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External review finds 'toxic' workplace environment persists at Royal Canadian Mint

A Royal Canadian Mint employee says bullying and harassment are still widespread in the Crown corporation — a claim that comes as a new report obtained by CBC News makes sweeping recommendations to tackle racism and a "traumatizing" and "toxic" workplace environment in the mint's security division.

One employee says chronic harassment led him to consider suicide

Matthew MacAdam is going public with his story of being bullied and harassed at the Royal Canadian Mint. (CBC)

A Royal Canadian Mint employee says bullying and harassment are still widespread in the Crown corporation — a claim that comes as a new report obtained by CBC News makes sweeping recommendations to tackle racism and a "traumatizing" and "toxic" workplace environment in the mint's security division.

Matthew MacAdam said he was berated by his production floor co-workers into a nervous breakdown. He said he is now speaking out publicly in the hope of driving reform.

At one point, he said, the climate in the workplace was so dire he even considered suicide.

"I've never been in such a dark place in all of my life," MacAdam said.

"If there's one thing I can't forgive from what happened at (the mint) was that it brought me to that point."

MacAdam, who is now on long-term disability with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, said a previous mint policy of clawing back employee bonuses to compensate for time lost to workplace injuries pitted employees against each other.

MacAdam said his colleagues made crude and sexual remarks against him and criticized his weight. He said his union executive even called his wife a sexist slur.

And he's just one of several employees reporting such abuse at the mint.

WATCH:  External review says toxic workplace environment persists at Royal Canadian Mint:

Toxic workplace conditions persist at Royal Canadian Mint, external review says

12 days ago
2:01
An external review obtained by CBC News says the protective services section of the Royal Canadian Mint still has a toxic workplace culture, despite former employees speaking out about racism, discrimination and misogyny. One employee says harassment is rampant throughout the Crown corporation. 2:01

CBC News has obtained a redacted copy of an Aug. 11 report on the mint's protective security services division through an access to information request. Commissioned by the mint, it was compiled by investigators Arleen Huggins and Mireille Giroux of Koskie Minsky LLP, a Toronto-based law firm.

It examined complaints about the workplace climate at the mint's Ottawa headquarters, and racist comments and jokes in protective security services at the Winnipeg branch.

"It is evident that although significant progress has been made, a toxic environment remains within operations in Ottawa," the report says.

Mint commits to implementing all 24 recommendations

The report makes 24 recommendations to improve the mint's workplace culture, complaint reporting, training and employee retention — particularly for women and people of colour.

But the former protective services officer who blew the whistle on the mint said she isn't convinced the findings will make a lasting difference.

The probe was launched in the fall of 2020 after Joelle Hainzelin wrote an email to the mint's president and CEO Marie Lemay detailing incidents of racism and sexual harassment on the job.

"The fact that nobody has been fired — and when I was there, some people got promotions after behaving that way — doesn't inspire any confidence," said Hainzelin, who worked as a mint protective services officer in Ottawa from 2011 to 2019.

Joelle Hainzlin, a former protective services officer at the Royal Canadian Mint, blew the whistle on rampant racism and sexual harassment within her department. (Raphael Tremblay/CBC)

Hainzelin said she was called a "chimpanzee" by a male colleague and that team leaders and supervisors participated in other racist insults.

She also said she was sexually harassed on two occasions — once by a team leader.

The report says that a lack of targeted diversity recruitment strategies and effective and consistent training, coupled with a low number of women and people of colour working as team leaders and in operations management, have resulted in "extremely low levels of representation of women and BIPOC individuals (Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour) in Ottawa."

This situation, the report says, has "left a vacuum for the hiring and promotion of certain individuals with sexist and racist views which, while more hidden than in the past, still permeate the culture 'behind the scenes.'"

The report said the mint's Ottawa workplace is not as troubled as it was before the fall of 2019, when some employees described it as "hell, highly toxic, unbearable and traumatizing."

The report says that some mint employees from Ottawa and Winnipeg said they feared employment reprisals for participating in the probe. The investigators said this suggests a lack of trust in management.

Marie Lemay, president and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint, said the Crown corporation has already taken steps to prevent discrimination and harassment. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The 19-page report calls on the mint to establish an effective reporting system to fully document all claims of discrimination and harassment made by employees, and to provide them with timely updates.

In a written statement to CBC News, Lemay said the mint is committed to implementing all of the report's recommendations.

"The Royal Canadian Mint does not tolerate discrimination, harassment or inappropriate workplace behaviour of any kind," Lemay wrote.

"We investigate all complaints and do not hesitate to take disciplinary action when warranted."

Lemay said the mint has established a dedicated staff position within the protective services group to support diversity in the recruitment process, and has introduced cultural bias screening for all new hires.

It already has launched a third-party platform where employees can anonymously report workplace concerns, and mandatory unconscious bias and harassment prevention training for all employees. It also recently adopted a diversity, equity and inclusion action plan.

Union, mint employee call for corporation-wide investigation

Clint Crabtree is the president and business agent for Amalgamated Transit Union 279, representing protective security services in Ottawa. He said he wasn't aware of the review.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), which represents protective services in Winnipeg and other non-security employees in Ottawa, is calling on the mint to launch a full probe of its workplace culture.

"We've received a complaint about a toxic workplace culture that's having a significant impact on the mental health of employees," said Randy Howard, national president of the Government Services Union, which is part of PSAC.

"We're calling on the employer to launch a full investigation into the allegations to make the mint a better, safer place to work. We'll also continue to represent our members who have faced harassment and discrimination at work."

The mint said it has not received any communication from PSAC on this matter.

The protective security services division isn't the only one with problems, said Hainzelin. She said she's heard from employees in other departments who have been left "scarred" by their experiences.

"If you want change, you have to come out and say something," she said.

"It might seem hard at first. It was for me. But when I saw the results of the people coming to me … You'll always find help and resources, and you'll always find somebody who has something in common with you."

WATCH | Former mint employee says she faced racism on the job:

Racism, sexual harassment allegations at Royal Canadian Mint

3 months ago
2:00
Several former security guards at the Royal Canadian Mint have told CBC News they faced a toxic work environment that included racism and sexual harassment. They said the atmosphere was so nasty, they feared reprisals if they filed grievances. 2:00

MacAdam said that while he was processing gold and silver at the mint from 2013 to November 2019, the mint had a policy of clawing back employee bonuses for time lost due to injuries. That policy, he said, "pitted people against each other" and made employees reluctant to report injuries at work.

"I watched a guy cut his hand from end to end on a blade, sneak it out," he said. "Called the next day and said that he cut his hand on a trailer hitch because he didn't want to be stigmatized."

MacAdam said he had to take time off for surgery after he injured himself while moving precious metals in September 2016. He said he was injured again at work in December 2018.

When he returned to the job, he said, his colleagues were furious with him.

"I had [a union member and departmental lead] in my room come up and say to me, 'You're the reason that we are not going to get a 10 per cent bonus and I have told everybody on the floor that,'" MacAdam said.

The mint told CBC News that bonus policy is no longer in place.

MacAdam said his angry colleagues spread a rumour that he was granting sexual favours for higher pay. After he complained, he said, his supervisor admitted he "might have made it up."

MacAdam's accusations were confirmed by a human resources investigation after he suffered a nervous breakdown. He hasn't returned to work since November 2019.

"I just felt very betrayed," he said. "There needs to be a serious inquiry into all departments and I think the union really needs to stand up here."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Olivia Stefanovich

Senior reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a senior reporter for CBC's Parliamentary Bureau based in Ottawa. She previously worked in Toronto, Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter at @CBCOlivia. Story tips welcome: olivia.stefanovich@cbc.ca.

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