Treaty 1 Territory, Homeland of the Red River Métis, Winnipeg, MB -
After uncovering new evidence of cover-ups of assault and revictimizing survivors in Manitoba's labour movement, Manitoba Liberals are renewing their call to the Manitoba PCs to launch an independent judicial inquiry into shocking complaints of harassment and abuse in Manitoba's labour movement.
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont, MLA for St. Boniface, said since calling for the inquiry on May 6, he and his MLAs have been contacted by multiple survivors who have pleaded for an inquiry to go ahead so they can be free to tell their stories.
Lamont said many of the accounts are shocking - including covering up sexual assaults.
In January 2021, Abe Araya, the then-president of CUPE Manitoba, was arrested by the Brandon Police on a charge of sexual assault. Araya refused to step down and had to be removed from his post, along with most of CUPE Manitoba's administration.
What is even more shocking, said Lamont, is the allegations that Araya had sexually assaulted someone were known when Araya was elected President of the Union. He worked on two provincial and federal general elections for NDP candidates.
Lamont said the Manitoba Liberals independently corroborated a statement by the NDP's 2019 candidate for St. Boniface, Laurissa Sims, who wrote on facebook when Araya was arrested:
"There isn't a single person in the labour movement (especially CUPE at all levels) who did not know about this person before his election... they actively gave him this role."
When the complainant filed a grievance with her union, CUPE, the union called her a liar and she was fired. The RCMP and the Brandon Police Service, however, found enough evidence to charge him.
Araya's trial, which has been postponed multiple times, is scheduled for December, 2022. CUPE National continued to attack the credibility of the complainant, leaking the report that cleared Araya to the media in May, 2021.
"We have shared evidence that we obtained with Manitoba's Minister of Justice, the Premier, and the Minister for the Status of Women, asking them to open an inquiry into the cover-up of sexual assaults and sexual harassment," said Lamont. "We are talking about more than two dozen separate cases, over several years, in several unions, and the problem goes far beyond bad behaviour in the workplace. We are talking about sexual assaults including rape, where when the survivor discloses, they lose their job, and their rapist gets a promotion. Unless this is exposed, it will never stop."
Lamont said one of the people in question is a prominent NDP advisor, Bob Dewar, who had to step down from his post as an MGEU executive in 2013. The reason was never revealed, but Lamont said they have obtained evidence from multiple sources that Dewar and another executive, Bruce Buckley, faced discipline for hiring a convicted rapist back into the workplace and ignoring a restraining order.
When Dewar and Buckley were removed as MGEU Directors, members protested the decision.
Dewar was a former Chief of Staff to Gary Doer, and ran the Manitoba NDP campaigns of 1999, 2003, and 2019. He went on to become Chief of Staff, Campaign Director and Special Advisor to BC NDP Premier John Horgan, and wrote a report for Jagmeet Singh on the NDP's federal election performance in 2021.
"Working on this has been one of the most heartbreaking and disheartening experiences of my political life because it has become clear to me just how much people are willing to sacrifice their principles for a little political gain," said Lamont. "I am talking with survivors of sexual assault who have PTSD and the reaction from other parties is a shrug. People are covering up rape. They are obstructing justice. And other than the Manitoba Liberals, no one seems to care. And that sends a very clear message to me - unless the truth can be revealed, it will never change and it will never stop."
In March, rankandfile.ca ran an article exposing serious charges of sexism, harassment and intimidation in Winnipeg's labour movement. www.rankandfile.ca/sexism-and-winnipegs-labour-movement
MGEU faces controversy over officials' suspensions.