Re: [Fwd: Press release]

Graeme Bacque (
Wed, 03 Feb 1999 10:00:25 -0500

Judy Olsen wrote:

> Thought you Canadians would want to see how labor unions are reporting this
> topic.
> Judy O
> Ken Patience wrote:
> >  January 26, 1999
> > Pysch patients at risk with transfer of services
> > Hamilton OPSEU President Leah Casselman today called for a
> > moratorium on the closing of all psychiatric facilities in the
> > province of Ontario.

This is one that needs to be responded to cautiously... but I'm not going to
keep my mouth shut here.

What OPSEU really needs to be doing is calling for the kind of affordable
housing and relevant support resources  that would enable people to live
independently in the community - and by this I am _not_ referring  to the
'assertive community treatment' teams that are becoming the current vogue in
psychiatric practice (and which are essentially mental health SWAT units).

As a psychiatric survivor who has lived in Ontario nearly all his life I can
state that life in any of the Provincial institutions is far from the rosy or
beneficial picure being painted by Leah Casselman (who is herself a prison guard
by trade, incidentally). While OPSEU's goal of protecting the employment of it's
members is standard union practice and entirely honorable in and of itself, the
manner in which it takes place (due to the fact that it's members working in
institutional settings control the lives of many vulnerable people) is
frequently highly suspect. When prisoners or 'patients' find themselves being
used as a bargaining chip in labor disputes (And OPSEU members are notorious for
promoting the 'violent mental patient' myth in order to further their aims) this
process loses all credibility to my mind and becomes an abusive power game -
with human lives on the line.

Abuses of every kind are rampant in psych. institutions (and jails) but go
largely unpublicized and unpunished. Any union organizing in these sectors
should have an obligation to expose such to the light of day and to protect the
basic human rights of those individuals who are in it's members' custody.
Unfortunately the exact opposite is usually true - with the staff being the ones
perpetrating the abuse then being shielded from responsibility by their union
affiliation. To my mind this is a gross misuse of labor organizing.

I do not for one second condemn the many OPSEU sisters and brothers who put in
an honest day's labor and whose job descriptions oppress no one. When this union
went on strike across the province in February and March of 1996 I spent hours
on the picket lines in support but made a clear point of boycotting the
picketing at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre (Ontario's largest
psychiatric facility) or any of Toronto's three city jails. For the purpose of
what I'm attempting to express here a clear distinction needs to be made between
these institutional staff and the women and men who work in the various Ministry
offices - or in the cafeteria at Queen's Park - or who clear the snow from our
Provincial highways. (just to give a few examples of the widely diverse body of
workers that OPSEU organizes).

To wrap up I'd like to say that if OPSEU does go on strike again (and the strong
possibility of this happening exists within a few months) I will be right back
out there doing picket line support. I would also like to say that I will
continue to fight for the closure of all oppressive institutions such as Queen
Street and Hamilton Psychiatric, and for the creation of affordable housing and
the kinds of psychiatric survivor-controlled resources in the community that
eventually will make such institutions unnecessary.

In solidarity,

Graeme Bacque
+++ Fighting 'mad' and proud of it! +++