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Calgary fire chief acknowledges culture of racism, ‘fear of retaliation’ | CBC News

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Calgary fire Chief Steve Dongworth known as stories of racism in his fire halls “concerning” and says downside workers are troublesome to cope with as a result of they’re “very clever” and “very subtle” in how they function.

“We have a culture where people tend not to report things for fear of retaliation,” mentioned Dongworth in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

“That becomes a barrier to us finding out who those laggards are.”

But Dongworth mentioned “there will be zero tolerance” when the issue workers are recognized.

The N-word

On Monday, CBC News printed detailed accounts from seven present and former members of CFD who confirmed that though it is change into much less blunt over time, BIPOC firefighters nonetheless expertise insidious racism inside the metropolis’s fire halls. 

Last summer time, a letter, written by a number of present and retired BIPOC members and their allies was despatched to the chief demanding change.

The group alleges racialized bullying has led to suicides of CFD members.

In interviews, a number of members, who CBC agreed to not title as a result of of concern of office retribution, mentioned even to today the N-word is sometimes tossed round casually inside fire stations. 

Two folks mentioned that in fire halls, Black Lives Matter information stories, specifically, appeared to incite microaggressions from some coworkers. 

Dongworth confronted criticism from Capt. Chris Coy, the primary Black firefighter with CFD who retired Dec. 1. Coy mentioned the chief has identified in regards to the racism inside CFD for years and hasn’t achieved practically sufficient to vary the culture. 

  • WATCH | Calgary’s first Black firefighter talks about racism within the office

A gaggle of present and former BIPOC workers on the Calgary Fire Department are demanding 9 modifications to what they describe as a “toxic work environment.” Chris Coy, who’s a retired captain, says he confronted discrimination since Day 1. 10:48

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“Have I done enough quickly enough?” requested Dongworth who was promoted to chief in 2014.

“It never feels like that but I will tell you but I know we’ve steadily moved the needle on this.”

‘Changing minds takes an awfully very long time’

There are two prongs to Dongworth’s anti-racism technique; one is to set a tough line of what’s thought-about unacceptable behaviour.

“The second part is to start changing people’s minds, explaining why racism is wrong, why discrimination is wrong.”

“Changing minds takes an awfully long time.”

Several lively and retired firefighters mentioned their experiences with coworkers contained in the fire halls had been extra traumatizing than the usually ugly scene calls they’re dispatched to.

“Every time we hear these kinds of accounts, we commit ourselves to double down on that work and make sure we do,” mentioned the fire chief. 

Council movement acknowledges CBC report 

On Tuesday night, the City of Calgary reaffirmed its dedication to anti-racism with a movement together with wording particular to the Calgary Fire Department in gentle of CBC’s story.

“With respect to concerns related to the Calgary Fire Department, direct administration to specifically include these issues in their continuing work on internal practices and movement toward cultural change,” reads the movement.

Following an closed session Tuesday night, metropolis supervisor David Duckworth and normal supervisor of neighborhood and protecting providers Katie Black acknowledged the article which stories a poisonous culture suffered by some BIPOC firefighters.

A day after calling the racism inside CFD “horrifying,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi mentioned he’ll be pushing the discharge of info from two office opinions achieved in recent times.

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Chief ‘completely dedicated to this work’

Currently, there are not any girls or BIPOC members serving as senior brass.

Both teams account for lower than three per cent of the 1,400 firefighters in Calgary. 

“If you don’t have many people in the organization who are female or who are people of colour, Indigenous, Black, it’s almost inevitable you’re not going to have many in leadership positions,” mentioned Dongworth.

The chief mentioned his group is actively attempting to recruit seen minorities and girls to the division.

“I’m absolutely committed to this work,” mentioned Dongworth.

“This has to be seen as a time where we double down on the work that we do, that we embrace those people that bring diverse cultures, genders, views to the workplace.”

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