Too much talk, not enough ac­tion

Medicine Hat News - - COMMENTS - Gil­lian Slade

Com­mon sense ap­pears to have gone out the win­dow as or­ga­ni­za­tions, gov­ern­ments, and com­pa­nies have climbed on the band­wagon of more meet­ings, more stud­ies and more re­ports with lit­tle to show for it.

For years Calgary Po­lice Ser­vice (CPS) has faced al­le­ga­tions of gen­der bias and ha­rass­ment of fe­male of­fi­cers. Just a few weeks ago a tear­ful vet­eran po­lice of­fi­cer made a very pub­lic and tear­ful an­nounce­ment that she would be leav­ing CPS after more than decade on the force. She had hope that any­thing would change.

Prior to that Calgary Coun. Diane Col­ley-Urquhart, who sat on the Calgary Po­lice Com­mis­sion, re­vealed she had been hear­ing from women on CPS who were frus­trated with the slow progress of re­form. They were reach­ing out for some­body to lis­ten to them and take ac­tion. This week Col­ley-Urquhart re­signed from the po­lice com­mis­sion. Col­leyUrquhart has not ex­plained her po­si­tion pub­licly but a spokesper­son for the po­lice com­mis­sion has. What went on be­hind the scenes we are not privy to but what stands out is how quickly the CPS re­acted to what­ever ap­par­ent vi­o­la­tion took place on the part of Col­ley-Urquhart com­pared to the years of de­lay in ad­dress­ing gen­der bias.

In an in­ter­view on CBC Ra­dio lis­ten­ers heard about how hard CPS has been work­ing to ad­dress con­cerns. Ev­i­dence of this hard work, we were told, in­cluded dis­cus­sions on the topic at every po­lice com­mis­sion meet­ing and other meet­ings where it is al­ways on the agenda.

What ap­pears to have eluded the CPS and many other cor­po­ra­tions, or­ga­ni­za­tions and gov­ern­ment at every level is that talk­ing about some­thing at every meet­ing changes noth­ing. Com­mis­sion re­ports and re­views changes noth­ing. Equal gen­der rep­re­sen­ta­tion also changes noth­ing or very lit­tle.

The cul­ture of any or­ga­ni­za­tion starts with the per­son at the top. If you want to change male po­lice of­fi­cers dis­re­spect­ing fe­male of­fi­cers the per­son at the top sim­ply has to show there are con­se­quences for bad be­hav­iour. It is as sim­ple as the “Su­per Nanny” phi­los­o­phy. If you be­have badly you go into the naughty cor­ner to re­flect on your be­hav­iour. You keep go­ing back to the naughty cor­ner un­til you change your be­hav­iour. What’s so hard about that?

It does not need to take years and years to ac­com­plish, it just takes a will­ing per­son to take ac­tion. The CPS was swift in point­ing a fin­ger at Col­ley-Urquhart caus­ing her to re­sign. Why can’t the same take place to pro­tect fe­male of­fi­cers?

In 2007, 10 years ago, Michael Kirby chaired a men­tal health re­view in Canada to study men­tal health, men­tal ill­ness, and ad­dic­tion. What prac­ti­cal changes have we seen though? Has this just added to the grow­ing pile of re­ports that sup­pos­edly show that the fund­ing was spent ap­pro­pri­ately? How many meet­ings have peo­ple at­tended in this re­view with lit­tle to show for it? How many front-line work­ers could tell them in short or­der what needs to change and what it will take to get there?

As a na­tion we’ve be­come a load of fence­sit­ters. Rather than take a stand and make changes we hide be­hind stud­ies and com­mis­sions and re­ports with­out do­ing any­thing. It is time for that to change.

“As a na­tion we’ve be­come a load of fence­sit­ters. Rather than take a stand and make changes we hide be­hind stud­ies and com­mis­sions and re­ports with­out do­ing any­thing.”

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