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'Culture of fear and distrust': Royal BC Museum apologizes after investigation confirms workplace racism

Victoria -

The Royal BC Museum is apologizing after a lengthy investigation into racism and bullying in the workplace was recently concluded, finding that discrimination did indeed occur.

"To be frank, these two reports show that we are not the museum we wanted to be – and we’re not the museum we should be," said Daniel Muzyka, Royal BC Museum (RBCM) chair in a release Tuesday.

In February, the museum' former CEO, Jack Lohman, stepped down amid an investigation by the BC Public Service Agency (PSA) into allegations of racism and bullying.

Later that week, the museum's Indigenous collections curator, Troy Sebastian, announced that he was also leaving and was "happy to leave that wicked place behind."

Sebastian had assumed the role after the former head of Indigenous collection and repatriation at the museum, Lucy Bell, resigned and levelled accusations of racism and discrimination at the museum in 2019.

At the time, B.C. Premier John Horgan said he was "very concerned" about the allegations of racism, and later B.C.'s former finance minister, Carole James, was appointed to the museum's board of directors to help guide the institution's next steps.

Now, a 33-page report into the museum and an internal safety audit have been completed, and have concluded that acts of racism did take place at the 135-year-old museum.

"There have been acts of racism and discrimination at the museum, with Indigenous team members subjected to acts of discriminatory behaviour," said the museum in a release Tuesday, adding that the reports found that museum leadership did not effectively respond to the incidents.

The reports also found that main exhibits were outdated and "narrowly focused on the province's European colonial past," and that the museum did not change its policies in response to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act as fast as it should have.

"The museum is viewed by many staff as a toxic workplace characterized by a culture of fear and distrust," said the museum Tuesday.

The chair of the RBCM says he has now apologized to Bell for the organization's working conditions while she was an employee there.

"If there is any place where every person in British Columbia should feel welcome and acknowledged it should be right here in their museum, the place where everyone’s story and history should matter," said Muzyka.

"Regrettably, that has not been the case, and Lucy Bell’s truth telling has gone a long way to showing just how much work we have to do to earn back the trust and confidence of the people and communities we serve."


Moving forward, the museum says it will focus on changing museum operations so that they align with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and fill all vacant executive team roles, including hiring a new CEO.

It will also ensure that equity and diversity policies are in place throughout all areas of the institution, and replace "outdated core galleries with new exhibits and galleries that include the voices and history of all the peoples in today’s British Columbia."

Museum staff have also been offered support and mental health services.

"Since its creation in 1886, the museum has been a colonial organization that has inadequately showcased the whole story of the peoples of B.C.," said Muzyka.

"Modernization, with the support of the provincial government, community stakeholders, and the people we serve, will help us make the necessary changes that will shape us going forward," he said.

The full PSA report can be found here Top Stories

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