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Former prison guard awarded $244K after antigay harassment

Robert Ranger settlement comes after a decade of meetings

A financial settlement has been reached for a former Ottawa prison guard who experienced a homophobic and “poisonous” work atmosphere at the hands of his previous boss.
 
After travelling back and forth from Ottawa to Toronto for more than 70 meetings with Correctional Services over the last decade, Robert Ranger, 50, was awarded $244,242 plus interest last month. He had been on long-term disability since 2002. He worked for 20 years as a prison guard, but he left his job at Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) because of homophobic torment he received from his superior and then-president of Correctional Services OPSEU Local 411, Mark Grady. 
 
Ranger’s settlement does not include damages, which will be decided later this year.
 
“[Both parties] agreed on the amount for lost wages for the grievor between 2002 and 2010, including shift premium and overtime. The parties also agreed on the LTIP paid to grievor and the interest payable if simple or compound,” the decision reads. “This matter is scheduled to proceed with outstanding issues on damages in February and March, and I shall provide full reasons for the decision here in the final award on the remedy for the grievor.”
 
The settlement follows a series of decisions the Grievance Settlement Board has already made in this case. A decision last year upheld a complaint filed against the Corrections Ministry that it allowed harassment against Ranger to continue unchecked from 1998 to 2002. During that time, Ranger worked at OCDC. When he left, it took 18 months for prison officials to begin investigating his complaints.
 
A 2010 decision, which named Grady as Ranger’s chief bully, stated:
 
“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.”
 
Last year, Ranger told Xtra he felt the ministry minimized what happened to him.
 
“The process diminishes what happened because it’s taken so long to get settled. I remember hoping I’d get hit by a bus. I complained to my employer and they turned their backs. They did nothing about it. I fell sick. They still didn’t do anything about it until a year and a half after I left,” he said.
 
A jailhouse memo circulated last July notifying staff that Grady and Asfia Sultan and were no longer employees and were not allowed back on the property until further notice. But ministry officials would not comment on the reasons for a sudden departure of the jail’s two top employees.
 
Correctional Services in Ontario has been plagued with high-profile discrimination cases.
 
Recently, a 22-year court battle ended between Michael McKinnon and the Ontario’s Correctional Services Ministry. The incident started when McKinnon was working as a prison guard and he voiced displeasure over native slurs hurled by his coworkers. Until he stood up, McKinnon blended in as a white man.
 
Afterwards, he was called “Wagon Burner,” “McInjun,” “Geronimo,” “Big Indian,” “Tomahawk,” “Running Bear,” “FBI” (for “Fucking Big Indian”), “Canoe,” “Big Canoe” and “Crazy Horse.” His wife was referred to as “Vicki Squaw-McKinnon.” A witness at a Human Rights Tribunal testified that racist cartoons appeared on bulletin boards from time to time, depicting an Indian in ceremonial headdress with the caption “Chief Crazy Horse McKinnon” written at the bottom.
 
Last month, an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal judge issued a daming decision. It called for an inquiry into whether Jay Hope, Ontario’s Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, is in contempt of the tribunal’s orders.
 
“I have decided to exercise my discretion in the matter by requesting the Divisional Court to inquire into whether Deputy Minister Jay Hope is in contempt of the board’s orders.”
 
Neither McKinnon nor his lawyer, Kate Hughes, could be reached for comment.
 
Ranger says it boggles his mind that Ontario Public Service (OPS) was awarded Canada’s Best Diversity Employers, particularly with discrimination cases like McKinnon’s and his own coming to a head after several years of litigation. He emailed OPS’s diversity office and asked how it was given the honour.
 
“I ask myself why OPS was awarded Canada’s Best Diversity Employers this year and for the past three, after this decision [about his case] was published [last year] and the violations that were founded in this decision,” says Ranger in an email to OPS’s diversity office. He received a reply saying: “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. The issues you raise require us to undertake some research and consultation with other parts of the OPS in order to prepare an accurate and appropriate response. We will provide you with detailed answers to your questions by March 25, 2011.”