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OPSEU/SEFPO to Solicitor General: ‘Protect correctional staff from criminal biker gangs’

London – OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is calling on the Solicitor General to take all necessary measures to protect staff at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) who have been targeted with threats and other attempted intimidation tactics by outlaw motorcycle clubs.

“We will not tolerate attempts to intimidate these front-line heroes,” warned OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “I condemn this harassment in the strongest possible terms and call on the Solicitor General to intervene immediately.”

On July 17, members of biker gangs, including the Hells Angels and the Gatekeepers, descended on the institution to protest after the recent death of an inmate, and a series of biased and unsubstantiated reports covering the incident by the London Free Press. Since then, they and other protesters have been harassing correctional staff at the facility by stopping cars, photographing staff, and photographing licence plates. Staff have also been threatened on social media.

“The situation at EMDC keeps escalating and the Ministry needs to publicly denounce threats from these groups,” said union representative and Co-Chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Corrections Ministry-Employee Relations Committee (MERC) Chad Oldfield. “Our members need to know that these types of behaviours will not be tolerated.”

OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones must act to protect correctional staff.

“It’s been radio silence from Minister Jones,” said Almeida, himself a correctional officer. “No intimidation of peace officers can be condoned by silence and inaction. These are attacks, not just on courageous women and men, but on our justice system and democracy itself. It’s intolerable, and it’s got to stop – right now.”

“No employee should be threatened with violence while reporting to work, much less the good people who put their lives on the line to protect others,” said Thomas. “It has been long documented that this facility is under-resourced, yet OPSEU/SEFPO members continue to strive to keep everyone in custody safe. The Ministry must take staff safety seriously, too.

“I’ll be reaching out directly to the Solicitor General to express my grave concerns about the ongoing harassment of OPSEU/SEFPO members,” said Thomas, “and to demand all steps be taken to protect front-line correctional staff at EMDC and condemn the intimidation tactics used against them.”

The union has also filed a formal complaint with the London Free Press demanding they cease their unfair and biased tabloid-style journalism, calling it reckless, dangerous and inciteful.

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931