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.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Royal BC Museum

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Some of the folks behind Angel Flight East Kootenay: Todd Weselake is a director, partner and pilot while Brent Bidston is the president and lead pilot of the not-for-profit. Pictured here with their older plane, they hope to get an upgrade for thanks to RDEK funding. (Image courtesy of Angel Flight East Kootenay)
Angel Flight secures RDEK funding for next five years

$100,000 will go to the not-for-profit each year, with the funds to be used to acquire a larger plane

Last week warming temperatures were a concern for Avalanche Canada forecasters, and those trends likely contributed to an avalanche that killed a West Kootenay snowmobiler on Thursday, March 4. Jen Coulter file photo.
Warming trend contributed to Kaslo fatality: Avalanche Canada

Concern for persistent layers has reduced since then

(L-R) Michelle Malan, Administrator for the Elk Valley Seniors Housing Society (Lilac Terrace) and Stephonie Gordon, Staff Representative of the Legacy Celebration Committee, Sparwood Branch. (Contributed by EKC)
EKC gives $10k to Lilac Terrace

The funding is part of the EKC’s 70s anniversary celebrations

Forty-eight vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complains about that condo

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. A joint federal and B.C. government housing program announced today aims to help people living in up to 25,000 vulnerable households pay their rent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal, B.C. governments announce $517-million rent aid program to help vulnerable

Benefits for those not eligible for B.C.’s Rental Assistance Program or Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters

Most Read