There have been many difficult situations in the 2 years since I became part of the leadership of Unifor 4304. Things have gotten so much better. We have solidarity. We have a better relationship with management.

Attached is a short video where union leadership and management participate in a dunk tank and pie in the face activities at our annual picnic. All money raised was donated to a young family struggling with cancer in our local.

Unifor local 1075 at Bombardier Thunder Bay, Ontario

Over 900 workers are on strike at Bombardier in Thunder Bay. They want to reduce their pensions.

The CEO is one of the highest paid in Canada. They recorded record profits. One executive has a pension of $649,000 per year with a little over 6 months of service.

This corporate greed is shameful and I am proud to support the members of local 1075 in any way that I can!

Teaching the kids basic camping skills

I have been so busy lately! Even on vacation, I have kept myself too busy to really blog. I’m sorry about that, but there is just not enough hours in the day to do all the things I want and need to do. This is a little video I put together. The kids are getting older now. My biological children have been camping and learning survival skills their entire lives. I had my oldest son at Algonquin park in Ontario when he was 6 months old. When you can hear wolves howling while you are sleeping, you have arrived!

I want to do a backcountry trip with the kids and dogs. The problem is that my step kids really don’t have outdoor experience. Their bio dad is more of a “sit on the sofa and watch hockey” kind of guy. The camping they have done was at a trailer park. Basically a field with trailers parked. When you have electricity and running water: you are not in the backcountry. This is not a criticism of their upbringing, merely a statement on the difference between my partner’s kids and mine.

This year, we went camping close to home and I started to train the kids how to do real camping. How to build fire. How to set a tent. How to use a cook stove. How to canoe. We were close to home in case anything went wrong. We also taught the dogs to go in the canoe. The last thing I want is to be loaded with supplies, ready to paddle to my island get away and the dog won’t go into the canoe, or even worse, tips the canoe.

This September, my partner Heather and I will be heading up to Algonquin to ensure she also is very skilled in a canoe and we will paddle around with the dogs. By next summer, we will be taking a trip so far off the grid! I can hardly wait!

Tara Westlake

A guy in his mid thirties started work as a bus operator in my workplace about 2 years ago. He is such a professional that out of the 50 or so new hires, he became “Rookie of the year”. That speaks to his character as there is tremendous pressure on these new people.

At the award dinner I sat with the rookie and learned that his wife had breast cancer and was fighting for her life. He did not have benefits and was paying out of pocket for these expenses. His name is Jacob and it’s a pretty significant achievement to start a new career, excel at this career, raise 2 kids and support your spouse as she fights for her life.

Well, she beat the cancer into remission and life carried on for the young family. Recently the cancer has come back and it has spread through this mother of 2 high school aged kids like wildfire. The prognosis is that the cancer is terminal.

Jake wants to be with his wife as much as possible in the short time they have left. He is obviously distracted at work and worries about mistakes. Honestly, if it was me, I would be a basket case. Please, if you have the means, make a donation to help this young family as their wife/mother is ripped from them by this horrible disease. Every little bit helps!

Blast from the past

One of my co-workers is best friends with one of my cousins. Yesterday we went out to visit my co-worker and my cousin was there. We have not remained close over the years and it was interesting to see where she is now. This was the first time I had seen her in over 7 years and the time before that was even more.

My past was very troubled as a child growing up and I have scars which I will bear for the rest of my life, both physical and emotional. It is the emotional ones that are the hardest to deal with. When looking at my own past, I cannot help but see the ways that it is tied to my other family members. I am not going to get into all the details of her past, as that is not my right. All I am going to say is, nobody would have judged her if she had curled up in a ball and become a drug addict or committed suicide. Her struggles are far worse then I could imagine.

Well it seems like us French Canadians are a pretty tough bunch. Despite my past I am an active member in my workplace and an outspoken social activist. My cousin has a good job and leads a productive life. It seems that members of my extended family go one of two ways after surviving to adulthood. They either become alcoholics or workaholics. I became the latter in an attempt to break from my past.

In the 1950’s in northern Ontario, being a French person meant that you would never really be anything beyond a general labourer. It was and is a form of racism that exists in a primarily English speaking country. My dad ran from the French and would not even teach us the language. I picked some up by osmosis being around my grandparents and other family. This type of closed off culture also leads to secrets. My grandfather on my dad’s side was a horrible man. A raging alcoholic that abused his ten children for entertainment purposes. My father attended his father’s funeral to see him dead. He left a legacy of damage that has trickled down through the generations.

Today I feel depressed. Thinking about my childhood almost always does that to me. I will be ok, but I am sad that I never really had a childhood. I suffer from PTSD and seeing somebody that really knows me and where I came from triggers me. I have no mask of normalcy with my cousin. She knows the reality, as I know hers. She can see me and the scars. She knows what caused them at least in part. Neither of us know the whole story, but we both know enough to be uneasy. She has now met my son and partner. I have met her partner. We were vulnerable and for abuse survivors, it is hard to be vulnerable. My family is very large, but none of us know each other. It saddens me to think what could have been without the substance abuse, child abuse and sexual abuse that happened in my past, but then I realize that I am the person that I am in part, due to the events that have forged me. I am proud of what I have accomplished and hope to accomplish.

To The Senate Committee on Bill S-221

Yesterday I was in our nation’s Capitol, Ottawa. It was for business, not pleasure but I still had fun. As I have previously posted, transit violence is an ongoing issue. Our brothers and sisters in British Columbia have a serious, driver assault every 2.5 days on average. That is worse than in Waterloo Region, but even 1 driver attack is too much. These are just the reported assaults.

Bill S-221, spearheaded by Sen. Bob Runciman is a bill that would have the laws change so that any assault on a transit vehicle operator would be an Aggravated offense thus, carrying a much stiffer penalty. The Bill proposes that all transit operators be defined as anybody operating a public vehicle. Therefore, it would include Taxi, bus, school bus, trolly, steetcar, ferry, train or subway.

This would be such a victory to those of us in the industry and the general public as well. When a transit driver is attacked while driving a 20-40 tonne vehicle, the passengers onboard, other motorists, pedestrians and anybody else in the vicinity is at risk. This Bill would make the penalties much harsher for those that choose to violate the law. If it passes, it would be a huge victory for the safety of our public vehicle operators.


This bill passed unopposed through the first 2 readings and a small group of us were in Ottawa to lobby support and testify at the Senate Committee hearing. We spoke with Senators and Members of Parliament with all 3 major parties being represented. The Bill has been fast tracked and there is a good chance that it will be in The House of Commons by the fall.

I said to my friends and family that this was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” but I would like to amend that statement.  I am hoping this was a first in a lifetime experience.

Transit violence

Transit violence is a real and ongoing concern for our transit operators. In my own workplace the union fought for transit bans. If a passenger assaults a driver, they can be banned for a time.

Big deal! A transit ban? Unfortunately the police have seldom taken transit assaults seriously and rarely charge the offenders. The police and employer seem to think that getting threatened, spit on, sworn at and hit are just part of the job. Our operators just need thicker skin.

Well I disagree with this mentality and so did the Ministry of Labour. Our people fought for transit bans, but what good is a ban when the driver doesn’t know what they look like.

We came up with the idea of a banning book. I’m sure all of you have seen pictures posted somewhere in businesses that say “bad cheque” and have a photo. This is what we wanted. This is what we got:

John Doe male 24
5′ 8″
Shoulder length brown hair
Blue eyes

Great, so as the guy is beating the driver up, they can check his eye colour? What a joke! We had the Ministry back in. Well privacy laws in Canada are such that your right to privacy may trump my right to not be assaulted. How wrong is that?

The Ministry agreed and we now have a banning book with photos. It is kept in a secure location and can be viewed in the presence of a supervisor or security staff.

This issue is important to me for a number of reasons which I will explain. I carried a passenger that had been banned. I picked him up and had no idea. He had assaulted ticket staff. He swore at me when I picked him up and when his groceries fell off the seat, he threatened me with bodily harm. He was the only person on the bus at the time. I learned subsequently that he suffered from mental illness but often did not take his medication. I had no idea what I was getting into.

We had a driver that was very witty, but also quite sarcastic. I am not sure what was said, but a passenger beat this person with the edge of a cell phone. His injuries were quite severe to his face and eye socket.

We have had weapons on the bus and drivers assaulted do to race. It is not acceptable in any way. Now the police are called in all violent situations, but the laws are not very strong. Next week I hope to participate in a change to the laws. I will write more about that later!