September 25th, 2017

Too much talk, not enough action


By Medicine Hat News Opinon on February 17, 2017.

Common sense appears to have gone out the window as organizations, governments, and companies have climbed on the bandwagon of more meetings, more studies and more reports with little to show for it.

For years Calgary Police Service (CPS) has faced allegations of gender bias and harassment of female officers. Just a few weeks ago a tearful veteran police officer made a very public and tearful announcement that she would be leaving CPS after more than decade on the force. She had hope that anything would change.

Prior to that Calgary Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart, who sat on the Calgary Police Commission, revealed she had been hearing from women on CPS who were frustrated with the slow progress of reform. They were reaching out for somebody to listen to them and take action.

This week Colley-Urquhart resigned from the police commission. Colley-Urquhart has not explained her position publicly but a spokesperson for the police commission has. What went on behind the scenes we are not privy to but what stands out is how quickly the CPS reacted to whatever apparent violation took place on the part of Colley-Urquhart compared to the years of delay in addressing gender bias.

In an interview on CBC Radio listeners heard about how hard CPS has been working to address concerns. Evidence of this hard work, we were told, included discussions on the topic at every police commission meeting and other meetings where it is always on the agenda.

What appears to have eluded the CPS and many other corporations, organizations and government at every level is that talking about something at every meeting changes nothing. Commission reports and reviews changes nothing. Equal gender representation also changes nothing or very little.

The culture of any organization starts with the person at the top. If you want to change male police officers disrespecting female officers the person at the top simply has to show there are consequences for bad behaviour. It is as simple as the “Super Nanny” philosophy. If you behave badly you go into the naughty corner to reflect on your behaviour. You keep going back to the naughty corner until you change your behaviour. What’s so hard about that?

It does not need to take years and years to accomplish, it just takes a willing person to take action. The CPS was swift in pointing a finger at Colley-Urquhart causing her to resign. Why can’t the same take place to protect female officers?

In 2007, 10 years ago, Michael Kirby chaired a mental health review in Canada to study mental health, mental illness, and addiction. What practical changes have we seen though? Has this just added to the growing pile of reports that supposedly show that the funding was spent appropriately? How many meetings have people attended in this review with little to show for it? How many front-line workers could tell them in short order what needs to change and what it will take to get there?

As a nation we’ve become a load of fencesitters. Rather than take a stand and make changes we hide behind studies and commissions and reports without doing anything. It is time for that to change.

(Gillian Slade is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to http://www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions or call her at 403-528-8635.)


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