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

An unused fruit stand at Highway 97 and Road 1 went up in flames Thursday night. (Oliver Fire Department)
UPDATE: Abandoned Oliver fruit stand fire considered suspicious

The timing of the midnight fire is one reason the fire is suspicious

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Vanilla flavouring contains goo from beaver butts

Your morning start for Friday, May 7, 2021

A structure at Highway 97 and Road 1 went up in flames Thursday night. (Oliver Fire Department)
Building in Oliver goes up in flames

Power was distrupted in parts of town while the fire was going Thursday night

The Primary Urgent Care Centre on Martin Street officially opened on March 31, 2021. (Brennan Phillips)
Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District reverses funding decision on care centre

Approval now granted to fund $1 million for Urgent and Primary Care Centre in Penticton

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is an independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s 1st vaccine-induced blood clot case detected in Interior Health

Interior Health also recorded 52 new cases of COVID-19

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Revelstoke’s Mayor Gary Sulz getting his COVID-19 vaccination on April 5. (Jocelyn Doll - Revelstoke Review)
Revelstoke is leading B.C.’s interior on vaccinations: Interior Health

Approximately 70% of the community has first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A woman checks out a jobs advertisement sign during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto in April 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Kelowna’s unemployment rate jumps in April, remains one of Canada’s lowest

Kelowna had the fifth-lowest unemployment rate of major centres across the country in April

Junior A team Coquitlam Express is offering all Tri-City residents who get vaccinated against COVID-19 a free ticket to one of their games. (Facebook/Coquitlam Express)
B.C. hockey team offering free tickets to hometown fans who get the COVID-19 vaccine

‘We know the only way to get fans back is people getting vaccinated,’ says Express’ general manager Tali Campbell

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks in the B.C. legislature, describing work underway to make a small business and tourism aid package less restrictive, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s latest COVID-19 restrictions cost thousands of service jobs

Part-time workers set back again by spike in virus spread

The Tolko Mill in Kelowna on Feb. 2, 2018. (File)
Tolko receives extension for environmental assessment of defunct Kelowna mill

The extension gives Tolko time to decommission, remove structures at the site

Fun 4 All Pet Resort is closed for two weeks following a COVID-19 outbreak among staff. (Fun 4 All photo)
COVID closes Vernon dog daycare

Two staff members test positive at dog boarding centre

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Leaked report shows detailed B.C. COVID-19 data not being released to public

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Abbotsford school board trustee Phil Anderson has stepped down after sharing an offensive image on Facebook. (File photo)
Abbotsford trustee temporarily steps down after sharing post relating COVID masks to slavery

Phil Anderson to receive training to better understand provincial mask mandate after posting picture

Most Read