Nicole Mortillaro Complaint

Nicole Mortillaro’s original complaint against me is in blue, to which I have added remarks in black.

 

 

Please consider this as a formal complaint against member Glenn Hawley.

As you are aware, Charles Ennis suggested that the RASC have a committee to promote inclusivity and diversity. He asked if I would be interested in joining and, seeing as there is the need for more diverse people within the RASC, thought this was a wonderful idea. I told him that I would happily be part of the founding committee.

Mr. Ennis wrote a piece for the November Bulletin with the news of this new committee. Soon after, Alan Whitman posted in the RASCals Yahoo group with his concerns that mainly focused on something that Mr. Ennis mentioned pertaining to not knowing how many minorities or women are members of the RASC. I replied that we have a need for the committee as the RASC is not representative of Canadian society. This soon snowballed. Mr. Hawley also chimed in on the discussion with his views and concerns. This was not a problem.

However, Mr. Hawley began to pick apart both my statements and those of others, including Heather Laird, also a founding member of the new committee (not to mention that he did not understand the committee’s goals).

Below is my initial response to Mr. Whitman:

Alan, I think you misunderstand our goals.

It is to ensure that people of different ethnicities, genders and religions feel that they are comfortable being a member of the RASC. Nobody has any intention of “pestering” anyone about any of those things. And the fact is, other aspects of our lives DO come into being when we are in a group.

Alan Whitman’s remarks are not actually applicable here.

As a woman of colour, I can tell you that it was disturbing that, when I attended the GA this year, I was the only person of colour.

This is actually a misstatement of fact. She was one of half a dozen ‘non-white’ people at the GA, though all of the rest were Asian, rather than Black.

Of course we all share a love of the cosmos. But the fact is the RASC is not representative of those in society, and we need to start being so. Otherwise we will die off. And I’m fairly certain nobody wants to see that happen.

I’m going to be frank here: the Society has been a group of white, straight men for far too long, and this just isn’t the world we live in today. We need to be relevant.

Complaining about “white, straight men” rings the bell on race, sexuality, and gender… all considered protected characteristics in our Policy G24.  It takes some chutzpah to accuse ME of violating G24 while so blatantly doing so herself.

And I’m also going to be honest here: because of the reasons I’ve stated above, it’s taken me a lot to stay with the RASC. Your limited world views do not help.

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Mr. Hawley noted that I was not the only person of colour (I had meant to say woman). An abridged version of the email is below:

“Nicole pointed out in her response that she was the only member who was a
person of color at the GA this year”

She managed not to see Arun Rau, National Council Rep for Calgary. Either
that or he’s not coloured enough to suit her criteria. That would also go fo
Rajesh Shukla, Sharmin Chowdhury, and other non-white members of note in the
Society…

People responded to his response negatively, and he followed up with this:

How would you phrase the concept that her idea of “coloured” apparently does not include many who fall into that category?

To complain of being the only one (a point then taken up and repeated by
Charles), when in fact there were several “persons of colour” present smacks
of elitism.

“Coloured.”

In response, I acknowledged that I had actually spoken with Mr. Rau. However, I also noted that neither Mr. Shukla nor Ms. Chowdhury were in attendance at the GA. In fact, in my thank-you speech at receiving the Simon Newcomb Award, I asked the audience to look around them and pointed out that, while yes, there were women in attendance, there was not one woman who looked like myself. And then his bullying behaviour continued when he started a new thread on RASCals with the subject “Nikki” (I am known as Nebulous Nikki on social media).

Since Nicole wanted to move away from discussing the actual I&D Committee, and instead had changed the topic to concentrate on her assertions, it was a courtesy to others to change the subject line, as advised in section G13 of the Policy Manual.

This was his first post:

Here’s a quote from your post.

“… when I attended the GA this year, I was the only person of colour.”

If you meant something else, then that’s something else.

But Charles took your words the same way I did, that you found no one “of
colour” at the GA. And he repeated it.

I knew of one other at least, and there may have been there more whom you
consider not sufficiently “of colour”.

That last paragraph was way out of line and, quite frankly, racist.

Mr. Hawley attempted to bully and intimidate me, particularly by posting to the RASCals group with the subject line being my name. He was also inherently racist with comments like, “How would you phrase the concept that her idea of “coloured” apparently does not include many who fall into that category?”

It is apparent that the use of the word “colour” with respect to race is a type of shibboleth. The use of language to distinguish which ‘tribe’ one might belong to is what is highlighted in that biblical passage.

I was using a slightly different dialect of English, with slightly different meanings… none of which is racist. Not even the NAACP has seen fit to change its use of the term in its name, for example.

However, given the reaction to it, I committed never again to use the word “colour” to denote race. And I have adhered to that commitment ever since.

I believe his behaviour — and this is not the first time he has displayed bullying tactics in his arguments — directly contravenes our anti-harassment policy, specifically, “epithets; slurs; negative stereotyping; threatening, intimidating, bullying or hostile acts….”

None of these things is in evidence in anything I’ve posted. If anything, Nicole’s campaign to have me expelled is bullying. No epithets, no slurs, no negative stereotyping (like complaining of too many “straight white men”, for example) can be found in any of my postings.

I am a journalist by profession. As such, I highly respect freedom of speech. This isn’t about having differing views: he is entitled to that. We all are. But I cannot be part of a group that condones bullying behaviour.

Nor is this about me being too sensitive. I have a very thick skin: Due to the nature of my work, I receive hate mail, hate directed at me on social media, and yes, I’ve even had a death threat.

I believe that Mr. Hawley should be removed as a member of the RASC. This isn’t the behaviour we want members to see as acceptable, particularly at a time when we are trying to increase membership and embrace diversity.

“The stars belong to everyone,” Helen Sawyer Hogg wrote. But with members like this, that isn’t the view that comes across.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Nicole Mortillaro

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