Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 25, 2004
Royal Bank drops rainbow stickers
After boycott, protests, bank pulls 'safe space' insignia for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered workers
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) will drop a controversial rainbow sticker meant to designate work cubicles as "safe spaces" for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered employees.
"The intention was noble and positive," said RBC senior vice president David Moorcroft in a telephone interview Oct. 14. "But some aspects gave it an unintended result."
After the Rainbow Space program was announced in September, the result included not only a number of complaints and concerns raised within Canada's largest bank, but also a boycott launched by the Canadian Family Action Coalition (CFAC), and a number of letters and phone calls.
News of the program also led to a spate of negative news articles and columns.
CFAC President Charles McVety, who estimates that at least 300,000 people were involved in the boycott, said in an Oct. 13 interview that he believed the boycott had "an overwhelming effect on the Royal Bank.
"Any time someone boycotts us, it's a concern," Moorcroft said, "But that's not the reason we made the decision."
Moorcroft said the bank doesn't react to threats or pressure. "We do the right thing. We believe that making the changes (to the program) is the right thing.
The controversy erupted when a volunteer diversity committee sent out a first edition of a newsletter entitled Rainbow Space to "highlight the importance of sexual preference as one of RBC's primary diversity elements."
CFAC has contended the newsletter was intended for all of RBC, but Moorcroft says it was a pilot newsletter that only went out to an Ontario department of about 2,000 people.
The newsletter offered advice on how to make a safe space by using inclusive language, not assuming fellow workers are heterosexual and by not permitting homophobic comments or jokes.
It also recommended that employees display a Safe Space sticker depicting a rainbow within an inverted triangle, the rainbow to symbolize diversity and the triangle because the Nazis regime used a pink triangle "to label gay men.
"Voluntarily displaying this sticker shows gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered co-workers that they can feel safe with you, and shows unsupportive co-workers that you won't tolerate homophobia," said the newsletter.
Executive director Brian Rushfeldt, in CFAC's Web site (www.familyaction.org), described the newsletter as inflammatory and wrote that statements like the one above "incite mistrust and discriminate against employees who choose not to participate. They also indirectly label anyone who doesn't participate as 'homophobic.' The newsletter's reference to Nazism also promotes fear-mongering."
Janet Epp Buckingham, director of law and public policy at the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada said she had serious concerns about the RBC Rainbow space program, saying it had "an element of coercion about it."
Buckingham noted that programs to promote tolerance such as advising people to avoid jokes or hurtful comments are within a company's right. "But when they start promoting one group, they're not just talking about tolerance, but active support for a particular group," she said. "That's crossing a line into what's coercive."
Moorcroft insists the program was always voluntary, but the language of the newsletter "didn't make everyone feel included and welcome." He noted that the intention was "not about promoting a lifestyle, but about creating an inclusive workplace."
Moorcroft said that a number of individual Catholics contacted him to express their concerns, but he received no official representation from any Church-related groups.
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