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Activists honoured at Convention 2023

Butterfly Gopaul, Local 5118 individual Human Right Award

inSolidarity Report

Convention 2023 saw an exciting end to its first day. In a departure from years past, an evening recognizing member successes, emceed by Paul Taylor, also included diverse entertainment acts including Lucas Silveira, Afiwi Groove Performance Team, Jadyn Hardie-Bardy.

OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick opened the evening introducing the audience to emcee Paul Taylor. A long-time friend of OPSEU/SEFPO, Taylor brought the evening to life, introducing the amazing entertainment acts and assisting with awards.

The first performer of the evening was Lucas Silveira. Alongside his band, The Cliks, Silveira was the first openly transgender man signed to a major record label. Now a solo performer, Silveira is also a noted writer, artists, and television personality.

Afiwi Groove Performance Team later took to stage demonstrating dynamic and energetic performances of African and Caribbean dance. The group, comprised of dancers ranging in age, have been extensively trained by local and international choreographers and musicians and represent the Afiwi Groove School, Durham Region’s award-winning African performing arts school.

The evening also included a performance by Jadyn “machiinegunfunkk” Hardie-Bardy. Hardie-Bardy, a queer Mohawk and Jamaican poet, beader and youth advocate, has been featured across stages and platforms.

In addition to inspirational performances, the evening included the celebration of a number of union activists and Locals with the presentation of a number of awards.

Health and Safety Awards – Individual and Local

The Health and Safety Awards were presented to three individuals and to one local that made the most significant contribution to the advancement of our members’ interests in occupational health and safety. Presented by Paul Taylor, the individual recipients were Kathy Moreau, Local 329, Carol Mundley, Local 500 and Natacha Verdiel, Local 2100. The local recipient was OPSEU/SEFPO Local 332.

Individual – Kathy Moreau, Local 329

2023 Health and Safety Individual award winner Kathy Moreau, Loc

Kathy Moreau has worked tirelessly as an advocate for worker health and safety as the Joint Health and Safety Committee Co-Chair in her local, increasing communication between the health and safety committee and members. During the pandemic, she ensured that workers at her hospital, the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health, had proper training and access to PPE when their employer tried to ration it. Because of Moreau’s work to transform the workplace culture around health and safety, the Ministry of Labour has been a regular attendee at their hospital, and their employer has received over 40 orders and counting.

Individual – Carol Mundley, Local 500

2023 Health and Safety Award-winner Carol Mundley, Local 500.

Carol Mundley is a Local President, Health and Safety Co-Chair, the Sector 18 Mental Health Division’s Health and Safety Coordinator, and the Vice Chair of the Coalition of Racialized Workers. Within her local, Mundley ensures that her employer, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, puts all safety precautions in place, both mentally and physically. She is a tireless advocate and never accepts less for her fellow members.

In Mental Health Sector 18, Mundley led the creation of the Health and Safety Toolkit in conjunction with staff, which is used by many sectors across OPSEU/SEFPO and in other provinces. Mundley has headed sector-wide health and safety conferences where she focused on physical and psychological safety, and the employer’s obligations during COVID-19.

Individual – Natacha Verdiel, Local 2100

2023 Individual Health and Safety Award-winner Natacha Verdiel

Natacha Verdiel has been a certified member of the Joint Health and Safety Committee in her Peel District School Board local for 11 years. She teaches health and safety modules to her local’s 4,000 members, who work in some of the most physically, cognitively, and psychologically challenging environments. She processes approximately 12,000 reports of workplace violence per year, has challenged the employer with more than 100 Ministry of Labour visits and work refusals, with the highest rate of success of all employee groups in the workplace. Verdiel’s fellow members recognize her as the driving force in advancing Health and Safety in their workplace.

Local – OPSEU/SEFPO Local 332

2023 Local Health and Safety Award-winner Local 332 - Developmen

Local 332 put up an incredible fight this year for health and safety within developmental services. Over the past year, this local has faced significant safety challenges with multiple workers being hospitalized after being assaulted in their workplace. They took a public stand against violence in their workplace and held their employer responsible for providing a safe workplace, which resulted in retaliation by the employer by firing three of their Local Executive members. Local 332 members fought back, mobilized community and labour movement support, and forced them to back down and reinstate the terminated members.

Honorary Lifetime Membership Awards

These awards were presented to retired members who have made significant contributions to their locals or to the union as a whole, presented by JP Hornick and Laurie Nancekivell.

Elaine Bagnall, Local 362

Honorary Lifetime Membership Award - Elaine Bagnall, Local 362

Elaine Bagnall was unanimously endorsed via her local’s vote, as being deserving of this award for her 30 years of union activism at the OPS, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry as the local president during the strike in 2002. Moreover, she contributed on the Ministry Employee Relations Committee, for 22 years, while serving as co-chair for 20 years. Additionally, she has served two terms on the Provincial Women’s Committee as the Region 3 representative, 1 term on the Provincial Human Rights Committee, 3 terms on the Resolutions Committee and was the chair of the committee for 2 of those years.

Bagnall said that we need “strong advocacy”, that we need “to have labour studies imbedded into our curriculum” and that we need to “share our knowledge, so that we develop as a movement”.

Leah Casselman, Local 213

Honorary Lifetime Membership Award, former OPSEU/SEFPO Presiden

Leah Casselman, a correctional officer, a strong leader, a pragmatic thinker, and a committed trade unionist was the first female, president of OPSEU/SEFPO. She held the position for 12 years, leading 2 major strikes, days of actions, wildcat strikes, and demonstrations in the 1990’s, as a response to Mike Harris.
Additionally, Casselman directed and oversaw the merger of the Allied Health Professionals and the Ontario Liquor Boards’ Employees Union into OPSEU/SEFPO, and helped part-time community college employees gain the right to unionize.

Since her presidency in 2008, she became Executive Director of the Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), mandating protecting and improving workers’ health, identifying and acclaiming recommendations for the elimination of hazards in the workplace. In 2016-17 Casselman volunteered as a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Casselman received a standing ovation from the crowd at the awards night. She ended her speech by saying “The fight that you are involved with now, you must win. It is important for the workers looking for a union, they are looking at you. They are looking at your fiscal integrity, and at your moral integrity”.

Patty Rout, Local 348

OPSEU/SEFPO Local 348 member Patty Rout, Honorary Lifetime Membership Award

Patty Rout, a medical laboratory technician, was OPSEU/SEFPO’s 1st Vice-President/Treasurer from 2007-2011. She participated in many strikes, rallies, and campaigns. Rout served in every local executive role in Local 348. She was also an Executive Board member for Region 3.

Locally, she was the Chair of the Lakeridge Health United Way Campaign, and the Director of the Ontario Health Coalition. She was also the Sector Chair of the Hospital Professionals Division, and a HOOPP Pension Trustee.

Rout’s colleagues felt that she was a genuine OPSEU/SEFPO leader and mentor, devoted and enthusiastic with years of hard work and commitment to this union.

Rout quoted her father who would tell her, “Just remember Patty, when we are broken, we are stronger together, than when we are alone”.

Human Rights Awards – Individual and Local

The Human Rights Award is presented to a local and an individual having made the most significant contribution to the advancement of human rights issues and the principles of equity. The award was presented by Paul Taylor.

Individual – Butterfly Gopaul, Local 5118

Butterfly GoPaul, Local 5118 individual Human Right Award

Butterfly Gopaul was a community health worker at Black Creek Community Health Centre for 14 years, and now works at the Parkdale Community Legal Clinic, where she is the Local President. Gopaul is also a Region 5 Representative on the OPSEU/SEFPO Coalition of Racialized Workers.

Gopaul lives and raises her family in the Jane Finch/Black Creek Community, and has been an active resident member with Jane Finch Action Against Poverty for 14 years. She has been instrumental in her support for the Black Creek Community Farm, which is located within easy walking distance of eight schools and one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in Canada.

Gopaul has unselfishly helped her community and her local by providing guidance and knowledge.

Local – CAAT-A Bargaining Team

2021 CAAT-A Bargaining Team - Local Human Rights Award

The CAAT-A Bargaining Team achieved significant gains through the Kaplan award which settled the 2021 round of bargaining.
The team made historic gains by enshrining human rights into their collective agreement. They integrated Indigenous knowledge into the initial salary calculation along with anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism to the bullying and harassment article in the Collective Agreement. They moved a letter of understanding regarding bullying and harassment into an article of the Collective Agreement. Lastly, they added chosen family into their bereavement leave language.

Leah Casselman Awards – Individual and Local

The Leah Casselman Award is awarded to a local and an individual for mobilizing activities – one who best exemplifies the spirit and intent of “mobilizing to win.” The awards were presented by President JP Hornick and First Vice-President/Treasurer Laurie Nancekivell.

Individual – Andrew Harrigan, Local 304

Andrew Harrington, Local 304 - Leah Casselman Award (individual)

In 2020, Andrew Harrigan’s local was experiencing rampant bullying, harassment and anti-Black racism at the York Region Children’s Aid Society. Through a staff survey that generated both ministry and media attention, Harrigan successfully organized and mobilized the membership into speaking out about these serious workplace issues.

As a result of the staff survey conducted by the local, an independent review was conducted by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, which found that senior management had created a toxic environment of fear, racism and anti-Black racism that traumatized the workers.

Since that time, Harrigan has been ensuring that management upholds the report’s recommendations, and that their workplace does not tolerate injustice or inequity.

Local – Sector 3, Boards of Education and Cultural Institutions

Sector 3 Boards of Education and Cultural Institutions - Leah Ca

In October 2022, OPSEU/SEFPO’s education workers were in central bargaining at the same time as CUPE’s education workers from OSBCU. CUPE had an overwhelming strike mandate from their membership.

The Ford government decided to pass Bill 28, not only making it illegal for them to strike, not only imposing a terrible contract on them, but using the notwithstanding clause so that it couldn’t be charter challenged in court.

When CUPE decided to defy the legislation and walk out anyhow, OPSEU/SEFPO’s Sector 3 education workers, immediately stepped up and walked out in solidarity with CUPE! It was incredibly brave, given that these education workers were not in a legal strike position.

Their action was met with overwhelming community support from parents, students and the general public, and brought the entire labour movement together in a way we haven’t seen in years. Through solidarity and hard work these education workers forced a majority Conservative government to back down and repeal Bill 28 less than a week after it was passed.

Local – OPSEU/SEFPO Local 647

Local 647 - Leah Casselman Award (Local)

Before September 2022, Local 647 represented 18 paramedics from Temagami Ambulance. The District of Nipissing decided to amalgamate all their ambulance services under one employer, 80+ paramedics in the district were represented by CUPE and 18 were represented by OPSEU/SEFPO.

Small in numbers, yet mighty in spirit, members of Local 647 were determined to win the representation vote. A strong organizing campaign was launched by the local president and vice president, and Local 647 won the vote in September, welcoming those former CUPE members into their local.

Provincial Young Workers Award

Abed Al-Nasser Kaddoura, Provincial 2023 Young Worker of the Year

The Provincial Young Workers Committee (PYC) selected the recipient of the 2023 Young Worker of the Year Award. In the inaugural year of 2022, the PYC selected Region 3 representative Kaylee Heath as the award winner.

This time around, both Heath and the Chair of the PYC, Taylor Phillips, presented the award to Abed Al-Nasser Kaddoura. Kaddoura is a second-generation Lebanese immigrant and is the youngest executive in his local. Kaddoura has organized members on equity, diversity and young worker issues in his workplace. Kaddoura has taken a proactive approach and has recruited 14 members to be shop stewards. The Young Workers committee continues to advocate for young workers in the progression of the OPSEU/SEFPO labour movement.

Fred Upshaw Award of Merit

Megan Carter Local 557, Fred Upshaw Award of Merit

The Coalition of Racialized Workers proudly presents this years Fred Upshaw’s Award of Merit to Megan Carter of Local 557. Carter has been an excellent advocate for marginalized and Racialized workers. Carter has kept her employer, George Brown College, accountable for conducting anti-racism sessions. Carter is the local President for one of the largest OPSEU/SEFPO locals. She has run campaigns within her workplace that resulted in wins for her members which included wellness days for part-time staff. On the provincial level, Carter serves as the Region 5 representative for the CoRW and has been an effective organizer of events such as the Caribana Kiddies Carnival. She continues to shine as a beacon of light and her tireless work of promoting dignity and equity continues to be a hallmark of the work that she does.

Stanley H. Knowles Humanitarian Award

Greg Sharp Local 303 - Stanley H. Knowles Humanitarian Award

The recipient of the 2023 Stanley H. Knowles Humanitarian award is Greg Sharp from local 303. Sharp has been a paramedic with the County of Simcoe for over 20 years. Sharp has led the annual paramedic toy and food drive across the Simcoe County. Sharp, along with many other paramedics, continues to donate time and money to various community outreach programs in Simcoe County.

Over the past 20 years, the efforts of Sharp and his paramedic colleagues have resulted in more than $150,000 food items and toys and more than $250,000 in cash and gift cards. Sharp and his paramedic colleagues continue to show that they have an ongoing, healthy relationship with their various communities. OPSEU/SEFPO salutes Sharp for the work that he continues to do.