OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas issued the following statement today.
OPSEU condemns in the strongest possible terms the tragic shooting of Muslim worshippers at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec in Quebec City on Sunday night. Like many Canadians, we were shocked by this terrible crime, and heartbroken at the thought of the families and children who lost loved ones in this violent attack.
This terrorist attack goes against Canadian values of multiculturalism and diversity. It also goes against trade union values, which celebrate the ways in which the diversity of our membership gives our union strength.
The timing of this attack is important. As Canadians, we are seeing actions unfold south of the border that promote Islamophobia and encourage intolerance. These actions, including the recent ban on entry to the United States for citizens of seven Muslim countries, stir up hatred against individuals and groups for political gain.
The world witnessed the fatal consequences of this hatred on Sunday night. In a place of worship, a place that should represent peace and sanctuary, gunshots shattered any sense of moral superiority Canadians may have had. While recent news coverage may highlight the language of hate coming from the south, we need only look to the rhetoric of our own politicians during the recent federal election to see the same intolerance laid bare.
Yet despite the particular horror of Sunday’s violence, we know this hatred reaches much further. As union members, we know that for every overt act of violence there are hundreds of smaller acts of discrimination or harassment experienced by individuals in their workplaces. Whether from employers, customers, or co-workers, these actions rarely make headlines, yet they have devastating impacts on their victims.
Beyond our condemnation for the violence in Quebec and the travel ban in the United States, OPSEU remains committed to protecting our Muslim members, and all our members, regardless of their religious beliefs, from discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Through collective agreement language, education about rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the committed work of our equity committees and caucuses, we continue to fight for equal and respectful treatment for all. As always, we encourage any members experiencing harassment or discrimination to contact their local officers or union staff for support.
On this day in particular, and on all days, OPSEU stands in solidarity with the Canadian Muslim community, and remains committed to opposing discrimination in all its forms, whether by a masked gunman, an employer, or a President.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union