In Solidarity Convention Update Day 1 – April 6, 2017

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Stanley H. Knowles Humanitarian Award

OPSEU honours Senator Murray Sinclair


The recipient of the 2017 Stanley H. Knowles Humanitarian Award is the Honourable Murray Sinclair, Senator.

Born and raised near Winnipeg, Murray Sinclair studied law at the University of Manitoba and was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1980.

As a lawyer, he became well known for his representation of Indigenous people and his knowledge of Indigenous legal issues.

He was appointed to the Provincial Court of Manitoba in 1988 – the first Indigenous judge in the province.

Senator Sinclair was named co-commissioner of Manitoba's Inquiry into the Administration of Justice and Aboriginal People.

He served as legal counsel for the Manitoba Human Rights Commission and has been an adjunct professor of law at the University of Manitoba.

He was appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba in January 2001 and Chair of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission in June 2009.

The Senator has served on many community boards and has been recognized with several awards, including eight honorary degrees for his work in Indigenous justice.

He was made a senator in March 2016.

He is married to Katherine Morrisseau-Sinclair, and they have four children together.

Honorary Lifetime Membership Award

Marilou Martin, Local 557, George Brown College marilou_martin.png

A dedicated activist for 30 years, Marilou Martin has been a vital part of her local, Local 557, and the labour movement as a whole. 

After joining George Brown College in 1987, she became a steward of Local 557 and, shortly after, vice-president. From there she took on the role of president and has been in that role for 20 years. In that time, she has educated, mobilized, inspired, and fought for the rights of the members.

For the CAAT division, she has sat on several provincial committees, chaired two bargaining teams, and has been elected to the CAAT Support Divisional Executive.

In her expanded role in OPSEU, she served on the Provincial Women’s Committee, where she aided OPSEU in developing policies that have provided onsite day care for members, thereby helping to eliminate some of the barriers many members face in participating in union activities.  She also served two terms on the Executive Board.

In her role as co-chair of the CAAT Pension Sponsors Committee, she has been a strong voice for defined benefit pension plans. She has helped make changes to the pension plan, including a permanent factor 85.

She has been inspiring and motivational to young workers in securing OPSEU’s future by embracing, fostering, and creating space for them to grow and develop as activists.

She has been a leader in the fight against many systemic issues and campaigns that have resulted in significant change and awards for our members.  Some highlights include negotiating a college-level tuition assistance program and taking the lead on the largest organizing drive in Canadian history: organizing part-time workers in Ontario’s colleges.

Marilou has given her whole heart and has never tired in her fight to strengthen her local, division and the union.  In her retirement we lose a model activist and advocate beloved and admired by her members and OPSEU. 

Honorary Lifetime Membership Award

Waltraud Knott, Local 112


Waltraud worked in the OPS as a psychometrist for over 30 years at the Midwestern Regional Centre in Palmerston and another 25 years at the Child and Parent Resource Institute in London. She provided psychometric care to children with severe intellectual and mental health issues in order to help families, clinicians, and community agencies plan the most appropriate treatments and services.

She was a highly committed and skilled clinician, with a deep passion for union and political activism, as well as community charities. She was very active in Local 112 as a long-time steward, has held positions in the local executive committee, and has served as vice-president for accommodation and back-to-work programs.

Waltraud was the regional MERC representative for four terms. Her training and expertise in the areas of LTIP, accommodation, and back-to-work programs led her to consulting others in the region.

She has been a long-time trainer at regional educationals, speaking on issues such as stewardship and political activism. But she humbly avoids the limelight, preferring instead to work in the background to support and mentor others, encourage them to further union or political activism.

She has been highly involved in various charitable organizations, including the United Way, and has used her skills and compassion to help those experiencing difficulties. Although retired, she continues her activism as a retiree. She left an honourable legacy to her workplace and local.

Health and Safety Award – Individual

Gordon Kiernan, Local 338

Health and safety is one of the cornerstones of union activism, yet it often goes unnoticed or unappreciated when carried out successfully.  It’s a demanding job that takes dedication and commitment create not only a physically safe work environment, but a culture that cultivates the importance of working safe.

From the Barrie Probation and Parole Office, this year’s recipient, Gordon Kiernan, has been volunteering as health and safety representative since 2015. He has demonstrated outstanding leadership and has made a very positive contribution to his workplace.

His many years of experience as a probation and parole officer have given him an insightful awareness of the health and safety concerns faced by officers and inherent in the job they do. Brother Gordon has worked tirelessly to ensure that the Barrie Probation and Parole Office is a healthier and safer place to work. 

Honorary Lifetime Membership Award

Janine Johnson, Local 644, Community and Social Services, Kirkland Lake

Sister Janine Johnson became a member of the Civil Service Association of Ontario in 1971 – the last year that Sean O’Flynn was President.

That was the beginning of her long-term activism within OPSEU and Local 644, where she started as a steward and then moved on to secretary, vice-president and president.

At the same time, she served as Region 6 representative to many committees, the Clerical Bargaining Team, the Pay Equity Team, and the Provincial Women's Committee.

She didn’t stop being an activist at retirement, joining the Retirees Division meeting and getting elected vice-chair.

She was elected chair of the Region 6 Retirees Division in 2010.

She has been seen at many rallies, even as far as protests at Queen’s Park and in the “four corners” of Region 6: Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Sudbury, and Timmins.

She has rarely missed a Northeastern Area Council meeting since the ‘70s and is currently the treasurer of the council.

In her hometown of Kirkland Lake, Janine still finds time to get involved in her community, including as president of the Francophone Seniors Club, as Director on the Teck Centennial Library Board, and as Director of the Temiskaming Resource Centre in Timmins.

You can often see her at the NDP offices of Charlie Angus and John Vanthof. She’s a dedicated worker at their campaign headquarters at election time.

She is someone with a warm personality and a ready smile, is receptive to people’s problems, and will help work them out.

She is dependable and can always be counted upon in difficult situations.

Sister Janine Johnson, Local 644, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is a recipient to receive an Honorary Lifetime Membership Award.

Human Rights Award – Individual

Chantal Breton, Local 642, Monteith Correctional Complex


Chantal has faced off against her employer on more than one human rights issue and has never backed down from a fight. 

Chantal’s activism started when she was first hired as a correctional officer. Chantal, like most new recruits, was excited to start her training. But when her employer found out she was pregnant, she was kicked out of the course – at least they tried to. 

Her employer had a doctor issue a report over the phone, stating that she could not continue her training. The report was extremely vague and failed to provide any medical evidence that would support her being removed from the course. The doctor couldn’t even state the colour of her eyes, hair, or even how many weeks’ pregnant she was.   

Despite intense intimidation from the employer, Chantal pressed on and was the first pregnant student to graduate from CO basic training. 

But the struggle didn’t end there, unfortunately.

As a casual or fixed-term employee during her maternity leave, the employer didn’t count the time off work as time worked towards seniority and wage progression.

This had been grieved by others, but the grievances had been withdrawn, since there was no language in the collective agreement.

But this member insisted her grievance continue – and she won, based on human rights law.

The decision changed how the government treated its fixed-term employees. As a result, many women gained years of seniority and thousands of dollars in compensation.

She is now in her 18th year and has remained a career-long activist and long-time executive member of Local 642.

She’s been on the front lines of two strikes as secretary and on the financial committee.

She is totally committed to our union and to equality and fairness.

Rainford Jackson Education and Development Fund

Derek Armstrong, Local 606, MPAC, Sault Ste. Marie


The Rainford Jackson Education and Development Fund is awarded annually to support organizations and projects that aim to reduce racism and improve the condition of equity-seeking groups in our society through education and organization.

Derek Armstrong responded to the 2015-16 youth suicide crisis in the remote Northern Ontario reserve of Attawapiskat. He contacted well-known Indigenous performers and worked with the leadership of Attawapiskat to help organize an educational show that involved the youth and their families in the community.

OPSEU centrally and OPSEU Region 6 helped sponsor this venture, but Derek used a considerable amount of his own resources to see the project succeed. It was a remarkable achievement requiring months of dedication to complete.

He wrote an article for the autumn/winter 2016 issue of inSolidarity, which will be available on the OPSEU website.

His strong beliefs and focused commitment are unshakable, and his vision and leadership set a new standard. Further, he enjoyed the full support of his local, while the First Nations community in Attawapiskat responded warmly and demonstrated its gratitude.

He is an example for all OPSEU members.

Convention entertainment and socials

OPSEU is offering all attendees a variety of social and entertainment experiences to make their Convention experience particularly memorable. 

OPSEU’s Got Talent

Thursday, April 6, 8 p.m

Join us at the John Bassett Theatre in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the fourth annual OPSEU’s Got Talent event – a showcase for our own members’ talent.

Comedy Night

Friday, April 7, 8:30 p.m.

Join us at the John Bassett Theatre for the Convention 2017 Comedy Night, hosted by Warren (Smokey) Thomas. Doors open at 8:15 for this not-to-be missed event. Comedic performances by John Wing, Evan Carter, Kate Davis, and David Merry.

Hospitality suites

April 6 and 7

There are seven hospitality suites open to welcome attendees at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, each hosted by an OPSEU region of OPSEU. The suites typically start after 8 p.m.

Leah Casselman Award

Winner – Rebecca Currie, Local 230


The Leah Casselman Award is presented to an individual for their mobilizing activities – someone who best exemplifies the spirit and intent of “mobilizing to win.”

Sister Rebecca Currie works at Kitchener Centre Probation Services, and is the chief steward for Local 230.

During the last round of contract negotiations, Rebecca was the glue that held the local together. She arranged social gatherings to build morale and community. She also attended numerous rallies and met with many key political players to garner support and share the members concerns.

Rebecca educated herself on the issues at hand, and was articulate and well prepared when reporting information back to the members. Her leadership exemplifies what it is to be an effective union mobilizer.

Rebecca’s confidence, spirit, determination, and dedication were contagious to members, and her union spirit admired by many.