Volume 90, Issue 94

Friday, March 21, 1997



Seeking justice at Canada's Peace Tower

By Kevin Gale
Gazette Staff

The Peace Tower at Canada's Parliament Buildings in Ottawa was the setting for Anne Raney's discrimination troubles which began in May 1995.

Raney, an aspiring professional engineer and philanthropist, said she was hired as a supervisor of a crew contracted to complete the 10-15 years of renovations to the Centre Block's Peace Tower, when the head of a firm who was subcontracted to help with the work expressed discontent to Raney's boss about her being on the job site.

The man in fact told her boss to fire her because the subcontractor did not want a woman on the job site, she told an audience in the engineering science building yesterday.

Raney said she was unaware of the specific problems but was aware something was up. "When you get an all-to-real yucky feeling there is a reason for that – don't ignore it," she said.

"When a second job site opened up, I got a promotion to site superintendent and my boss gave me a raise. It shows how seriously he took the threat."

However, Raney said as site superintendent she had to share a trailer office with the subcontractor, who promptly told her she was not welcome in his trailer. "He said to me 'You can dance on tables for me but you can never work for me,'" she explained.

Aug. 11, 1995, Raney, her boss and 25 of her 54 crew workers left the site after a subcontractor threatened to withhold paychecks from workers unless Raney was fired. Raney's group later lost their contract.

She said it was important for her at that point to keep her cool. "The human cost has been great," she said. "But myself, my boss and the 25 men who walked off the job can sleep at night knowing we did the right thing."

After that, Raney said she began a long and frustrating pursuit of justice against the subcontractor which caused him to lose his professional engineering designation for one year in February, 1996. He is currently involved in more litigation.

"In the end, the government got embarrassed. Everyone else couldn't get involved to change the situation. The matter was decided by an arbitrator," she said.

Raney said after she left the job site in August, she petitioned the Canadian Human Rights Commission, several members of parliament and Ottawa's public works department, who had jurisdiction over the job site, to recover tools taken from her group by the subcontractor. She also wanted to see justice done over the matter of discrimination.

The CHRC said they could not help her because she was not fired by her boss. "Their guidelines are for employee-employer relations. There is nothing to do with contracts," she said.

Raney said the experience taught her about looking out for herself in the workplace. "As an engineer, if you have the chance to stand up, do so. If you don't, you're selling a part of yourself – your integrity," she said. "Most people want honest people working for them."

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Copyright The Gazette 1997