Bruce’s complaint is just the latest to arise in the ranks of HRM. Sergeant Robyn Atwell and former officer Lewis Cain have filed complaints against the police department alleging discrimination (see all three complaints at robynatwell.com). And in April, black firefighters filed a complaint against the fire department, outlining ongoing discrimination against them. Likewise, volunteer firefighter Liane Tessier makes a good case that she was passed over for full-time employment because she complained about discriminatory acts on the part of her superiors at the Herring Cove volunteer station.
I learned this week that firefighter Andrew Bednaz, a white man working at station 54 in Prospect, has also filed a human rights complaint. Bednaz declined to comment on the complaint, but a source tells me it names a female manager in the fire department, and that woman has yet another complaint filed against her. That makes seven human right complaints involving HRM---that I’m aware of. Perhaps all these unrelated, disparate people are somehow caught up in a grand conspiracy to make HRM look bad. Or, maybe there’s something about the local administrative culture that doesn’t truly value employees, and doesn’t yet take seriously the need to build institutional respect for individuals.
On a related issue, this week, a young woman came to talk to me about the sexual harassment she experienced as a student at Citadel High. She says she was targeted by a much older adult male employee who developed an inappropriately close, and closed-door, relationship with her. When the situation escalated to the point where the man said, “I’d like to fuck you,” she discussed the situation with relatives, and supporting adults intervened. A complaint was filed with the school system, and investigation ensued. But only after another complaint against the man was filed---by a 12-year-old girl---was the man removed from access to children.
The young woman feels the investigation took too long, that she wasn’t taken seriously and most worrying, that other girls have been victimized. “They should tell parents about this,” she says. “Instead, they want it to go away quietly.” There will always be people who take advantage of, discriminate against and otherwise harass those around them. The measure of governments and bureaucracies, seems to me, is how well they deal with those situations. Unfortunately, I’m not much impressed by what I see locally.