Saturday, 12 December 2015

One Year

As of today, it has been one year since the labour dispute between AUPE and SAIL ended.

When I first began thinking of a commemorative post to mark this day, I had at first thought to write that this marks 1 year of freedom.

Unfortunately, I realised that would be a lie.

Yes, we are free from months of picketers invading our private homes, but we are not free of the effects of their actions.

A couple of months ago, there was a white cargo van that parked on our street for a while, in about the same place that AUPE’s Ryder van had been parked for so many months. One member described how, seeing that van brought out feelings of rage and the desire to do violence.

At about the same time, someone rented a Ryder truck. It was parked on our street for only about a day or so. A different member described the PTSD triggered by seeing that logo outside their window again.

Some members of our community were affected less than others. A few were fortunate enough that their work schedules allowed them to miss the worst of the activities. For them, life goes on, I suppose. It is the others that concern me. The ones that, even after all this time, when the topic of the strike comes up – and it most certainly still does – it immediately brings out anger, anxiety and frustration.

In November of last year, AUPE’s complaint against SAIL was brought up before the Labour Board. They had originally asked for five days, including Remembrance Day, but the Board only gave them three.

These proceedings are open to the public, and several people from our community were able to attend on the first day, a Wednesday, and shared what happened. The entire day ended up being SAIL’s lawyer questioning AUPE’s negotiator.

During questioning, AUPE’s negotiator had to admit that AUPE knew that SAIL’s contract with AHS was in process, and therefore did not know how much funding they would get to pay the staff, right from the start. He also had to admit that AUPE knew that they were picketing a community, including families with young children and seniors, and not just those who used SAIL services.

The final straw, however, was when AUPE’s negotiator had to admit that he had told someone that AUPE intended to continue filing complaints with the Labour Board against SAIL, until they succeeded in bankrupting the company.

The thing to keep in mind about that last part, however, is that AUPE’s reason for picketing our homes, rather than the SAIL office, was that they viewed Artspace, the Co-op, and SAIL, the subsidiary company, as one and the same. They used Artspace financial information to claim that SAIL could afford to pay what they were demanding.

So when AUPE’s negotiator was saying that they intended to bankrupt us, they meant all of us, not just SAIL. Now, legally, I don’t think that was even possible, but with rumours and misinformation swirling, it certainly caused a lot of people anxiety.

On top of this, one member who was present recalled AUPE’s negotiator explaining why they chose to target SAIL and Artspace the way they did, early in the proceedings; that they believed those of us who lived here were lacking in intelligence, and they felt we would quickly capitulate.

Unfortunately, I cannot confirm that recollection, since the person who remembered it has since suffered a stroke and is now in long term care.

Once their negotiator, under oath, admitted their intention of filing complaints until bankruptcy, AUPE ended the proceedings, withdrew their complaint, and went back to the negotiating table.

By the Friday, word was that the striking health care staff had voted to accept a severance deal.

We all hoped this meant a deal would soon be signed.

Instead, they showed up again over the weekend at our home, yelling about how they intended to picket for the entire winter.

They then continued to picket for a couple more days, before a complaint was made about how their picketing like this during negotiations didn’t exactly look good.

Then, we waited.

Amazingly, things dragged on for another month, as AUPE continued to make other demands, even at the cost of losing the care staff their severance.

Many of us still remember how excited we were when word got out that the deal was signed. It was over! And yet, we couldn’t say anything. We later learned that, after one person wrote a post in a community Facebook page, late that night, about the end of the strike, SAIL’s president got a call from their lawyer because of a complaint from AUPE’s representative, who had to be scouring Facebook to pick that up at all.

So even though the labour dispute was ended, we weren’t really allowed to talk about it. While the staff striking staff would not be returning, we had to wait another 6 months or so for the paperwork to be processed, and SAIL was no longer unionised. Until then, we felt there was the very real possibility that AUPE would find a reason to return to our home and continue picketing. Only after SAIL was de-certified, would we finally breathe a sigh of relief.

Yes, today it the official anniversary of the end of the strike. Technically, it was over.

And yet it was not over for many months, and even today, the effects are felt. After all this time, many of us have a visceral reaction when we hear shouting outside our windows, especially early in the mornings. After all this time, when all seems fine on the surface, when it comes up in conversation, we quickly discover that it’s still there, boiling under the surface.

I think one of the things that has, in the long term, resulted the most damage is how much we, as a community, have lost trust in those who should have been protecting us. How many of us no longer bother to phone the police when we see something, because we no longer expect them to show up, or if they do show up, to do anything? How many politicians did we write and call, all of whom did nothing? How many of us tried to file complaints with the Labour Board, only to be given differing information and the runaround?

This dispute has had a profound effect on our entire community, and we learned a great many positive things. One of the things we learned is how strong we really are. We learned to turn to each other for support. It brought many of us together, when our paths might not normally have crossed.

Unfortunately, we also learned a great many negative things. Many union supporters in our community were shocked and betrayed by AUPE’s actions, colouring all unions in a negative light as a result.  Union members who did not openly support AUPE were harassed, and some kept quiet, out of fear for their jobs.

We also learned that there is a reason “infiltration” is part of the regulations as a banned activity during strikes. Sadly, we’ve learned not only who we *can* trust, but whom we cannot. 

 We’ve learned the media does a terrible job of getting even the most basic facts right, no matter how much effort their cameramen and reporters on the ground take to get the information accurately. Many of us no longer trust the police, and have found politicians to be pretty much useless.

One thing is for sure. While the dispute is over, the damage it did to our community is permanent.

What happened to us has happened to others, and will happen again, elsewhere, because right now, we live in a culture that has accepted this abusive behaviour; behaviour that, had it not been under the umbrella of a “labour dispute” would normally have resulted in police action, at the very least.

We have somehow come to expect this sort of behaviour during labour disputes. We have somehow turned the laudable goal of worker’s rights and allowed it to become something dark and damaging.

Perhaps, as long as we could say that, since it was happening at the work site, it’s okay. We could tell ourselves that the only people being hurt were those nasty, greedy employers who were taking advantage of poor, downtrodden workers.

This time, it happened at our homes; our private spaces. Most of the targets had nothing to do with the labour dispute, and only a limited number of us had any say in the matter.

But this also happens at other people’s homes. It just happens that those homes are also senior’s residences, long term care centres and the like.

These actions target our most vulnerable; people who are utterly helpless and unable to defend themselves, not so much because they are physically incapable, but because of where they happen to live. 

It targets our mothers and fathers, our grandparents, our recovering ill, and our loved ones who simply can no longer care for themselves and need the help of others to care for them.

What sort of culture have we become, that this sort of abuse is allowed to happen?


Thursday, 8 October 2015

To our new visitors

Well, I guess it's no surprise that we are seeing another uptick in traffic again, and that it's almost all about the NDP, what with the election going on right now.

As mentioned before, we want to make it clear that no political party showed any willingness to stand up for our community against the abusive behaviour at our home.  None.  Only the NDP actually came out here and took part in it.

In the time since, we as a community are still in recovery mode.  We've had another sudden death that has shocked and grieved all of us, and there is another member in the hospital.  So, since January, we've had two deaths and two long term hospitalisations (as far as is known right now, both people are still in the hospital as of this writing, and one may never recover enough to come home).

It's not unusual for us to lose members like this every year or two; not all in less than one year.  We can't help but wonder how much of this can be attributed to members of our community simply no longer being strong enough to respond and recover to health challenges as they used to.  We did warn on this blog, time and again, that the level of stress and anxiety caused by the actions of the strikers at our home could compromise people's health on a long term basis.  For the strokes, this writer has no doubt that this is a contributing factor.

Meanwhile, we keep chugging on.  Our children have been able to play safely outside our homes for an entire summer again.  People can go out on their balconies and enjoy the weather and sunlight (medically necessary, for some of us).  Out door social activities we had to skip last year were back, and more are being planned.

Conversations still find their way back to the strike all the time.  Sometimes, it's only to express relief that the dispute is over and we can do something as simple as look out our windows again, walk our dogs or otherwise enjoy our space.  Others mention surprise that, even after all this time, they are still affected.  Going out in the early morning, before the sun is up, and still getting that feeling of dread and expectation that we will get verbally harassed.  Driving around the corner and still getting that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs, expecting the crowd to be there, in front of the high rise entrance, blocking the driveways, sauntering across the street.

We're working together, though, as a community, to help each other out.

Because that's what communities do.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Still Struggling

Here we are in August.

As can be expected, life in Artspace has seen a dramatic improvement since the labour dispute has ended.  We are slowly reclaiming our community and our sense of safety, and working to turn things around.  Back to normal?  No.  Of course not.  In truth, some of us may never find "normal" again.

While working on our healing, it's been made more difficult by having to deal with grief and loss.  One of our long time members suffered several strokes and was hospitalized for several months.  Then, just as we were expecting her to come home, we lost her.  Personally, I have no doubt that the stress and trauma of what AUPE did to our community contributed to her strokes.  We warned them as much, that their actions would contribute to the degradation of people's pre-existing conditions.

Another person who had been forced to go on short term disability during the strike is now on long term disability.

Other members have been in and out of hospital, some have become near recluses, and we have another hospitalization.

On top of that, we share the grief of supporters who have lost love ones recently.  Our hearts and thoughts are with you.

Not too long ago, we had a meeting to discuss our plans for celebrating Artspace's 25 years.  At some point, the conversation turned briefly to how much better it was now that we didn't have the picketers outside, and we could actually use our own space again.  Pretty much everyone in the room concurred that they were still struggling in one way or another.

The labour dispute may be over and AUPE may have moved on to other victims, but for many of us living in Artspace, we are still trying to overcome the damage they did.

For us, it's still not quite over, and there's no way to know if it ever will be.

We may be exhausted, but we are not beaten down.

We may be struggling with PTSD symptoms, but we still stand and face the world.  Together.

We have always been, and continue to be, Artspace Strong.

Saturday, 2 May 2015


Things have been quiet on this blog - as they should be! - for a long time, but with the election coming, we've seen quite a surge of visits.  To our new visitors, welcome, and we hope you find our experiences enlightening and useful.  For those returning, welcome back.

For those visiting the posts about the NDP, there's just a bit we should clarify.

During the siege on our home, people wrote to all levels of government and all parties.

None of them stepped up to the plate.  Not a single party was willing to stand up for us.

However, of all the parties, only the NDP, both federal and provincial, actually had elected members show up at our home, not to protect our community from harassment, but to join in and support it.

Someone pointed out to us that AUPE gives the NDP party 25 cents a month, per member.  That translates to about 21, 250 a month.


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Recovery Mode

It’s been a very long time between posts lately, and we are pleased to be able to say that there is some recovery happening since the labour dispute ended on December 12, 2014. We are trying to rest, regain our health and strength and recover. It has not been easy. For some members, it took more than a month before they could start sleeping again. Many still find themselves checking out their windows to see if the red truck/Rider van is really gone, and that there are no picketers. Others are still suffering from nightmares, and for still others, PTSD symptoms are beginning to appear.

We are starting to recover and will share more about this in future posts.

For now, there is a need for explanations.

As has been posted previously, this blog went quiet out of respect for the negotiating process – a spontaneous act on the part of the administrators, really, as it wasn’t something we ever had to discuss. Then, the content of the blog itself was removed with this post put up to explain.

Regarding the labour dispute between AUPE and SAIL, discussions are under way and things are looking positive.
The blog is coming down as a sign of good faith while these discussions proceed.
We are hopeful that a formal press release will be issued by SAIL and AUPE once the matter is resolved.
Thank you to all who submitted their stories, video, and photographs to the ArtspaceUnder Siege blog.
There was, of course, a lot more to it.

This email from the SAIL board is why the content came down.

Dear Artspaceundersiege administrators:

As you may or may not be aware, we have been discussing a settlement to our labour dispute with AUPE. Although we cannot discuss details we can assure you that it would include AUPE going away and SAIL paying severance to our former employees. It would mean peace in our neighbourhood!

Unfortunately, in the past week, AUPE has told our lawyer that they will not sign the settlement agreement if the blog/youtube/facebook channels are not removed/deleted. If we don’t sign a settlement agreement by December 15, they could be back here, on our street.

So in the spirit of peace for our neighbourhood, we’re asking if you would consider removing/deleting the social media (blog/youtube/facebook) regarding the labour dispute to the best of your ability.

We’ve been told there are numerous administrators and even more contributors to the blog so we’re hoping you can all meet and/or communicate over the weekend and provide a response back to us by 6 pm on Monday, December 8, 2014.

It pains us to make this request as we know we are asking you to give up your highly-valued human right to freedom of expression. It is unfortunate the peace in our neighbourhood will come at such a high cost.

No matter what you decide, we will fully respect and support the decision you make.

In cooperative spirit,

SAIL Board of Directors

That’s right. AUPE’s not-a-lawyer was willing to let the deal fail – even after the striking SAIL staff voted to accept severance – over the blog and YouTube videos, which SAIL has no control over. Yes, they knew SAIL had nothing to do with the blog. They certainly had been told that often enough! They wanted us silenced, or they would reject the deal (which would have meant the striking SAIL staff would not get their severance) and be back to picketing our home.

Which sounds a lot like blackmail, don’t you think?

There were quite a few problems with their demand. The first of which is; the blog/Youtube videos don’t belong to any one person. Even among administrators, the number has changed as people came and went, depending on their circumstances. Current and former administrators would have to be reached, and at least some of the contributors, in a very short time. There was no way to reach all the contributors, as some are them are completely anonymous; not even we administrators know who submitted commentary.

We did the best we could, though. Of those that could be contacted, the response was unanimous. Each and every one of us wanted to give AUPE a great big "F*** You!"

This blog has been the only place Artspace members, friends and family have been able to be safely heard. Most of us aren’t big users of social media, and some of us don’t even have computers. It was only by sharing what was being done to us on this blog that people could give voice to the hostile and damaging environment we found ourselves living in, with the videos as proof, thanks to AUPE’s picketer behaviour, and their targeting of our homes, rather than the place of employment.

To us, it was clearly AUPE’s way of damage control; the exposure of their actions here was giving them a black eye, and they wanted to scrub it and silence us.

So our initial answer was a resounding “no!”

However, we also had to think of our community. It was obvious that SAIL would be punished if we said ‘no’, and we all knew of AUPE’s intention to bankrupt SAIL, even before their negotiator had to admit he’d said so, while under oath at the Labour Board hearing in November. We had to think of everyone living in Artspace, as well as our neighbours on 101A Avenue, who had been terrorised and tormented for 7 months.

AUPE put the SAIL board in a terrible place by saying they wouldn’t sign the agreement until the blog came down. Not only because SAIL has no control over the blog, but because of the obvious attack on our free speech; our right to talk about and show what was being done at our home and to our community.

AUPE put us in a terrible place, as we administrators had to make a decision without any way of consulting everyone who contributed to the blog. We take our fundamental commitment to democracy seriously - we have that human right.  

Plus, none of us were part of the labour dispute.  We just happen to live here, or visit friends and family members who live here.

There was another problem with the request, and it showed just how little AUPE seems to understand the Internet. Even if we were able to somehow remove all our content, there are still ways for people to find things, such as Google Cache and the Wayback Machine. Of course, we have no control over what people have shared on their Facebook pages, or other social media. Sure, the links wouldn’t work anymore, but they would still be there. As some of our members wrote on signs at Artspace; the Internet is forever. We have no control over that.

In the end, out of respect for our friends on the SAIL board, and our community, we decided to bring down the blog and Youtube channel. We knew that, ultimately, AUPE had no legal or moral right to make this request. However, since they were asking us to take down stuff, when we responded to SAIL with our “yes,” we also included a list of AUPE’s online content about SAIL and Artspace, suggesting they take their stuff down, too.

Because we are not privy to the agreement, and the SAIL board is apparently not allowed to tell us what’s in it, all we know is that some of those links we shared were removed as part of the agreement.

Which is why, if you go to the AUPE website and Youtube channels, you will not find anything about the labour dispute with SAIL. Which, in the end, really benefits them, since so much of what they had did a great job of demonstrating our own case against them. Like their hours of “peaceful picket line” video that showed the picketers repeatedly trespassing and the like. Seriously, you’d think that if they were making these videos to refute our own videos, they would not do something so blatantly stupid, like leave the picket line and walk/trespass onto the Artspace parking lot.

Apparently, their not-a-lawyer was quite shocked that we took the stuff down, though they scoured the Internet to find other things for us to take down, like the Pinterest account we’d forgotten about. Then they took their stuff down, and finally, the agreement was signed.

So now you, dear reader, know why the blog posts were removed.


As many of our supporters know (and those who have been reading the blog since before we took down our old posts), Kathleen Smith aka Kikkiplanet was hit with a SLAPP suit from AUPE (along with a non-existent person and an Ontario businessman), claiming defamation, after she used social media to share this blog and our videos of what AUPE was doing to our home.

That suit is still ongoing.

These sorts of legal disputes can take years to resolve, and are very expensive.  For AUPE, this is no big deal.  They've got millions of dollars in union dues to finance their action.

Kikki, on the other hand, is a housewife with a twitter account, who just had to bury her son a short time ago.  She doesn't have a lot of money.  Which is the sort of thing that allows SLAPP suits to work; people just can't afford to defend themselves.

The smart thing for AUPE to do would be to drop this frivolous suit against her.

They haven't.

So one of her supporters has started a gofundme campaign.

Please support Kikki; visit this page and, if you can, contribute.  If you can't contribute, please share the page with as many people as you can.

Thank you.

Monday, 5 January 2015


We at Artspace Under Siege, the Artspace community and many more, wish to extend our condolences to Kathleen Smith and her family, on the loss of her son, Mackenzie Pawluk, just days before his 19th birthday.

The loss of one's child is every parents' nightmare.  There are no words deep enough to express our thoughts and feelings for this tragedy.  Know that you are in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

Kathleen, you stood with us during our difficult time.  Now, we stand with you.