OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas sent the following letter to Solicitor General Sylvia Jones demanding she take immediate action to protect front-line correctional staff at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) and denounce the vicious threats and harassment from outlaw biker gangs.
July 22, 2021
The Honourable Sylvia Jones
25 Grosvenor Street, 18th Floor
Toronto, Ontario, M7A 1Y6
Dear Minister Jones:
I write to draw your attention to an extremely serious situation that threatens the physical and mental well-being of OPSEU/SEFPO members working at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC).
On July 17, members of biker gangs, including the Hells Angels and the Gatekeepers, descended on EMDC to protest after the recent death of an inmate, and a series of unsubstantiated reports covering the incident by the London Free Press. Since then, they and other protesters have been harassing correctional staff at the facility by stopping cars, photographing staff, and photographing vehicle licence plates. Protesters are spitting on their cars upon entry to the workplace, and smoke grenades have been found on site. My members are also being threatened on social media.
No employee should be threatened with violence while reporting to work, much less the front-line heroes who put their lives on the line to protect Ontario’s communities. As this intolerable situation continues to escalate, my members are becoming increasingly distressed. They feel abandoned and targeted.
Minister, it is imperative that you publicly denounce the vicious threats and harassment by these groups. You must demonstrate that harassing peace officers in the performance of their duties will never be tolerated, by taking immediate steps to protect front-line correctional staff at EMDC. As a first step, we ask that you recognize and honour their repeated requests by investing in secure staff parking.
Correctional officers spend their lives protecting others. Now they need protecting.
I look forward to your early response.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union