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First ‘Corrections Week’: OPSEU salutes its correctional members

Toronto – The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is paying tribute to the outstanding contributions of its correctional members during the province’s first official Correctional Services Staff Recognition Week. The Correctional Services Staff Recognition Week Act, 2016 received Royal Assent last June.

Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, First Vice-President/Treasurer of OPSEU, said this was a proud moment for him. “As a correctional officer myself, I know what it’s like to work in a uniquely and inherently dangerous workplace. Corrections staff deserve to be recognized for the important contributions they provide each and every day to the province and to protecting the communities we serve.”

Monte Vieselmeyer, chair of the Ministry Employee Relations Committee for Corrections, said it was long overdue that correctional staff got appropriate public recognition. “We rightly recognize police officers and firefighters for the risks they take to keep us safe. But until now, our correctional services staff have been the unsung heroes. I’m glad that’s finally changing.”

OPSEU probation and parole representative Scott McIntyre echoed Vieselmeyer’s comments, noting that many Ontarians were unfamiliar with community corrections. “The great majority of offenders are in fact serving sentences in the community,” he said. “Our mission is to keep communities safe. It’s a job we do with pride, but one that’s increasingly difficult in an environment of diminishing resources and growing challenges, particularly with mental health and addictions issues.”

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU said the commemoration speaks to the commitment, courage, and sacrifice of correctional staff and helps raise awareness of their pivotal role in keeping Ontarians out of harm’s way. But he warned that saluting their service to society was not enough.

“For me, every week is Correctional Services Staff Recognition Week,” he said, “because I’m constantly aware of what they do for us every day of the year, whether they serve as officers or nurses or kitchen staff or administrative staff or work in any number of other positions.

“But this government urgently needs to provide the resources that are desperately needed so staff can do their job and do it to the best of their abilities,” he added. “So while I applaud the creation of an annual tribute, we need real and urgent action from this government on the crisis in corrections – which, thanks in part to a do-nothing budget, is rapidly deteriorating into chaos in corrections.”

For more information: Monte Vieselmeyer, 705-627-1942; Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931