2 min

Inflammatory rainbow triangles

Rightwingers boycott Royal Bank

A rightwing Christian group has called for a boycott of the Royal Bank Of Canada (RBC) to protest a new program supporting gay and lesbian employees.

In September, a diversity committee within the bank introduced the Safe Space program, which encourages employees to put up rainbow triangle stickers in their offices to show that they are gay-positive. The committee also sent out a newsletter, Rainbow Space, to explain how to create a gay-friendly workplace. For example, it suggests not permitting homophobic jokes and not assuming co-workers are straight.

In response, the Canada Family Action Coalition (CFAC), a religious advocacy group based in Alberta, is asking its members to close their accounts at RBC.

“The program raises issues of discrimination regarding those who choose not to apply the sticker,” states an Oct 7 news release from CFAC’s executive director Brian Rushfeldt.

Rushfeldt states that the program is causing “divisiveness, fear, mistrust and feelings of duress” in the workplace since some employees are worried they will lose their jobs for not having a sticker.

In response to the criticism, the Royal Bank appears to be distancing itself from the program.

Beja Rodeck, a media relations manager at RBC, called the Safe Space program a trial that “impacts about 2,000 employees in Ontario and will be reviewed after three months.” She was also careful to emphasize that it was an employee group that started Safe Space.

“In the past week or so, we’ve spent a lot of time and effort to ensure that our employees, customers and shareholders understand that this was not an enterprise initiative, but rather a local employee-led experiment.”

Still, she criticized CFAC’s campaign as being based on misinformation, noting that “participation in this pilot program is completely voluntary. Employees are not evaluated on whether or not they choose to participate.”

Rushfeldt points the finger at the newsletter’s “inflammatory language.” For example, at one point the newsletter gives a his-tory lesson on how the Nazi regime used pink triangles to identify gay men. According to Rushfeldt, the mention of Nazism promotes fear-mongering. Another example of inflammatory language is this explanation of why a sticker would help gay employees who feel isolated: “Employees do not know which of their colleagues they can trust to discuss personal issues.”

Rushfeldt refused to answer Xtra’s questions about his problems with the program and the boycott. Citing RBC’s complaints that his articles announcing the boycott contain inaccuracies, he said he won’t comment until he hears from the bank. He did say that the boycott will continue in the meantime.

CFAC’s website is full of rants against gay rights and “homosexual activists.” One article from last spring laments the fact that the American Psychiatric Association gave in to “political pressure” to de-list homosexuality as a pathological psychiatric condition in 1974.

CFAC even has time to dissect the meaning of homophobia. Last month, Rushfeldt wrote that homophobia really means “fear of homosexuality.” In his view, most straight people do not fear gay people. “They do, however, oppose their behaviour for a variety of reasons,” such as medical concerns and “common sense based upon natural law and function and so on.”