Over 55 correctional and probation and parole officers brought the crisis in corrections to Queen’s Park on April 13 with an OPSEU Corrections lobby day.
President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and other OPSEU reps meet with Correctional Services Minister Yasir Naqvi
Correctional Services Minister Yasir Naqvi kicked the day off with his remarks, followed by Warren (Smokey) Thomas. The OPSEU president again called on the minister to strike a task force made up of representatives from the ministries of Labour, Child and Youth Services, and Correctional Services, as well as union officials and frontline workers, to get to the root of the crisis in corrections.
“I think you’re a good guy, Minister,” said Thomas, “but we’re going to keep your feet to the fire until this crisis has been fixed.”
Correctional workers were warmly received by MPPs in the House. During Question Period, both NDP leader Andrea Horwath and PC leader Patrick Brown used their lead-off questions to grill Premier Kathleen Wynne on overcrowded, understaffed and unsafe jails.
Wynne admitted there was a real need for change in corrections, while Naqvi said the status quo in the correctional system could not continue. “The fact that [our correctional partners] are here and we have been having very productive meetings demonstrates that we are focused on developing solutions,” he said in the legislature.
Correctional officers met with 33 MPPs from all three parties over the course of the day. They spoke to the many issues plaguing the correctional system, while condemning the flawed and costly public‑private partnerships used to build defective, unsafe and overpriced jails.
Correctional Services Minister Yasir Naqvi surrounded by representatives of OPSEU's Corrections Division
Many officers felt they had made a meaningful difference by appealing directly to members of the legislature. One officer called the day “a watershed moment for the division.”
Monte Vieselmeyer, Chair of OPSEU’s Corrections Division, expressed great satisfaction with the way the day turned out.
“To say our lobby day was a success would be an understatement,” said Vieselmeyer. “I’m extremely proud of our correctional leadership, both community and institutions. They did a tremendous job representing our members and addressing the issues that affect them every day. This will be the springboard to many future Corrections lobby days.
“In the meantime, I would strongly encourage all of our members to meet with their local MPPs in their constituency offices to discuss the issues that are important to them and to Ontario’s correctional system.”
Related: Crisis In Corrections Index Page