From Peter Scowen published in The Globe and Mail:
A hearing into the case of Rudolph, a reindeer
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
December 23, 2008
In December of 2006, this rights commission was asked to investigate claims of discrimination based on physical disability with regards to a reindeer, Rudolph.
Thanks to the use of anatomically correct dolls brought to life in a stop-action dramatic recreation of the incidents under discussion, as well as at least one version of the events delivered in the form of a ridiculously catchy country western song, the commission has established the following facts:
* Rudolph suffers from a facial disfigurement.
* Rudolph is employed by Santa Claus, the owner and sole executive of a toy manufacturing conglomerate known as Santa Claus Holdings Inc. (herewith referred to as SCHI) and located on or near Earth's magnetic north pole (herewith referred to as the North Pole). Rudolph works in the delivery department, propulsion and guidance systems.
* In the North Pole, reindeer can fly. No one thinks this is weird.
* Like the lingerie section at department stores, SCHI delivers its entire annual production of Christmas gifts on a single night – Dec. 24.
* The alleged incidents took place in the winter months leading up to Christmas, 2005.
The commission established the following narrative of events:
Rudolph suffers from an unusual swelling and discoloration of the nose.
Medical doctors who examined him at the commission's request concluded that his disability is not due to any known medical condition.
For one thing, his nose is too shiny. Witnesses testified that some “would even say it glows,” raising the possibility of radiation poisoning. That was ruled out through the use of a Geiger counter. A diagnosis of congenital disfigurement is accepted by the commission.
It's clear that Rudolph's disfigurement was a source of shame for his parents. At one point, the child's father tried to blacken his son's nose with mud, a considerable effort given mud's scarcity in the North Pole. Donner eventually fashioned a prosthetic nose and forced Rudolph to wear it when out in public.
Rudolph's problems were exacerbated at school. The prosthetic nose was crudely made and often fell off, revealing Rudolph's disfigurement. His peers responded by ridiculing him and refusing to let him “join in any reindeer games,” according to one version of events.
Reindeer games are an intrinsic part of reindeer society, and Rudolph's exclusion from them was painful. No action was taken by teachers or the school principal to rectify the situation. The commission notes that the school is owned and operated by North Pole Education Systems Inc., a subsidiary of SCHI.
The cruel taunts and exclusion continued until Dec. 24, 2005, when climatic conditions resulted in the peculiar appearance of a thick blanket of fog in the North Pole, a polar desert where average temperatures on this date are in the minus-45-degree range.
It was at this point that Santa Claus himself approached Rudolph and offered him the chance to fill a newly created position in the delivery department: He asked Rudolph to help pull his gift-laden sleigh in the lead position.
Santa Claus's hope was that Rudolph's brightly lit red nose would serve as a beacon and help him guide his sleigh that night. It apparently worked, as the delivery went off without a hitch.
Rudolph's sudden and unexpected engagement by the region's single all-powerful employer changed his peers' attitudes toward him. “Then all the reindeer loved him,” one witness said. Some predicted that Rudolph would “go down in history.”
The commission finds this case to be troubling from start to finish. Its members note with sadness that the North Pole is dominated by a judgmental and Manichean character who divides the world into “naughty” and “nice.” Rudolph's systematic exclusion clearly comes from the top in a community that is controlled in all its aspects by a single employer.
There is little in that regard to distinguish the North Pole from any single-company town in apartheid-era South Africa, pre-First World War Ireland or the current New Brunswick.
The commission is also troubled that Santa Claus only intervened on behalf of a victim of repeated discrimination when his company's fortunes were on the line. While lawyers acting for SCHI at the hearings argued that the hiring of Rudolph was a clear indication of the company's policy of inclusion, the commission feels that it was motivated by a venal goal and that the company only played it otherwise after complaints were made to the commission.
The commission therefore finds that:
* SCHI discriminated against Rudolph, and it should pay Rudolph the sum of $18.5-million in damages.
* SCHI must immediately begin tolerance and diversity programs for all of its employees, starting at the top.
* SCHI must open itself to diversity audits on an annual basis and file a report with this commission indicating the progress it has made in finding work for red-nosed reindeers, tall elves and un-jolly humans.
Hat Tip: Mark Steyn