When the latest round is completed, a former Ottawa prison guard who experienced a homophobic and “poisonous” work atmosphere will have attended 70 meetings with Correctional Services Canada.
Robert Ranger began the bureaucratic gauntlet in 2003, and after the next four meetings, there is no guarantee the matter will be resolved. He calls the lengthy process “undemocratic.”
“Murder cases get processed faster. Colonel Russell Williams murdered two people and that lasted all but eight months. And I’ve been waiting for nearly 10 years for a decision on homophobia? That’s disgraceful,” says Ranger in a phone interview with Xtra.
Until this year, Ranger had been on long-term disability since 2002. He left his job after working nearly 20 years as a prison guard because he wanted to kill himself after the homophobic ridicule he received from his superior and then-president of correctional services OPSEU Local 411, Mark Grady.
In January, Ontario’s Grievance Settlement Board upheld a complaint against the corrections ministry, saying it allowed harassment against Ranger to continue unchecked from 1998 to 2002. During that time, Ranger worked at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre. When he left, it took 18 months for prison officials to begin investigating his complaints. The 72-page conclusion said:
“The investigator examined three complaints against Mr Grady of alleged discrimination, harassment and poisoned work environment on the grounds of sexual orientation. Specific allegations included that the respondent 1) simulated sex acts to taunt the grievor, 2) repeated the word “cocksucker” in a manner that was not part of a conversation but in the presence of the grievor and 3) made sexual jokes during a training session on Feb 11, 2002, at the expense of the grievor.”
“It is the union’s position that Mr Ranger suffered harassment and discrimination based on his sexual orientation, which was condoned by the employer… the employer did almost nothing to change the environment. The union claims that even when Mr Ranger made a complaint after an incident on Feb 11, 2002, which led to the grievor going off on sick leave, the employer failed to investigate until 18 months after the event. When the report of the investigation substantiated some of the allegations made by the grievor, the employer did nothing to address the workplace environment. The union submits that because of the harassment and discrimination, the grievor became ill and was away from work from Feb 2002 until Mar 2005.”
“The ministry from the get-go knew about it and they did nothing,” says Ranger.
In a July memo, Correctional Services announced that Grady and fellow prison official Supt Asfia Sultan were no longer employees. Xtra was unable to get comment from Correctional Services at the time. At the time, Ranger said he was told by the ministry this had nothing to do with his case.
Grady was also released as a coach of the Ottawa 67s earlier this year. He is now an assistant coach of Smiths Falls Bears, a local junior hockey team.
Don Eady, a union lawyer with Paliare Rolland who is Ranger’s OPSEU lawyer, says it is hard to tell if a lengthy bureaucratic process like Ranger’s would deter people from potentially complaining about discrimination on sexual orientation.
“I think with that sort of claim, people underestimate the time it takes to get adjudicated. If it could’ve been preferable if it were adjudicated earlier, say after two months. What happens is you put together your case and the other side gets to comment. What happened was after [Ranger] filed his grievances in 2002, there were a number of hearing days established to see if in fact he was discriminated against and the employer failed to accommodate him. That was just the liability phase. Now we’re dealing with the damages, or compensations, phase,” says Eady.
Ranger has four dates, two this month and two next month. Eady says regardless of how many out-of-town hearings Ranger has, his union will pick up the tab for travel, loss of pay and accommodations. But he says the union is hopeful his client will receive compensation for damages for lost wages and suffering soon.