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

Abbotsford International Airport. Black Press file photo.
Abbotsford Airport had 4th highest traffic in Canada in 2020, and its number are down

Statistics Canada report describes a ‘devastating year’ for air travel

(Black Press - file photo)
WEATHER: Enjoy the sun today, prepare for a week of rain

Clouds and rain to arrive by evening, Environment Canada forecasts

Chilliwack’s Ryan Wugalter with his kids, three-year-old Mira and 15-month-old Solomon. Wugalter recently released his children’s album Super Giraffe. (Submitted)
Chilliwack father releases children’s album, songs about superhero giraffe and not eating magnets

Inspiration for Ryan Wugalter’s new album ‘Super Giraffe’ came from his two young kids

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Several Abbotsford citizens and athletes have participated in the SOBC’s Polar Plunge fundraiser campaign. (Facebook photo)
Abbotsford residents taking the Polar Plunge for SOBC

Local Michelle Hill jumping into Albert Dyck Park on Saturday, several others also taking part

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

Judith Uwamahoro is Black, approximately 4’7″ tall, 80 pounds and has short black hair and brown eyes. (Surrey RCMP handout)
UPDATED: Lower Mainland 9-year-old located after police make public plea

Judith Uwamahoro went missing Friday at around 4 p.m. in Surrey

Five-year-old Nancy Murphy wears a full mask and face shield as she waits in line for her kindergarten class to enter school during the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Variant of concern linked to COVID-19 outbreak at three Surrey schools

Cases appear to be linked to community transmissions, but schools will remain open

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

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

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Most Read