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Statement from OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas on the harassment and discrimination allegations at Canadore College

OPSEU calls for the Ministry of Colleges and Universities and the Ministry of Labour to intervene at Canadore College in the wake of an attempted cover-up of the independent investigation report concerning long-standing allegations of harassment and discrimination by senior managers at Canadore.  In a public exchange of letters last week, OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas called for the College to commit to release the much-anticipated report.  The College refused last Wednesday, before even seeing the report.  Earlier today, the College indicated that the report will not be released at all.    

Instead of releasing the report, or even the recommendations themselves, the College chose to release a brief statement that appears to diminish the significance of the investigation.  The College disclosed today that many of the experiences identified were historical in nature, involved a consensual, intimate relationship between employees, and that there was “no merit” to claims of a sexual predator on campus.  In contrast, dozens of union members who were involved in the investigation reported that their allegations concerned patterns of bullying, harassment, and cover-ups that were condoned or fueled by senior managers.  The investigation alone took nearly a year and involved more than 50 witnesses.  

It is of great concern that the President of the College at first said that the investigation report may have been disclosed to senior managers who were the subject of the investigation. Employees who participated in the investigation were assured that their concerns would not be disclosed.  Now, their confidential information may have been shared with those who are accused.  This is a shocking breach of trust and fairness.  How can they now feel safe and protected by the College?

OPSEU was also advised that up to seven members of the Board of Governors at Canadore College have resigned over the College’s handling of this investigation.  The College may no longer be in compliance with Ontario legislation. How can the College – without  a functioning Board of Governors or a copy of the investigation report – ever expect to manage the College through this crisis?

President Thomas wrote to the College last week that longstanding concerns regarding a poisonous work environment must be fully and openly addressed, and that could only be done with transparency and genuine collaboration with the Union.

Now, in the wake of an attempted cover-up, OPSEU calls for President George Burton and Vice-President Shawn Chorney of Canadore College to be placed on administrative leave while the Ministries step in to ensure that the investigation report is disclosed to the appropriate parties, including the Union, and that the allegations of a poisoned work environment are fully addressed.