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President Thomas to College Council: Stop the stonewalling, start the healing

A statement from OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas on Canadore College:

OPSEU has reviewed the prepared statements released Monday, February 24 by the College Employer Council. We are disappointed that the College appears intent to stonewall requests to disclose the investigation report it obtained following nearly a year-long investigation into allegations of harassment, discrimination and abuse of power. 

From the outset of the investigation, the Union requested and expected to receive a copy of the report, just as countless other employers have provided similar reports to unions in the past. It is standard practice to redact investigation reports, or to use labels such as “Witness A” and “Witness B” to ensure confidentiality.

To be clear, the vast majority of witnesses have already provided their statements to OPSEU, and support our requests for disclosure of the full investigation report.  Given the College’s continued refusals, the Union is compiling those statements for release in future at an appropriate time. 

It is disturbing that the College repeatedly asserts that no formal complaints were filed, as if that were somehow proof that the allegations are unsubstantiated. When the College launched its investigation about a year ago, it encouraged affected employees to participate in the investigation as a formal process to uncover and address the allegations. It seems the College now wants to punish those same employees for trusting the College’s chosen process. If the College is saying that it requires formal complaints in order to take action on long-standing allegations of harassment and discrimination, then we will call on affected employees to initiate formal grievances in accordance with the collective agreement.  

The Union cannot stand by while the College attempts to cover up a year-long investigation with platitudes. For weeks now, the College has refused even to confirm the conclusions that were reached  by the investigator, or how many recommendations she issued. This information cannot be considered confidential. At the same time, the College spokesperson indicated that they had shared the report with unnamed senior managers, a position they now deny. By withholding the report from the employees involved, the College re-victimizes those who participated in the investigation in good faith.   

Finally, we are pleased to see that the College Employer Council has now become involved. We call on the Council to join us in requesting that the Minister of Colleges and Universities intervene to ensure that Canadore College has appropriate oversight and a functioning Board of Governors during this crisis. Only through open discussion and transparency with its employees and the Union can the College hope to rebuild trust and address allegations of a toxic work environment. Why won’t the College simply release the report, with names redacted if necessary, to allow the Canadore College community to see what the external, independent investigator discovered? Only then can the healing begin.

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