Photo: Barry O’Neill & Carole James
A former secretary to two CUPE Presidents yesterday sent a letter to the RCMP requesting that they investigate tactics to which she was subjected after blowing the whistle about CUPE Local 116 executives staffing their union office exclusively with non-union secretaries and firing them after they spoke up about excessive workload, verbal abuse, or lack of pension benefits. In the letter dated May 8, 2009 to the RCMP’s commanding officer in B.C., Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass, the secretary requested an investigation into former NDP President and lawyer Ian Aikenhead, and union executives including: CUPE BC President Barry O’Neill, BC Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair, and former CUPE National President Judy Darcy (now a public relations person for Hospital Employees Union).
The secretary had asked NDP MLA Leonard Krog this week to ensure that her case was investigated. She made the request of Krog in writing after she watched him on the steps of the Vancouver law courts calling for an RCMP investigation into an alleged “corruption scandal” involving the Liberal government and former co-chair of the BC Liberals, Patrick Kinsella. Like the secretary’s case, this case dates back to 2002. The secretary believed that an alleged scandal involving a former NDP President and current NDP funders was just as worthy of investigation. “He ignored me”, the secretary says of Krog.
Another person who ignored the secretary was British Columbia NDP leader Carole James. The secretary asked James in writing in March 2009 to suspend the use of campaign donations from O’Neill and CUPE BC; Jim Sinclair and the BC Federation of Labour; Judy Darcy and CUPE National; and former NDP President Ian Aikenhead, while tactics they had used against her as a whistleblowing union secretary remained uninvestigated.
Photo: Poster produced by unions criticizing Premier Gordon Campbell
Former NDP President Aikenhead did not completely ignore the secretary. She telephoned him last week, on April 30, 2009, after hearing that he had been pressuring Blogger News Network to spike a post about her case. Aikenhead spoke to the secretary for a few minutes before saying he had “another matter to attend to” and hanging up on her. Aikenhead denied that he had broken any laws and said he objected to the wording of the article. Aikenhead was starting to sound to the secretary a little like Kinsella’s lawyer issuing a warning to Carole James. Aikenhead denied there were parallels between the two cases.
For years, the secretary has been speaking up, and bloggers have been blogging, about the tactics to which she became the target after blowing the whistle on alleged unfair labour practices inside CUPE Local 116:
Former NDP President Aikenhead and his union clients, the secretary alleges, Lodged an Unfounded Police Complaint against her for “Intimidation” purposes
In Dec. 2002, Aikenhead and his deep-pocketed union clients called Vancouver Police on the whistleblowing secretary, claiming that her written complaints regarding unfair labour practices amounted to “criminal harassment.” Before calling police, neither CUPE or Aikenhead sat down with her to discuss the working conditions to which she and three other women had been subjected inside CUPE. Vancouver Police did not find evidence to support criminal harassment charges and cleared the secretary ….but not before Constable Megann Herrman and/or Constable Kevin Ng pounded on her apartment door and Herrmann left telephone voice mail messages pressuring her to muzzle herself about CUPE.
VPD has acknowledged that it constitutes a breach of the Criminal Code, “public mischief”, to lodge an unfounded police complaint against a political adversary. Aikenhead asserted during last week’s conversation with the secretary that his conduct in her case was not criminal.
[A whistleblowing steamfitter paying union dues to CUPE Local 116 at UBC has since surfaced to say that he was subjected to some of the same tactics as the secretary…only worse. John S. says the RCMP were called on him for writing a “rude email” to a CUPE executive after being ignored when raising concerns with Local 116 and CUPE National about alleged financial irregularities. He had actually not been totally ignored: he found a cheque slipped under his door but he couldn’t get straight answers from the union about what it was for. No charges were laid. But CUPE BC had more in store for the steamfitter. More on his case at the end of this article.]
Former NDP President Aikenhead and his Union Clients Misrepresented “Evidence”, the secretary alleges
The police report dated Dec. 17/02 reveals that as the sole evidence to support their police complaint of harassment, Aikenhead and his union clients gave police letters the secretary had written to union executives. In last week’s telephone conversation with the secretary, Aikenhead acknowledged that he and a CUPE representative sitting in his office had personally given police these letters as “proof” of criminal harassment. Yet the secretary insists that there was nothing harassing about those letters. Indeed, police found nothing in the secretary’s letters addressed to Aikenhead or union leaders including O’Neill, Sinclair, and Darcy that would constitute harassment.
The secretary also alleges that Aikenhead and his union clients concealed from police the fact that she had repeatedly been instructed to put her concerns about unfair labour practices in writing. The secretary even has a letter from Aikenhead instructing her to outline her concerns in writing. The police report and voice mail left by police at her home left the secretary with the understanding that police had no idea that her correspondence had been solicited by union leaders.
During last week’s conversation, the secretary confronted Aikenhead with her belief that her letters had been “misrepresented” to police. ”That is not fraud,” Aikenhead responded, referring to the wording of a previous allegation in relation to what was or was not told to police. The secretary pointed out to Aikenhead that to a “layperson” it “felt like fraud” when police showed up to pound on her door after being led to believe that there was something criminally harassing in her letters when there wasn’t.
“I was just counsel,” Aikenhead told the secretary. The secretary now scoffs at that defense. ”He was the one who went to law school,” she says, noting that he would have been in the best position of all involved to know that communication must be “threatening in nature” to be criminally harassing.
After being cleared by police, the secretary lodged complaints with union leaders about the release to police of her letters addressed to them. “It wasn’t too late for them to take a stand and say it was all a mistake and apologize,” she says, “but they didn’t.” She says that removal of those letters from the police evidence office is an essential step toward resolving her case.
Another issue: the secretary alleges that by releasing her polite letters to police without justification or a court order, Aikenhead and his union clients breached privacy legislation as those letters contained confidential data.
There was one question the secretary asked Aikenhead to answer: Had Barry O’Neill at CUPE BC been behind his pressuring of Blogger News Network to delete the post about her case? Aikenhead said that was a question he was not willing to answer.
She also asked Aikenhead if he could see how “bad” the optics were of him pressuring BNN to delete an article in the middle of a provincial election campaign. He didn’t answer that question either.
Former NDP President Aikenhead Released Confidential Information to police, the secretary alleges, that he possessed as a result of his wife’s NDP-appointment as a Ministry of Health public representative
Constable Herrman’s police report reveals that in discussing the case with police, Aikenhead released information about a case unrelated to the CUPE complaint. He made reference to a complaint the secretary had pursued with a health care regulatory body years before she worked for CUPE. It was a complaint which his wife Catherine Aikenhead had handled in her role as an NDP-appointed Ministry of Health public representative. ”I thought that was confidential,” says the secretary. Yet the police report contains Aikenhead’s commentary about this previous case as he spoke to Constable Herrman in his office with a CUPE representative present. CUPE was paying for Aikenhead’s time, the secretary notes, while he provided this commentary. “I didn’t think that information was for sale.”
During their telephone conversation last week, Aikenhead denied that information he had provided to police pertaining to the health regulatory case had come from his wife. “You told me [the information],” he said. The secretary blurted out, “You’re lying!”, and insisted that she had never spoken to him before. He denied that he was lying and said that he had spoken to her in the past. The secretary says she would have had no reason to speak to Ian Aikenhead about a health care regulatory issue.
Aikenhead told the secretary that she had left messages at his law office. “That part is true”, says the secretary. Catherine Aikenhead had told her that messages could be left for her in her role as a public representative at her husband’s law office, while her home answering machine was malfunctioning.
The secretary alleges that the commentary Aikenhead made when speaking to police contained distortion and exaggeration. ”He didn’t get that from me. I wouldn’t talk about myself that way.”
The secretary has informed Carole James in writing that she expects her to review the information released by Aikenhead to police should elected NDP Members of the Legislative Assembly be considering providing him with work involving public trust.
Evidence-Tampering — the listed “Offence” for which the secretary had been Investigated was Altered in the Police Report a year after the investigation had been Closed.
When the secretary obtained a copy of the police report, she was shocked to discover that the specific offence for which she had been investigated was “WORKPLACE HARASSMENT”. She was identified as “CLEARED” in the police report, but learned that the “WORKPLACE HARASSMENT” notation would nonetheless remain on her record in police files. The secretary wrote to Jim Sinclair at the BC Federation of Labour, reminding him that the act of a woman speaking up about poor working conditions does not constitute “WORKPLACE HARASSMENT”. And she applied some reverse intimidation: she told him that as long as this notation remained on her record on police files, she intended to ensure that it remained on his public record. Shortly afterward, the alleged offence of “WORKPLACE HARASSMENT” disappeared from the police report — even though the case had been labeled “CLOSED” by the VPD the previous year.
The secretary has a copy of both the ‘before’ and ‘after’ police reports. The offence was changed from “WORKPLACE HARASSMENT” to “HARASSMENT/ OBSCENE COMMUNICATION”. Her letters in the VPD Property office establish that there was nothing either harassing or obscene about her communication with labour leaders. (Her contact had been exclusively in writing, she says. This fact is confirmed by the police report.) She was never notified of the change and found out quite by accident when she made a second freedom of information request. “This is evidence tampering,” she says.
Aikenhead asserted in Thursday’s telephone conversation with the secretary that he had not been involved in this change to the police report.
Photo: Jenn McGinn (right) campaigning with Carole James
Tactics Used by the Former NDP President and Current NDP Funders Against the Whistleblowing Secretary are Not News to the NDP
The unresolved case of tactics used against the whistleblowing secretary surfaced during last year’s provincial by-election in Vancouver-Fairview, a by-election won by NDP candidate, Jenn McGinn. McGinn, a lesbian feminist, was asked in writing to take a stand on the fact that some of her highest profile funders and a former NDP President had treated a woman as a criminal as she continued to blow the whistle about unfair labour practices inside CUPE. Jenn McGinn shut up.
McGinn is running again in the current election and, as the NDP accuses Liberal leader Gordon Campbell of not answering questions about an alleged “corruption scandal”, McGinn has joined Carole James and Leonard Krog in ….not answering questions about an alleged scandal.
Secretary First Requested a Police Investigation in 2003
The secretary sees her formal request that the RCMP investigate the tactics used against her to be “a first step”. The RCMP can start by clarifying what police force has jurisdiction in this case,” she says.
The alleged scheme targeting her was planned and executed at the CUPE Local 116 office on the UBC campus — RCMP jurisdiction. It has links to the Burnaby office of CUPE BC, an office also under RCMP jurisdiction. And it was national in scope in that correspondence sent to Judy Darcy at CUPE National in Ottawa was also allegedly “misrepresented” to the VPD as evidence of harassment. When the alleged “scheme” was launched, VPD Constables Herrmann and Ng were initially called to the offices of CUPE Local 116 on the UBC campus — RCMP jurisdiction — were the supposed victims of the harassment were located, but according to the police report, police couldn’t find anyone to talk to at that location. “They tracked down somebody from CUPE holed up in Aikenhead’s office in East Vancouver, so they drove over there”, she says. It is possible that because Aikenhead was located in Vancouver, the RCMP will refer her case to the VPD.
It wouldn’t be the first time the secretary has been to the VPD about this case. She asked the VPD in 2003 to investigate Aikenhead and assorted union executives including O’Neill, Sinclair, and Darcy. One of the officers she spoke to was Sergeant Warren Lemcke, but she says the VPD simply performed a superficial investigation into the conduct of their own constables in the case and exonerated them. “They didn’t even interview me,” she says.
The secretary believes that the tactics used against her are not strictly a law enforcement issue though. They are an ethical issue, and a political issue, even an election issue. She believes that the tactics used against whistleblowers provide voters with a window into the people behind Carole James, the type of tactics they use when they are operating out of the public eye.
That window was opened wide for the UBC steamfitter. After the police were called on him, he found himself facing a “tough” in-house lawyer dispatched by CUPE BC under the Barry O’Neill administration. She informed him that he would have to submit to a psychiatric assessment or lose his job. These tactics have led to allegations against CUPE — not the first time — of practicing “political psychiatry” of the sort practiced in China and the Soviet Union. The steamfitter challenged these tactics for years and has now been fired.
The secretary hasn’t spoken to the steamfitter in years but remembers him. When asked if he had seemed mentally ill to her, she said, “No. Consider the source.” His accusers, she says, have a record of “over the top” accusations. A fired CUPE secretary was portrayed as a “nymphomaniac” by Local 116 executives, under pressure from CUPE BC to counter her complaint of unjust dismissal.
Like the whistleblowing secretary, the whistleblowing steamfitter hasn’t been muzzled entirely. He has started a blog, “ubcsteamfitter.blogspot.com”.
The secretary is concerned that some of the higher profile people who have so far avoided investigation for tactics deterring whistleblowing, are people to whom Carole James will be indebted should she form a government. “If she’s elected, she’ll be taking their calls.” The secretary agrees with James’ election campaign comment that it’s in the “public interest” that government insiders be scrutinized. “There are questions that need to be answered,” James said. The secretary would agree.