The role of unions in this day and age



When my husband and I first arrived in Canada in 1970, like millions of immigrants before and after us, all we had were our university degrees and very little money.

We took any job we could get and like other immigrants we went back to school.

After Teachers’ College we were grateful to be hired as teachers in 1972 – the best professional decision we made.

In the prior year, 1971, labour unions had won the right to maternity leave for women.

Before that women teachers were forced to resign when they became pregnant.

The Federation of Women Teachers of Ontario lobbied the government and the Women’s Equal Opportunity Act came into effect providing women with seventeen weeks of maternity leave and barred gender discrimination against women.

So, when we decided to have a family a few years later, I was able to stay at home for seventeen weeks with my babies.

Workers of all genders have benefited greatly from the struggles of unions.

A hundred years prior to our becoming teachers, labour unions had won their first major victory.

On April 15, 1872, ten thousand workers turned up at Queen’s Park to support the printers’ union.

They were being forced to work ten or more hours a day every day of the week.

Toronto Globe publisher George Brown had the strike committee arrested as criminals.

But prime minister John A. Macdonald brought in the Trade Union Act on April 18, 1872, legalizing and protecting unions and the printers won the nine-hour-workday. This Act is celebrated every year on Labour Day.

Unions have fought for and won many rights that workers take for granted today like guaranteed minimum wage, overtime pay, workplace safety standards, vacation pay and protection from workplace harassment.

Workplace safety was a particularly hard-won right. On March 17, 1960, five Italian immigrants lost their lives working in a tunnel under Toronto’s Don River without being provided with hard hats or flashlights.

The working conditions were horrendous and when fire broke out the panicked rescue workers botched the operation.

This tragic event led unions to fight for the Industrial Safety Act (1964) and the Canada Labour Code (1985).

But today we hear complaints that unions are protecting bad workers and, in some cases, evil people like pedophile teachers and murderous nurses.

Unions will tell you that they are expected to represent all union members, even bad ones, because all members are entitled to representation.

Unions expect management to do their due diligence – first and foremost to be vigilant about supervising workers closely and at the first sign of dangerous behaviour to document and remove the worker, then do a thorough investigation.

Unions will tell you that they do not protect bad workers but they do protect due process and when management fails to follow due process is when situations get messy.

Theoretically, they are right, but we have seen instances when teachers unions, threatening law suits, as well as the Ontario College of Teachers  appear to have exposed children to pedophiles by moving offending teachers to other schools.

And in the case of nurses who kill patients we saw a care facility simply cave in to the Ontario Nurses Association and give a letter of recommendation to a nurse who killed seven of their patients so that they could get rid of her rather than be brave enough to face the union grievance and have her arrested.

She went on to kill an eighth patient at her next job.

No matter how the union tries to explain away their role in protecting this killer the fact remains they did.

So unions have to take a serious look at their role in protecting criminals. All the brilliant work that labour unions have done over the past hundred and fifty years is now being tainted by their lack of integrity in the few horrific cases in which they have protected people who did not deserve protection.



DEAR DIDI,  Family dynamics may ruin this vacation



Dear Didi,

My parents have taken into their heads to do a tour of India – kids and grandkids included. Like an old-fashioned pilgrimage, my mom says. I have pointed out that all of us don’t get along all of the time – and on a trip there would be little escape. The logistics of all of us traipsing across the country are mind-boggling. Some of the grandkids have never visited India, I’m worried they might fall sick.  Help!                 

– Tripping

I understand this may be a daunting trip for you, especially with the logistics, possibility of kids getting sick and not always getting along, but this may be a chance for you to not have to plan anything and just enjoy the ride.

I actually think it’s a wonderful opportunity to make memories with your family which will last a lifetime.

How wonderful to be able to go with your parents who can share their India with you.

Stories of their youth, what they love about the country, what motivated them to leave, who their friends and family are...All with the benefit of being able to afford to escape into luxury accommodations or transportation when it becomes too much.

Remember this is the way they were raised, with the extended family, all living together.

I’m sure it wasn’t always good times, but there’s nothing like having a shared past.

That is one of the things that I believe we missed out on, growing up here in Canada and not in India.

I have cousins who live in Kelowna, BC, and who I never really got to know very well.

But I do know that my older siblings who were born in India and lived with them in our communal family home during their formative years have a bond with them.

Life is stressful and busy as it is, so when we get the chance to slow things down and take in our surroundings, it is a much better way to experience culture and family, particularly in an old-fashioned pilgrimage.

If your mom wants to be surrounded by her children and have one big trip with her family – she’s earned that right.

And if you don’t go, you may regret your decision down the road, that you had a chance to spend some quality time together before she passes and you said no.

I know my mom does. On their last visit to India, where they stayed for a few months, my dad wanted to make a pilgrimage to go visit some gurdwaras but my mother said they had to go back home and they would come back another year.

However, my father passed away before they could do that and she wishes so much that they had gone.

This is one memory that she was not able to make with him.

Seize the opportunities when they are presented, so you can share it with your loved ones for years to come.


• Is there something that you wish you could talk to someone about? Email me at or follow me on Twitter and Facebook at @DearDidi_KSC. Check out my blog on, subscribe to become part of the community and keep up to date with all the events. Hope to hear from you soon!



What is truth?



An important question! Some tend to avoid and suppress this question by saying, “No one knows. Just live truthfully.”

But how do you live truthfully if you don’t know the truth? You might be believing the lie.

Can anyone know the truth? Often you hear people say, “It might be true for you, but it’s not true for me.” But when it comes to asking, “Where do I come from, why am I here, and where am I going?’ this does not apply.

You can have your opinions, but opinions might not be the truth. Truth is by nature universal and objective, no matter what I think or what I may feel. 

It reminds me of a note one man sent me on New Year’s Day some years ago. “Difficulty to locate the truth. Truth is behind the darkness.” He gave expression to a question that eats away in the hearts of many, “Can anyone know?” It’s like groping in the darkness; plunging into a moral and spiritual abyss. It’s like being stuck in the quicksand, sinking down, down, down. There is nothing to stand on, to be certain about; except death and taxes.

Three questions: Everyone seeks to answer three questions, whether he realizes or not: 1. What is real? 2. How do I know what I know? And, 3. How do I live my life? We might not be able to articulate it. We might not have it written on paper. But your view of God, the world and yourself gives answer to these questions.   

Can these questions be answered with certainty? Indeed!

Who defines the truth? The problem is not philosophical but relational. When God made man, God did not hide Himself from man. Man was in the light. This light was life. Man knew the truth. But, because of sin, man hid from God. Man exchanged the truth for the lie.

The problem is that man’s relationship with God is broken. God did not send a philosophy; in His love, He sent a Person, His Son Jesus, into the world. We cannot find the truth. But God has revealed the truth to mankind in Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life!  

By believing in Him, we come to know the truth. Jesus Himself says, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Jesus is the answer to this most important question.

 • Reverend Tony Zekveld can be reached at 416-740-0543 and tzekveld@primus,ca.

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