Warning message

Please note that this page is from our archives. There may be more up-to-date content about this topic on our website. Use our search engine to find out.
On August 11, about three dozen CUPE members in Ottawa tried to meet with a Tory MPP to discuss group home closures.

Unfortunately, Gary Guzzo, MPP for Ottawa-West Nepean felt he had a more important engagement. He was out golfing with Ontario Premier Ernie Eves.

Too bad Guzzo wasnt in his office meeting with constituents, because the ones who came to visit had a gripping story to tell.

Last Thursday at 6 a.m., behavioural counselors and residents in Ottawa Valley Autistic Homes (OVAH) were awakened by jack-booted security guards, dressed all in black. The workers were given two minutes to leave. The residents were given an hour.

One of the workers, Khalida Badran, says she barely had time to get her bag. To make matters worse, one of the supervisors who accompanied the security guards wanted to check it, to make sure she hadnt stolen anything on her way out. As if Im going to steal from those guys, she says.

Another worker, Sarah Mullins, turned up for her shift at 7:30, only to find two security guards sitting in the group homes living room, watching TV. At first, she thought they were the police. But they refused to answer any of her questions, and refused to let her gather up her stuff. Her immediate concern was for the residents. Its not good for them to wake up to people they dont know, she says. They could get angry and dangerous. (Autism is a complex developmental disability that affects the functioning of the brain, and can cause frighteningly erratic behaviour.)

Youd think most people would be surprised to wake up to security guards, but not Badran. It figures, she says. The employer has been treating us like crap from the beginning, and theyre treating us like crap now.

For the 80 workers in CUPE 2862 and the 26 autistic residents they care for in six homes, the beginning came earlier this year, after an operational review of OVAH cited mismanagement issues. The board of directors resigned, and the executive director was fired. There wasnt a problem with the behavioural counsellors work, but the government decided to shut down the agency, anyway.

The end was supposed to happen on September 30. That was the date the government said the agency would close. But last Thursday morning, the trigger-happy Tories jumped the gun, and sent in the security guards.

Now, the behavioural counselors are out of work, and the autistic clients are out of a home. In the meantime, the clients have been moved to temporary residences. The members of CUPE 2862 will continue to protest, like they did on August 11 in front of Gary Guzzos office. But knowing the Tories summertime work habits, maybe they should start looking for their government MPPs somewhere else like the golf course.