Sunday, September 26, 2004

Royal Bank Employees Asked to Display Rainbow Symbol

Thousands of Royal Bank employees to display Rainbow
Triangle on workdesks by Judi McLeod
www.canadafreepress.com
September 24, 2004

Tens of thousands of Royal Bank Canada employees are
being asked by bank management to display the Rainbow
Triangle on their work desks. In early September, RBC
employees arrived at the office to find the directive
on their PCs. "The RBC Safe Space (program) is a
visible, non-threatening way to show that your desk,
cubicle or office is a "safe place" for gay men,
bisexuals, transgendered and lesbians," employees were
told in the first edition of the bank's online
newsletter, Rainbow Space.

The Safe Space Program, introduced within Service
Delivery Central Canada, "highlights the importance of
sexual preference as one of RBC's diversity elements."

Of the Royal Bank's 60,000 global employees, roughly
half are Canadian.

As far as is known, RBC is the first corporate source
directing employees to display the Rainbow Triangle in
the workplace.

"The Safe Space Program is a voluntary program that is
designed to provide a non-threatening way for
employees to send the message that homophobia and
hostility will not be tolerated within RBC," states
Rainbow Space newsletter.

While bank management claims displaying Rainbow
Triangle stickers is voluntary, the inference taken
from the request is that not showing the sticker could
lead to hostility, demotion or job loss. In the wake
of Canada's Bill C-250, which includes sexual
orientation in anti-hate legislation, there's also the
threat of a two-year prison term.

Although it has a Core Value policy in place, RBC does
not seem to have moved any other vulnerable groups
under the corporate umbrella of its Safe Space
Program.

The timing of the debut of Rainbow Space remains a
mystery as in the directive's advent, there was no
indication that homophobia was rampant or even
problematic among RBC employees.

The RBC Advisory Board, represented by "senior
management champions" approved the Rainbow Space
directive. Members include Eve Hammond, BSC; Chris
Kill, Cash Ops; John Bereaves, PSC; Dean Gray, OSC;
Rob Cleugh, SBCD and Jolanta Kedziuerski, Regional
Rep.

Under a section entitled, How to be supportive of GLBT
(gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered) Employees,
Rainbow Space instructs: "Don't assume everyone is
heterosexual; Don't permit homophobic jokes or
comments; Treat the subject positively, Display your
Safe Space sticker."

Complications have already beset the Safe Space
initiative.

The program, perhaps unwittingly only reinforces that
GLBT bank employees need special protection by having
heterosexual colleagues show support by a sticker.

It seems lost on RBC management that tolerance for
GLBT or any other group cannot be forced or
legislated. Commonsense dictates tolerance can only be
fostered and nurtured.

"This is an employee-led initiative," Beja Rodeck,
senior manager, Media Relations told Canada Free
Press. "It represents core values that we espouse and
all try to live."

Rodeck said the Rainbow Space newsletter was "put
together" by one of the many local diversity councils
operating within RBC.

"There was no particular reason behind it. It's a
trial project which will be determined by employee
feedback."

Saying it was a "little too early to tell" how
employees feel about the Rainbow Space directive,
Rodeck conceded that the rhetoric, which seems to
accuse the bank's employees of homophobia, was harsh.

Members of the diversity council, who chose Rainbow
Space as a protection option were not communication
experts, she said, adding that they had used "huge
chunks" of a template that "likely came from the
United States".

Meanwhile, there is a move afoot in the Christian
Community to rally against Rainbow Space.

"Is this the new corporate Canada?" asked Charles
McVety, Canada Christian College President.

"This is a radical change in corporate Canada, and one
that RBC has no right to impose on the entire nation.

Canada Free Press founding editor Judi McLeod is an
award-winning journalist with 30 years experience in
the media. A former Toronto Sun and Kingston Whig
Standard columnist, she has also appeared on
Newsmax.com, the Drudge Report, Foxnews.com, and World
Net Daily.