“We’re going to make sure that people are held accountable and that real change starts to happen at Canadore.” ― Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President
North Bay (12 Feb. 2020) ― In a letter to Canadore College’s Board of Directors and President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) President Warren (Smokey) Thomas has demanded a complete copy of an investigator’s report into the college’s workplace culture.
Investigation prompted by human rights complaint by a former employee
“It’s time to get serious about healing Canadore’s workplace culture,” Thomas wrote to board chair Bob Nicholls. “The first step is ensuring that the workers and their union see the investigator’s complete report. We will not stop demanding it until we get it.”
The investigator, who was hired almost a year ago in the wake of a human rights complaint by a former employee, is scheduled to deliver her findings on Friday, Feb. 14.
Workers terrified to speak out
During the course of her investigation, dozens upon dozens of workers, students, and community members offered testimony, including more than 50 OPSEU/NUPGE members. The majority of those OPSEU/NUPGE members gave their testimony with the support of OPSEU/NUPGE staff members.
“It was terrifying for them to speak out because there’s such a poisonous culture of intimidation and reprisal at Canadore,” said Thomas. “But they testified anyway because they love their work and they care deeply about the quality of education they offer the students.”
Separate harassment lawsuit ongoing
The college has a troubled history of bullying, harassment, and abuse of power. Several years ago, a number of OPSEU/NUPGE members were targeted with discipline and even dismissal after making good-faith efforts to address the toxic environment. And along with the ongoing human rights complaint, a separate harassment lawsuit was filed last year against the owner of a company that has an office on the Canadore campus and who is closely associated with senior management at the college.
“I’m so proud of these members for the tremendous courage they’ve shown over the last number of years fighting for themselves and for the students,” said Thomas. “We’re not going to let their courage be for nothing. We’re not going to let the college sweep this report under the carpet.
“We’re going to make sure that people are held accountable and that real change starts to happen at Canadore.”
Read the full letter
The text of the letter sent to the chair of the Canadore College Board of Governors:
Dear Mr. Nicholls:
The third-party investigator hired by Canadore College to assess the college’s workplace culture is scheduled to deliver her report on Friday, Feb. 14.
I am writing to demand that OPSEU be given a copy of that report as soon as it has been delivered. More than 50 OPSEU members provided testimony to the investigator, the vast majority of them directly supported by OPSEU staff members during their interviews.
We know what they said to the investigator – it is crucial that we confirm that the overall spirit of our members’ testimony is reflected in the investigator’s conclusions.
If the investigator provides recommendations, it is also crucial that we know exactly what those recommendations are.
For years, Canadore College has struggled with a poisonous workplace culture.
Our members love their work. They love supporting the students as they strive for excellence.
But the long-standing and ongoing issues of harassment, bullying, and intimidation are taking a serious toll not just on our members and other workers at the college, but also on the students.
When frontline workers feel anxious and afraid – and even physically ill – while on the job, it is impossible for them to provide students with the best possible education.
It’s time to get serious about healing Canadore’s workplace culture. The first step is ensuring that the workers and their union see the investigator’s complete report. We will not stop demanding it until we get it.
I look forward to your prompt response.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE