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Convention 2024 Day 1: inSolidarity Update



Marilyn Ott, InSol

The sounds of drums and singing filled the massive hall on the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation as Indigenous Elders as the Indigenous Circle and other Indigenous members and staff led a procession to open Convention 2024.

Dan Bower, Head Elder of the Whitney and Area Algonquins, and Ethel LaValley, elder of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan, urged members to look to relate to each other with wisdom, love, respect, humility, bravery, honesty, and truth.

“If we base the next three days on these teachings, we will walk out of here having had a wonderful convention,” said LaValley.

Welcome remarks were delivered by Chief Claire Sault of the Mississaugas of the Credit, who told delegates that when we act with respect we need not fear judgement and that when we walk in truth, our actions will speak louder than words.

Andria Babbington, who has a long history of walking in truth, brought greetings as the President of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council. A life-long trade unionists, Babbington was a steward at just 19 and has been dedicated to organizing and justice ever since.

The key, she said, is building trust with the people working next to you. “I want you all to look to your left and to your right and say to the people beside you: “I’ve got your back.”

President JP Hornick opens Convention 2024 by highlighting labour victories: when we fight, we win!

OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick delivered an inspiring address, highlighting the year’s organizing successes and political victories, while road mapping OPSEU/SEFPO’s member driven strategy to combat the Ford government.

Understanding Colonization Through the Blanket Exercise: A Crucial Tool for OPSEU/SEFPO Activists

Lorinda Seward, InSol

In the landscape of educational initiatives that foster awareness and understanding of Canada’s colonial history, the Blanket Exercise stands out as a moving and immersive experience. Originating as a response to the 1996 report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, this interactive program has become a cornerstone in educating Canadians about the devastating impacts of colonization on Indigenous peoples.

On April 24, 2024, members of OPSEU/SEFPO had the opportunity to engage in this transformative exercise as part of our commitment to dismantling systemic racism. The first one ever to be held at Convention, and facilitated by Tina Stevens, OPSEU/SEFPO’s newly elected Indigenous Circle Equity Board Member, the Blanket Exercise invited participants to step onto blankets representing the lands inhabited by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. Through a carefully crafted script, participants were guided through the historical narrative of colonization, from initial contact to the present day.

The session began with a smudging and Tina personally thanked each of the 27 participants for bringing the energy she identified. As the exercise unfolded, the blankets were gradually folded, reduced in size, and separated, symbolizing the loss of land through treaties and the imposition of reserves. Participants were asked to step off the blankets at various points, representing the devastating effects of disease, and forced relocation. One participant was given a pink card and was asked quietly to leave the group. Participants later found out that this represented Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, who often vanish with no explanation and no follow-up. This powerful visual metaphor illustrated the profound injustices perpetrated against Indigenous communities throughout Canadian history.

For the OPSEU/SEFPO activists who engaged in the Blanket Exercise, this was not just an educational endeavour, rather, it was a deeply emotional commitment towards fostering solidarity and understanding within our union and the labour movement more broadly. Participants shared feelings of anger, sadness, frustration, guilt, and shame. By confronting the legacy of colonization and acknowledging the ongoing struggles faced by Indigenous peoples, OPSEU/SEFPO activists can better advocate for meaningful change within our organizations and communities.

The participants in today’s Blanket Exercise were powerfully reminded of the ongoing legacy of colonization and the urgent need for reconciliation and solidarity. It also underscores OPSEU/SEFPO’s commitment to reconciliation and anti-racism efforts. As champions of social justice and equality, our members have a responsibility to confront and address the systemic injustices that continue to plague Indigenous communities. Through initiatives like the Blanket Exercise, we can gain a deeper understanding of the root causes of inequality and work towards building a more inclusive and equitable society.

Budget report

Michael Hamilton, InSol

As an annual tradition, the First Vice-President/Treasurer gives their report to the convention floor about the current finances of the union.

For the second year in her term, Laurie Nancekivell provided the members attending the 2024 convention with an update as to how OPSEU/SEFPO has been managing its financial resources.

Nancekivell explained how her budget has been described as an activist budget. She has met with leaders from sectors, equity groups and locals to figure out ways of enhancing the financial resources for everyone. She also explained that there are more classifications as to how funds are being allocated to various groups so members have a better understanding of the types of projects and initiatives that their money is being used for.

Laurie provided a comprehensive report on the OPSEU/SEFPO budget with rationale detailing the future revenue streams of the union.

Meet the awards winners!

Michael Hamilton, InSol

Health & Safety Awards

OPSEU/SEFPO is proud to recognize the work Michelle MacLean from Local 248 has done in promoting health & safety in her workplace. She has been a part of her joint health and safety committee acting as the Co-Chair at the Hamilton Wentworth Detention Centre. She has also served as the Co-Chair of the province-wide Corrections Occupational Stress and Injury Committee. Michelle has always made herself available to members for health & safety concerns and has a lot of knowledge of providing members with information when dealing with WSIB. Congratulations Michelle MacLean!

OPSEU/SEFPO is proud to recognize the work of the members who work for Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, also known as A-F-F-E-S! Last year, the province of Ontario faced numerous outbreaks of forest fires across the province especially in the north. The members of A-F-F-E-S have been fighting back against the provincial government to make sure that there are enough fire fighters in place and that health and safety policies are being adhered to. Mark Belanger of Local 713 accepted the award on behalf those members. Congratulations to all of the AFFES members!

Honorary Lifetime Membership Awards

Honorary/retired members have dedicated their time to making sure that they have left OPSEU/SEFPO in a better place from when they were active members. OPSEU/SEFPO recognizes the work that Roxanne Barnes from Local 308 has done. Roxanne contributions included being a Local President, mobilizer, Chair of the Resolutions Committee, graduate of labour college, plus a wide range of roles that she held in OPSEU/SEFPO. For her lifetime of service, OPSEU/SEFPO congratulates Roxanne Barnes!

Nancy Pridham of Local 500 was a very active member in her time with OPSEU/SEFPO. She was a Local President, member of the Executive Board and at the time was the highest ranking woman in OPSEU/SEFPO. She also advocated for pensions and benefits and was a strong voice for health and safety in her workplace. Even as a retiree. Nancy is still a force to be reckoned with in Region 5 as a part of the Retirees Members Division. OPSEU/SEFPO is proud of the work Nancy continues to do for the union.

Mickey Riccardi of Local 154 is the last recipient of the honorary lifetime membership award. As a member, Mickey held every position in her local and was an active member in the OPS. She served as MERC Chair and was a part of the Central Employees Relations Committee. Mickey was a mentor to many members in the union and she was fortunate to finish her career as an OPSEU/SEFPO staff representative. OPSEU/SEFPO thanks Mickey for her lifetime of advocacy and dedication to the union!

Human Rights Awards

This was a unique year for the Human Rights Award because for the individual component, it was awarded to two members. Megan Christou from Local 535 and Lindsay Giroux from Local 629. Megan and Lindsay who both are a part of the Provincial Young Workers Committee, started a movement in support of solidarity with Palestine. They both faced enormous criticism in their work for this initiative but they were steadfast in their approach through the organizing of rallies and protests. Through their work, they helped OPSEU/SEFPO in their stance in trying to find a peaceful outcome to the ongoing Middle East crisis. OPSEU/SEFPO is proud of the work Megan and Lindsay have done and will continue to do for human rights initiatives.

The Human Rights Award for a Local goes to Local 720. In 2003, the Lakehead Psychiatric Institution closed and their services were merged St. Joseph’s Care Group in Thunder Bay. After the merger took place the female members of the Local won equal pay for equal work through their pay equity process. Unfortunately, the employer has held out on those payments and the struggle continues. Members are no finally starting to see some of the payments but this is money they should’ve been receiving all along. Mark Halabecki, President of Local 720 accepts this award on behalf of the great work that the members continue to do.

Leah Casselman Awards

Dana Bruno from Local 708 has organized community activities with her local and the Correctional Bargaining Unit which includes food drives, wellness events and mobilizing her fellow members. OPSEU/SEFPO is proud to honour Dana Bruno with the Leah Casselman Award!

Noah Freedman from Local 703 has taken incredible initiative in mobilizing the wilderness firefighters. He has sent letters about the working conditions through helicopters to educate and sign up members and then presented them to Minister Smith. Noah has been unrelenting in provincial campaigns and has tirelessly spoken on behalf of firefighters in the north. Noah always made sure that all members were being kept in the loop and he is the definition of an organic leader. Noah couldn’t be with us at the awards ceremony so Mark Belanger, President of Local 713 accepted the Leah Casselman award on Noah’s behalf.

The next Leah Casselman Award goes to Melody Hurtubise, President of Local 2100. Melody has led mobilizing efforts in the Peel District School Board and her local achieved a 98% strike vote result in December of 2023. She has emphasized that these are the types of messages from the members that need to be sent to the employer in order for the workplace to improve. Congratulations to Melody Hurtubiese!

Cindy Ladouceur from Local 439 is the next winner of the Leah Casselman Award. Cindy has been acting in the role of Local President for Local 439 which represents the Brockville Mental Health Centre. She was on the bargaining team last year during the Bill 124 talks when it was struck down. Cindy and her local did not settle and fought back to ensure that her local would obtain the demands that were needed to better the work environment. Cindy has been a tireless advocate for workers’ rights and OPSEU/SEFPO is proud to present to her the Leah Casselman Award.

The last individual Leah Casselman Award goes to Amanda Usher from Local 302. Amanda began her work with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union 17 years ago on a fixed term contract. Since then, she has moved up within her local and the union as a whole serving as a unit steward, Local President and chair of the MERC for the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. She is now the Chair of the Central Employees Relations Committee aka CERC for the OPS Unified. As a natural leader and mobilizer, Amanda has demonstrated the values of what makes OPSEU/SEFPO members the dynamic people that they are. OPSEU/SEFPO is proud to present the Leah Casselman Award to Amanda Usher!

The next Leah Casselman Award goes to Sector 10, the Hospital Professionals Division! The HPD hit the ground running after COVID-19 pandemic was declared. They made an effort to check on all of their locals to make sure that all of the health and safety protocols were being followed. When the provincial government announced pandemic pay, frontline workers were left out of that premium pay. In 2022 the Ford government introduced Bill 60 which sought to privatize diagnostics and surgeries in Ontario. HPD along with the Ontario Health Coalition, fought back against the Ford government by engaging and educating communities all across the province. Ultimately, an arbitrator ruled in HPD’s favor and it was the largest award for hospital professionals in over two decades. Sara Labelle is the Chair of the HPD and OPSEU/SEFPO is proud to present this award to her on behalf of the Division!

The last Leah Casselman Award goes to Local 277! Local 277 consists of paramedics and logistics technicians for the Region of Peel. Local 277 mobilized their members and presented a motion in Council chambers for the province to not split Peel Paramedic Service between Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon. Local 277 established a relationship with politicians across all levels of government to ensure that their members would be supported. Dave Wakely is the President of Local 277 and he will be accepting the award on behalf of his local.

Provincial Young Worker of the Year Award

This award is presented to a member of OPSEU/SEFPO who is under the age of 35. This year’s winner of the Young Worker of the Year Award goes to Taylor McPhillips from Local 116. Taylor has demonstrated leadership, innovative thinking and empowerment for young worker initiatives. OPSEU/SEFPO is proud to give this award to Taylor, congratulations!

Fred Upshaw Award of Merit

The winner of the Fred Upshaw Award of Merit goes to Amar Atwal from Local 292. Amar works for the Peel District School Board and has the role of trustee in his local. Amar runs the social media accounts for his local and has been highly active in Peel Region. He has organized the “Winter Caring Connection’ program which provides families who are suffering hardships with money and goods. He has raised more than $20, 000 to help families in need.  Amar also volunteers at the Knights Table, a Brampton food bank and the Peel District School Board Coat Drive. He has also mentored youth in the Peel Region. OPSEU/SEFPO is proud to present the Fred Upshaw Award of Merit to Amar Atwal, congratulations!

Stanley H. Knowles Humanitarian Award

The Stanley H. Knowles Humanitarian Award is presented to members of OPSEU/SEFPO who exemplify the spirit, dedication and ideals of its first recipient, Canadian parliamentarian Stanley H. Knowles. This year’s winner is Michael Hamilton from Local 376. Michael has been a leader in OPSEU/SEFPO as a Local President in the LBED Division and he serves on multiple OPSEU/SEFPO committees including the Coalition of Racialized Workers, InSolidarity, the Provincial Human Rights and the Constitution committee. In many of these roles, Michael Has brought to light the challenges that many racialized members face in the union and their workplaces. Michael has been dedicated in engaging in difficult conversations with members in regards to diversity, equity and inclusion. Michael has always tried to bridge the gaps that exist within the union. For his exemplary leadership OPSEU/SEFPO is proud to honour Michael with the Stanley H. Knowles Award, congratulations!


A1 Statutory Resolutions – Passed

Submitted by the Executive Board

Therefore be it resolved that as required by section 17 of the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, Convention confirms and approves the actions of the OPSEU/SEFPO Executive Board that created or amended a bylaw of OPSEU/SEFPO, as reflected in the minutes of the meetings of the OPSEU/SEFPO Executive Board from the closing of the last Convention until the closing of this Convention.”

A2 Statutory Resolutions – Passed

Submitted by the Executive Board

Therefore be it resolved that as required by section 68 of the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, Convention appoints MNP LLP as Auditors of OPSEU/SEFPO for the fiscal year 2024 or until their successor is appointed.