OPSEU/SEFPO: use of Emergencies Act sets a troubling precedent 

Ontario Public Service Employees Union flag

Toronto – OPSEU/SEFPO’s leaders say the Prime Minister’s implementation of the Emergencies Act to deal with anti-vaccination protesters is going too far and sets a troubling precedent.

OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says he’s sympathetic to the plight of Ottawa residents who have endured torturous conditions and agrees that immediate action is needed, but with tools that are already available.

“I think it’s time for the protesters to go home,” said Thomas. “But I also think that the police already have the tools they need to end this unlawful occupation.”

OPSEU/SEFPO’s Executive Board passed a motion on Thursday expressing concern that introducing the Emergencies Act sets a precedent that could be used against the labour movement when it holds protests in the future.

OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says he is concerned that the power granted under the Emergencies Act might be abused.

“Illegal activity must be dealt with,” said Almeida. “But I hope the federal government doesn’t get carried away and abuse the powers it has under the act.”

The union says that historically, the labour movement has often been the target of legislation aimed at suppressing anti-government dissent, including times when workers have demanded better living conditions through strike actions.

“Canadians’ right to freedom of speech shouldn’t be taken lightly,” said Thomas. “And neither should implementing the Emergencies Act. That’s why OPSEU/SEFPO’s Executive Board has voted to oppose such measures.”

The provincial union is also calling on its national counterpart, the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) to make a public statement denouncing the federal government’s actions.