Racism spikes in PSAC

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Sandra Griffith-Bonaparte was, until March 2020, a long-time president of a large local union in the Public Service Alliance of Canada based in the Ottawa area.

Sandra emigrated in 1988 to Canada from her native Grenada in the south-east Caribbean.  She obtained employment in the federal public service and became involved in her union, the Union of National Defense Employees component of the PSAC.  As President of PSAC Local 70607 for 12 years, Sandra’s outstanding dedication to members, and her articulate persona attracted envy and hatred from some white members in her region, especially in recent times when Sandra gained accolades as a union spokesperson and educator on subjects like Black History Month.

Her bigoted opponents, mainly from locals outside her own, could not block Sandra’s path by democratic means.  So, they filed false charges of harassment against her.

In truth, Sandra was the victim of years of harassment, culminating in a regional meeting of UNDE local presidents on December 10, 2019, where Sandra plugged her ears against a torrent of verbal abuse.  But when she later filed a complaint against her harassers, it was rejected.  Instead, the UNDE hauled Sandra before an all-white internal union tribunal, deprived her of due process, found her guilty, removed her from elected office and barred her from holding any position in the UNDE and PSAC for ten months.

While the outside party who heard Sandra’s Appeal upheld the punishment, labour consultant Carol Wall made the following observation in writing: “…how it is, given that everyone involved in the hearing, in spite of the discipline rendered against Sandra, attested to Sandra’s being an outstanding activist and leader, with a tenure of 19 years of service for the union, has been elected and re-elected year after year, finds herself being suspended from holding UNDE office until 31 December 2020 and suspended from holding any elected office of the PSAC and any of its constituent bodies until 31 December 2020 for a matter that on the surface, should have been able to be amicably resolved to the satisfaction of all involved…  In other words, while technically the process and procedure were adhered to, the question must be asked, “who benefited from the outcome?”

It seems clear that the racist opponents of Sandra benefited, and the Union and the vast majority of its members are suffering.  In the present context of Black Lives Matter, in the post-George Floyd era, the unjust sanction against Sandra simply cannot be tolerated. It must be reversed, with a full apology to her.  The perpetrators of the injustice, including Sandra’s false accusers and complicit union officials of the UNDE and PSAC, should be held accountable.  “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Want to help win justice in this case?  Contact the Workers’ Action Movement at:  647-986-1917.

— B.W.