THE BLOG
04/20/2012 07:38 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

What Raymond Taavel Would Do to 'Fix the System'

We need to get over our "broken system"/"heads should roll" approach to assigning blame in order to solve problems. Raymond Taavel would have approached the problems that led to his cruel, unnecessary, and unfortunate death with sincerity, compassion, urgency, and persistence. The blame game has started, and I think Taavel would agree that it is none of the above.

It is not sincere because the pretext is that someone in the system should be held accountable for the failure of a system. That same someone is also likely to be held accountable for aspects of the system beyond their control, because that is the nature of a witch hunt. Sincerity is lost when finding an answer is more important than finding the truth. When it comes to the question of who is at fault, everyone seems quite anxious to be the one to "call it." But a sincere approach would recognize that when systems break, sometimes tragedies occur. This is due in no small part to a perfect storm of multiple human and system failures that occur simultaneously in an unforeseen way. It is insincere to embark with the premise that suggests any person wanted things to go badly.

It is not compassionate because it implies that individuals can be expected to be perfect. Compassion accepts and forgives human imperfection. The notion that somewhere, someone can be blamed and suffer the consequences of their error (like reprimand, firing, fining, imprisonment) suggests that individuals want the system to fail, when the opposite is true. By emblematically burning people or events on a stake, we just send deeper problems into hiding and avoid hearing the real truth.

It is not urgent because inquiries, though effective to a point, are subject to influence and can be clunky and slow. For example, there is presently an argument about the degree of independence an inquiry into the causes of Taavel's death needs to have. Since no inquiry can be independent and free of influence, this is a waste of time. The real reason the degree of independence is a concern is because we do not trust. The reason we do not trust is because we know there is going to be denial and spin. If we are to be urgent, we need a platform of sincerity, compassion, persistence, and urgency that opens up the lines to trustworthy dialogue. Without it, we will be years into the future and we will still be talking about the broken system, and more tragedy will have occurred to restart the cycle.

It is not persistent because searching for a fix implies that the system is fixable. Unfortunately, all systems break. A fix or an illusion of a fix just gives the false sense that a job is done. We can look at civil rights, 9/11, land claims, Glen Race, Donald Marshall, and many others to understand that the system cannot be fixed. Without persistence in the form of a culture of constant and enduring improvement, we will fail Raymond Taavel.

What would Raymond Taavel do? First he would enable trust and truth to take their proper place at the table. To do this, let's sign a public pact that promises that no heads will roll. Let's welcome frank admissions and also frank but constructive criticisms. Let's promise the people who would otherwise be (or not be) found accountable that they will neither be burned, crucified, fined, demoted, ostracized, nor fired, so that they may come forward with the truth in order to start a path of continuous improvement. Let's stop the blame and start the truth. And let's be sincere, compassionate, urgent, and persistent.

We have some amazing tools at our command and some brave leaders at our beck and call. We can use social media! We can even be informal, because the truth does not require formality. This is a shining opportunity for our leaders to do what they do best.

Rather than cast blame upon them, let us call upon and embolden the champions who are already working within our difficult system, like Chris Power, CEO of the Capital District Health Authority; Nova Scotia's Minister of Health Maureen MacDonald; Cornwallis Street Baptist Church's Reverend Rhonda Britton; Member of Parliament Megan Leslie; and anyone else who wants to open the gates of truth. These wonderful leaders need to hear our persistent voice nagging them to lead until they say, "Yes, let's do it!"

This would be Raymond's way. Let's at last change the approach to model ourselves on his enduring spirit of sincerity, compassion, urgency, and persistence.