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Former prison guard battles homophobia in the workplace

Twenty years forward, Ontario Grievance Settlement Board hears case

Robert Ranger, a former Ottawa prison guard at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) spoke to the Ontario Grievance Settlement Board about the pain and suffering he experienced in his job with his former employer.

Ranger, 50, left the OCDC because of homophobic torment he endured from his superior, and then-president of Correctional Services OPSEU Local 411, Mark Grady.

While the hearings are closed to the public, Ranger tells Xtra his personal life was irreparably harmed by the abuse he experienced.

RangerHe came out in his late 20s and had his first relationship after he began working at OCDC.

“I started working for corrections in 1990. My very first relationship started in 1993,” he says. “I don’t know what a regular relationship is like. I’ve always had this case interfering in my personal life.”

While the Tribunal granted Ranger 10 minutes to have his say, he says he was unable to complete his speech: he was too emotional. He remains angry because his career was blighted even though he received only letters of commendation for his efforts.

“Throughout my whole career in corrections, I’ve received letters of commendation for how wonderful of an employee I was and not one complaint,” says Ranger.

Ranger says he gets emotional support from his current partner and his mother. But he says his mother hopes the 20-year battle with his former employer will end soon so she can get her son back.

“[My mother] is totally disgusted. She feels responsible, even though it’s not her responsibility,” says Ranger. “She doesn’t see in me the son she once knew, because I’m full of this anger.”

Earlier this year, Ranger was awarded $244,242 plus interest. He is scheduled to appear in court again this month, which he hopes will be the end.

Ranger is not alone in his seemingly endless fight to gain justice.

Michael McKinnon, an aboriginal man and a former corrections officer, recently won a huge settlement after fighting through 22 years and more than 200 meetings with the Ontario government for the racist torment he received from his employer.

In his first interview since his settlement, McKinnon tells Xtra he feels the management culture of the Canadian prison system is so poisoned that nothing will change unless “they eradicate the top-level people.”

“They try to make it appear they’re going to implement change. But the reality is the culture is so poisoned. Nothing is going to change,” he says. “The top bureaucrats have been aware of [the racism McKinnon endured] for decades. Instead of simply apologizing, they spent between $35 and $50 million to fight this case. The taxpayers were scammed. They know they were at fault. They were able to weather the storm and mentally and physically wear me out through strategies to stall and delay hearings.”

Ranger’s lawyer, Don Eady, says the reason for the delays was the amount of evidence called into the hearings. But he says he feels the hearings should have been finished sooner.

“Workplace discrimination and harassment policies are applicable to all employees in the government, regardless of being a clerk or a prison guard. Even though corrections may be a different environment, it doesn’t lessen the employer’s obligation,” Eady says.

Ranger has two more Tribunal meetings this month. The last day is scheduled to be Friday, July 22.