Sid Ryan

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Sid Ryan
Sidryan.jpg
Ryan speaking at a rally at Queen's Park in Toronto
President of the Ontario Federation of Labour
Incumbent
Assumed office
November 2009
Preceded by Wayne Samuelson
President of CUPE Ontario
In office
1992–2009
Personal details
Born 1952 (age 61–62)
Dublin, Ireland
Political party New Democratic Party

Patrick Cyril "Sid" Ryan (born 1952, in Dublin, Ireland) is president of the Ontario Federation of Labour and a longtime Canadian labour union leader and politician.

Biography[edit]

Sid Ryan is well known for his political and social activism both locally and internationally.

Born in Dublin, Republic of Ireland, and third eldest of ten children,[1] Ryan emigrated to Canada at age 23. He and his wife Sheila have three daughters: Lisa, Susie, and Amanda.

Ryan helped to organize a United Steelworkers of America (USWA) local where he worked shortly after arriving in Canada. He has been a Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) activist since he went to work for Ontario Hydro in 1976. He served as CUPE Ontario president from 1992 to 2009, representing 225,000 workers in the public sector. CUPE is the Canada's largest and fastest growing union with nearly 600,000 members. CUPE Ontario is the largest provincial division. Ryan also served as general vice-president of CUPE National until 2009.

Under Ryan’s leadership, CUPE Ontario focused on issues such as privatization, forced mergers, cutbacks, and restructuring. Ryan continues to lead major campaigns and proactively influence policy and legislative decisions in health care, municipal, school board, social service, and university sectors. He is a proponent of increasing the accessibility of university education across Ontario.

Ryan appears regularly on Michael Coren Live and CHEX-TV Durham, and writes a bi-weekly column for the Toronto Sun. He is also a frequent guest on TVOntario’s current affairs programs. He is a frequent speaker in the Canadian labour movement.

Ryan has been recruited by Human rights groups to act as a Canadian peace observer in Northern Ireland, to march alongside members of the United Farm Workers in California and to lobby Texas politicians for a commutation of Stanley Faulder's death sentence.

He has worked for the New Democratic Party during every election since arriving in Canada. He ran for the party provincially in 1999, 2003 and 2007, as well as federally in 2004 and 2006. He is the recipient of the Canada 125 Medal, presented to Canadian citizens for their contributions to the good of the community and society in general.[2]

In November 2009, Ryan was acclaimed to the position of president of the Ontario Federation of Labour.

Work with New Democratic Party[edit]

In addition to his union activities, Ryan has been involved with the New Democratic Party (NDP) since the 1980s. He has served on the Ontario NDP's provincial council and Environment committee, and is a former president of the Durham Centre riding association.

Ryan's affiliation with the Ontario NDP became tenuous in the early 1990s, when some felt that the party had moved to the right under Bob Rae's leadership. On one occasion, he referred to the Rae government's Social Contract bill as the most anti-labour piece of legislation he had ever seen. He has since re-aligned himself with the provincial party under Howard Hampton's largely unsuccessful leadership.

Ryan has stood as an NDP candidate in three provincial and two federal election campaigns, but has not to date won election to a legislative body. He contested Scarborough Centre in the 1999 provincial election, and finished third behind Progressive Conservative incumbent Marilyn Mushinski and Liberal Costas Manios. In the 2003 provincial election, he campaigned in Oshawa and came within 1,109 votes of defeating PC incumbent Jerry Ouellette. Ryan moved the NDP's vote from around 5000 to over 18,000 during the course of his campaigns in Oshawa.

Ryan also stood as a candidate for Oshawa in the 2004 federal election, and lost to Conservative Colin Carrie by 463 votes in a very close three-way race. He ran again in the 2006 election, but, despite considerable support from the federal NDP leader Jack Layton and CAW head Buzz Hargrove, lost by 2,802 votes to incumbent Carrie.

During the last few days of the 2006 election campaign, Alan Clarke, in a flyer reminding the Membership of CAW Local 222 that the Local was prohibited from supporting Ryan's campaign by a 1993 binding referendum, showed Ryan having a beer with Alex Maskey who was reportedly twice interned for being a member of the IRA. Maskey later became Lord Mayor of Belfast, a position appointed by Council. Carrie's campaign denied being involved, with manager Andrew Morin suggesting that the leaflet was a product of union squabbling over an endorsement by the Canadian Auto Workers. Morin and Ryan stated that the two campaigns were otherwise on good terms. Elections Canada laid two charges of breaching the Elections Act against Clarke, while Ryan also filed a civil suit. Clarke was later found innocent of the Elections Canada charges and filed a counter-suit against Ryan. Ryan alleged that Clarke was working on Carrie's 2006 campaign, which Morin had earlier denied.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

In the 2007 Ontario provincial election, Ryan challenged Ouellette for the second time, losing by over 2500 votes, a larger margin than in 2003.

OMERS and Bill 206[edit]

For more than 10 years Ryan waged a battle with the provincial government to change the governance of the OMERS pension plan. Ryan wanted the government to allow the stakeholders to have control over investments and day-to-day governance of the plan. Pension surpluses were not being used to raise pensions for some plan members.[9]

In 2006, Ryan threatened a political strike after Premier Dalton McGuinty brought in Bill 206, which would change the administration of OMERS but would not fully address CUPE's concerns. However, this met with resistance from a small number of CUPE locals. The employer organization AMO (Association of Municipalities Ontario), together with OMERS administrators fought, to stop Ryan's campaign. McGuinty agreed to make some changes to address CUPE's concerns but refused to withdraw the bill.[10] In September 2008, Ryan was appointed to the Board of Directors of OMERS. OMERS is the 4th largest pension plan in Canada with assets of around $50B.

Unbottle It Campaign[edit]

Tap Into Public Drinking Water[edit]

In early 2009, CUPE Ontario's Sid Ryan and The Council of Canadians' Maude Barlow teamed up in a 15 city tour of Ontario to promote public drinking water systems and to oppose the bottle water industry. Barlow had just been appointed a senior advisor on water to the President of the UN General Assembly. The ultimate goal of the campaign was to have the Ontario Government initiate a ban on the sale of bottled water in public buildings and facilities such as schools, universities, municipal buildings and hospitals.[11] The campaign was successful in getting London City Council to sponsor a resolution to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) urging the FCM to call upon all municipalities to consider phasing out the sale and purchase of bottled water from their facilities.[12]

The tour saw great turnouts at stops in Windsor, London, Guelph, Hamilton, St. Catharines, Ottawa, Kingston, Midland, Waterloo, Owen Sound, Brockville, Cobourg, Whitby, Toronto, and Peterborough. “When we don’t care what happens to our water treatment plants, the same thing can happen with water as what happened to health care in the United States,”[13] said Ryan, in Midland.

Since the tour, Ontario saw full or partial bans in a number of communities. Niagara Falls voted to stop selling bottled water at city facilities, despite last-minute lobbying efforts from Nestle Waters Canada.

“When a city with the international profile of Niagara Falls recognizes this, and recognizes its responsibility to improve access to public water supplies, the days of bottled water are numbered across Canada and around the world,” said Barlow.[14]

With the first phase of the tour declared a huge success, CUPE Ontario added a Northern Ontario phase that spring. Unbottle it! planned to be in Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Kenora, Thunder Bay and North Bay in April.[15]

Foreign policy[edit]

Israel[edit]

2006-2007 resolution and statements[edit]

In 2006, under Sid Ryan's leadership, CUPE Ontario voted to endorse a global campaign of boycott and divestment against the State of Israel's "apartheid-like policies" towards the Palestinians.[16] While the resolution received support from Willie Madisha, President of the Congress of South African Trade Unions,[17] it was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League as "deplorable and offensive", the Ontario director of the Canadian Jewish Congress, and political commentator Lysiane Gagnon, who suggested that "anti-Semitism is alive and well in Canada."[18][19][20]

Among the supporters, Willie Madisha wrote, "With great pride, I congratulate CUPE Ontario for their historic resolution on May 27 in support of the Palestinian people -- those living under occupation and those millions of Palestinian refugees living in the Diaspora. We fully support your resolution."[21] Carolyn Egan, President of the Steelworkers Toronto Area Council, stated that Steel workers “Respect CUPE Ontario's record of solidarity with the oppressed, both inside and outside the labour movement, and respect CUPE Ontario's initiative to educate its members and the entire labour movement on the plight of the people of Palestine, and to take practical action in defence of Palestinian human rights."[21]

The resolution was condemned by Steven Schulman, Ontario Regional director of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), who stated that "For a respected labour union to engage in such a vote, which is completely one-sided and based on mistruths, is shocking," and the CUPE Ontario's press release regarding the vote "reads like a piece of propaganda."[18]

In June 2007, Ryan stated that CUPE resolution against Israel "was heard around the world. While it taught me how vicious a campaign can be against those who speak out for peace and social justice, it is gratifying that support for our stand came from organizations and trade unions across the globe."[22]

2009 resolution[edit]

In January 2009, Sid Ryan expressed strong support for a proposal to ban Israeli academics from teaching at Ontario Universities. Ryan stated that "we are ready to say Israeli academics should not be on our campuses unless they explicitly condemn the university bombing and the assault on Gaza in general."[23][24] Ryan later made a remark comparing an Israeli bombing that caused damage to the Islamic University of Gaza to Nazi book burning practices,[25] a remark for which he subsequently issued an apology.[26] He calls Israel an ever-expanding apartheid-type regime.[27]

Ryan defended the boycott, stating that "Academic freedom goes both ways. What we are saying is if they want to remain silent and be complicit in these kinds of actions, why should they enjoy the freedom to come and teach in other countries like Canada?"[28] Ryan reacted to criticism in The Toronto Sun, stating that it was "tantamount to a new form of McCarthyism," and pointed out that Gandhi called for an academic boycott to end British rule in India.[29]

Reaction[edit]

Ryan and CUPE were sharply criticised by Jonathan Kay, a columnist for the National Post, who called it "disgusting anti-Israeli bigotry" and that "Mr. Ryan and his fellow CUPE leaders care about demonizing only one country: the Jewish state."[30]

The resolution was immediately criticized by the Leo Rudner of the Canadian Jewish Congress who stated "I think it's ironic individuals who speak about freedom of speech jump to the opportunity to take that freedom away from other individuals." Emanuel Adler, chairman of Israeli Studies at the University of Toronto, also criticized the resolution, stating that "the conflict and the violence should not be brought inside the university."[24]

Frank Dimant, Vice-President of Bnai Brith Canada criticized the resolution, stating that "This blatant and openly discriminatory resolution by CUPE-Ontario against Israeli nationals is in contravention of Canadian Human Rights Law. Public unions should not be used as breeding grounds for negatively singling out one group of people and denying them their basic rights and freedoms."[31] Paul Davenport, President of the University of Western Ontario (UWO), subsequently announced that UWO will not participate in any boycott against Israel, stating that "We believe in academic freedom ... it is simply very unwise to try to eliminate interactions between academics."[31]

Michael Coren, in a column for the National Post, wrote that Ryan was "absolutely and fundamentally" wrong to support a boycott of Israel. However, he argued that Ryan is not anti-Semitic, stating that ``to call him an anti-Semite is not only unfair to him but also dilutes the genuine repugnance of authentic anti-Semitism`.[32]

Michael Taube, a public affairs analyst and commentator, and a former speechwriter for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, rejected allegations that Ryan is anti-Semitic, stating that "I can count the number of times we’ve agreed on an issue with one hand – and I’m probably being generous with a finger or two. But I’ve never seen, heard or witnessed anything that would lead me to believe that Ryan hates Jews and/or the Jewish community.” However, he added that Ryan supports "the creation of an atmosphere that stifles free speech on university campuses and supports a type of jackboot progressive politics."[33]

Michael Neumann, a philosophy professor at Trent University in Peterborough, said he agreed with preventing his Israeli colleagues from working in Ontario, and said "If people believe these are extreme circumstances and it will do some good, then I think it's reasonable and perhaps justified."[34]

CUPE's national president, Paul Moist, rebuked Ryan and issued a statement declaring his opposition to the motion saying, "I believe such a resolution is wrong and would violate the anti-discrimination standards set out in the CUPE Constitution... I will be using my influence in any debates on such a resolution to oppose its adoption."[35]

On January 13, approximately 8 days after its initial announcement, the CUPE removed its call to boycott individual academics from its website and replaced it with statement that stated that called instead for a boycott "aimed at academic institutions and the institutional connections that exist between universities here and those in Israel." The National Post noted that although the original statement mentioned Ryan three times and listed him as the point of contact, the new resolution did not mention Ryan at all.[36]

Revised resolution[edit]

On February 22, 2009, the CUPE's university workers passed resolution calling for its members at Ontario universities to boycott working with Israeli institutions doing research that benefits that nation's military but not individual academics. Ryan stated that he was wrong when he proposed a ban on Israeli academics who do not condemn attacks on Gaza. Ryan stated that the new resolution "is not about individual academics, this has nothing to do with individual academics. That was a mistake that I made at the very beginning when we actually talked about this campaign." He defended the new resolution as "following a long tradition and a peaceful tradition of using the pressures of a boycott in a peaceful way to bring pressure to bear on the state of Israel to end this illegal occupation."[37]

Praise[edit]

The Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians expressed support for the resolution, stating that “We think it perfectly appropriate for a Canadian union to seek some means of counteracting the Canadian government’s reckless support for Israeli government intransigence -- for example, by trying to destabilize the elected government of the Palestinian authority.”[38]

Bruce Katz, Jewish co-president of Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU) Montreal, stated, “I wish to congratulate you and CUPE Ontario for your valiant support for the cause of Palestinian human rights…”[38]

Criticism[edit]

Bernie Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), stated that resolution was discriminatory and anti-Semitic and proves that "anti-Semitism is once again amongst us." Farber also stated that "It's devious, it's disingenuous. They talk about Israeli universities and partnerships. What makes up a partnership? Israeli academics and Canadian academics make up a partnership. You're still talking about people, except you're hiding it. It means you are prepared to boycott your fellow academic and it's absolutely disgusting. I found it profoundly disappointing that people would just sit back and not get it, that they would plunge into this dark hole of anti-Semitism."[37]

Mark Goldberg, vice-chairman of CJC Ontario Region, accused CUPE of being disengenious with its claim that the boycott was not directed at individual academics, asking rhetorically: "How do you boycott institutions without boycotting individuals in the process?" He also stated "to support the proposed discriminatory resolution represents another low point in the proud history of the Canadian labour movement's involvement in international affairs. The changes that were made to this resolution since it was first announced are cosmetic at best and do nothing to alter the basic discriminatory elements." He also

Len Rudner, also with CJC Ontario Region, stated that: "While workers face an uncertain economic future and students at one of Canada's largest universities are scrambling to recover from a lengthy strike that has jeopardized the current academic year, it boggles the mind to consider that CUPE Ontario's leadership has no matter more pressing than promoting a resolution that is bigoted on its face and discriminatory in its intent. It is unfair, unbalanced and unhelpful."[37]

B'nai Brith Canada called the resolution "discriminatory and racist."[39] Frank Dimant, B’nai Brith Canada’s executive vice-president, stated that the motion “marginalizes its supporters here at home and disenfranchises CUPE members who are supportive of democratic Israel and its right to defend its citizens against terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.” He also stated that everyone who voted in favour of the resolution was “promoting hatred and advancing a discriminatory agenda that is at odds with Canadian values of tolerance, respect and human rights for all.[40]

In a letter (which was published in the National Post), a group of members of CUPE 3902 at University of Toronto sharply criticized Ryan and the Resolution. They argued any boycott of academic institutions is an attack on freedom of thought and violates the spirit of the union’s constitution. The letter also stated that "Sid Ryan seems to think that he and his closest colleagues have the right to determine which academics we ought to listen to and which ought to be censored." The letter concluded with a call of Ryan to resign from his position.[41]

The Conservative Government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper criticized the CUPE Ontario resolution again Israel as "intolerant."[42] The opposition Liberal Party also sharply criticized the resolution.[43]

Ireland[edit]

Sid Ryan has a long-standing involvement with the Irish peace process, including acting as three-time International Peace Observer to the process between the Protestant Democratic Unionist Party and the Sinn Féin.

He has written a number of columns and pieces on the violence in his homeland, including an article in the Toronto Sun titled "The Orange, the Green ... and 'the troubles.'"[44]

During the 2004 federal election campaign, in which he ran as an NDP candidate, a Conservative Party member produced a leaflet featured a picture of Ryan standing beside Alec Maskey, former Lord Mayor of Belfast.[8] The leaflet was thought to imply that the photo was taken at a Friends of Sinn Féin fundraiser. In response, Ryan's campaign team released a press release emphasizing that the photo was taken at a fundraiser for the Ireland Fund of Canada, a non profit and non partisan charitable organization.[45]

In 2007, Sid Ryan introduced Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams on the Toronto stop of Adams' speaking tour of North America.[46] Adams was in Toronto to thank those that contributed to the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Ukraine[edit]

On March 17, 2014, Sid called Putin’s Crimean referendum under Russian occupation "democratic," and called the Ukrainian government “thugs, fascists and anti Semites."[47]

Awards[edit]

Sid Ryan was awarded the Canadian Arab Federation's Social Justice Award at their 40th anniversary dinner held in Toronto on June 16, 2007. Ryan was recognised for his work as an International Peace Observer in Northern Ireland and his championing of Palestinian rights, specifically, his strong support for CUPE Ontario's Resolution 50 which calls for union members to support the international campaign of boycott, diverstment and sanctions against Israel.[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kidd, Kenneth (April 26, 2009). "Sid Ryan: The lion who leads 195,000 Ontarians". The Star (Toronto). 
  2. ^ http://cupe.on.ca/doc.php?document_id=5&lang=en
  3. ^ http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-13872023.html
  4. ^ http://newsdurhamregion.com/news/breaking_news/article/98905
  5. ^ http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/people/biography/mpeople.htm
  6. ^ Alex Maskey
  7. ^ http://newsdurhamregion.com/article/48058
  8. ^ a b Blizzard, Christina (20 January 2007). "Dirty tricks target Ryan". The Toronto Sun. 
  9. ^ Ryan, Sid (18 November 2005). "Pension double-talk". Toronto Sun. 
  10. ^ "CUPE strike set for Thursday". CBC News Online. 21 February 2006. 
  11. ^ http://cupe.on.ca/doc.php?document_id=694&lang=en
  12. ^ http://www.unbottleit.org
  13. ^ http://www.simcoe.com/article/127458
  14. ^ http://www.thespec.com/article/519511
  15. ^ http://cupe.on.ca/doc.php?subject_id=149&lang=en
  16. ^ Leong, Melissa (29 May 2006). "CUPE joins boycott of Israel". National Post. 
  17. ^ Madisha, Willie (7 June 2007). "COSATU Open Letter in Support of CUPE Resolution on Israel". MR Zine. 
  18. ^ a b "The Jerusalem Post". ADL blasts Canada's anti-Israel boycott. Retrieved 2006-06-13. 
  19. ^ "National Post". CUPE joins boycott of Israel. Retrieved 2006-06-13. 
  20. ^ Lysiane Gagnon
  21. ^ a b http://cupe.on.ca/aux_file.php?aux_file_id=242
  22. ^ a b "Ryan Wins Social Justice Award". CUPE.ca. 1 June 2007. 
  23. ^ Ontario union calls for ban on Israeli professors by Vanessa Kortekaas, National Post, January 5, 2009.
  24. ^ a b CUPE Ontario to recommend support for ban on Israeli academics in response to Gaza bombings, Press Release from CUPE Ontarion, January 5, 2009.
  25. ^ CUPE calls for ban on Israeli professors by Vanessa Kortekaas, National Post, January 6, 2009.
  26. ^ Union representative apologizes for ‘Nazi’ reference by Vanessa Kortekaas, National Post, January 7, 2009.
  27. ^ Sid Ryan: I'm not a bigot by Sid Ryan, National Post, January 7, 2009.
  28. ^ CUPE offices picketed over Ryan boycott call by Emily Mathieu, Toronto Star, January 9, 2009.
  29. ^ Toronto Sun 19 January 2009
  30. ^ Jonathan Kay on the disgusting anti-Israeli bigtory of Sid Ryan and CUPE Ontario by Jonathan Kay, National Post, January 5, 2009.
  31. ^ a b Western rejects CUPE call for boycott by Kate Dubinski, London Free Press, January 8, 2009.
  32. ^ Even good old liberal T.O. needs dissent by Michael Coren, National Post, January 22, 2009.
  33. ^ Michael Taube: Sid Ryan's big mouth by Michael Taube, National Post, January 9, 2009.
  34. ^ Resolution misguided, but not anti-Semitic By Katie Daubs and Lee Greenberg, Ottawa Citizen, January 7, 2009.
  35. ^ Ryan rebuked by national CUPE head Kenyon Wallace, Toronto Star, January 14, 2009
  36. ^ Steve Janke: CUPE pulls Ryan proposal from union web site, National Post, January 14, 2009.
  37. ^ a b c CUPE passes milder anti-Israel resolution by Trevor Wilhelm, Canwest News Service (printed in the National Post), February 23, 2009.
  38. ^ a b http://cupe.on.ca/aux_file.php?aux_file_id=241
  39. ^ Canadian union adopts Israel boycott resolution, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), February 23, 2009.
  40. ^ CUPE Ontario calls for Israel boycott by Sheri Shefa, Canadian Jewish News (CJN), February 26, 2009.
  41. ^ CUPE members to Sid Ryan: Time to say goodbye, An open letter to Sid Ryan and the CUPE Ontario leadership from CUPE 3902, National Post, February 28, 2009.
  42. ^ CUPE `intolerant' of Israel, Tories charge, Canadian Press (printed in the Toronto Star), February 23, 2009.
  43. ^ CUPE Ontario resolution on Israeli universities crosses the line, Liberals say, Liberal Party of Canada - media release, February 27, 2009.
  44. ^ http://cupe.on.ca/doc.php?document_id=214&lang=en
  45. ^ "Sid Ryan confronts and condemns those calling for his murder and calling him a terrorist". CUPE.ca. 
  46. ^ "Layton's Good Friday". Torontoist. 14 July 2007. 
  47. ^ http://bcblue.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/ontario-federation-labour-president-backs-putin-against-ukrainians/