed by June and the independent investigation is ongoing.

RBCM staff have been directed not to speak to media on the subject. The museum says staff can raise concerns through managers or their union.

READ ALSO: New branch of Royal BC Museum to be built in Colwood


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: nina.grossman@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.
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