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

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available by appointment only from March 10 to 12 and March 15 to 19 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Bella Coola General Hospital (file photo)
COVID vaccinations open to Valley residents as of March 10

Starting today all residents of the Bella Coola Valley 18+ can book their vaccination appointments

Jovin Walkus and Alayah Mack enjoy the Centennial Pool in summer 2020. (Geneva Walkus photo)
CCRD receives more funding for Centennial Pool project

The total funding for the project is now over $4 million

Provincial funding in the amount of $300,000 has been announced for the Cariboo Regional District’s plans to improve the Anahim Lake Airport runway. (CRD photo)
$300,000 provincial funding to fuel Anahim Lake Airport runway upgrade

The recovery grant is one of 38 announced to support jobs in rural communities

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

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

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead on Vancouver Island in ‘targeted incident’

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

Most Read