It took 7 years to go to trial, but who’s counting?

By: Mischa Popoff

If you need hard evidence that unions and the public service don’t mix, consider that one of the people allegedly responsible for the sinking of the Queen of the North in 2006 is only now going to finally face justice. And you can thank the B.C. Ferry Marine Workers Union for the delay.

Karl Lilgert was eventually fired for his role in this disaster, but only after his union defended him blindly along with the co-worker with whom he was supposedly having sex on the bridge the night of the disaster. Unlike Lilgert who will face a jury of his peers, quartermaster Karen Bricker gets off scot-free.

Two full years after the disaster, Jackie Miller, a spokeswoman for the union, still insisted that neither Lilgert nor Bricker were actually responsible for what happened, claiming they were “two victims, just like the two people that went down with the ship.”

Yup, that’s what she said.

Like Lilgert, Bricker was also eventually fired, but in any other non-unionized line of work both would have been fired immediately. Instead, they both sat at home collecting full salaries and benefits until finally the union relented. The size of their severance packages was never disclosed, and passengers Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette, whose bodies were never found, were presumed drowned.

I used to joke that as long as a public-service employee doesn’t have sex or kill anyone at work, he’ll have a job for life. Turns out I was wrong. You CAN have sex with anyone you want at work, kill a few people, and still retain your job! At least for a while, if you have the right union.

This is what happens when a political organization like a union decides it’s above the law and no one in government has the guts to stand up to them. Sound familiar? It’s precisely what’s happening in the nationwide “Idle No More” movement in which a handful of those claiming to represent the proud First Nations people of this country are threatening to shut down the Canadian economy and bring the nation to its knees.

Theresa Spence could serve serious time for embezzlement but for the accident of her birth. She makes just under $70,000 a year, tax free, as chief of the Attawapiskat Indian reserve, she pays her boyfriend $850 a day, also tax free, to be Attawapiskat’s town manager, and between the two of them they can’t seem to account for the better part of a whopping $90 million – I repeat $90 million – that her reserve has received through public and private payments since 2006.

But, like a spoiled member of a public-service union to whom the rules don’t apply, Spence has decided to go on a fake hunger strike to draw attention to the plight of her people who, thanks to her and her boyfriend, are forced to live in homes that should be condemned.

Spence is being aided and abetted by a handful of other radical chiefs across the land that could all benefit from a lesson in Economics 101. Meanwhile, business-minded chiefs who could teach graduate level Economics − like Robert Louie of the Westbank First Nations and Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band – don’t have time to join this radical collective because they’re too busy creating jobs for their people. Message to Spence, there are no homes worthy of being condemned on the Louis’ reserves.

Lilgert’s upcoming trial illustrates why Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the father of the modern welfare state, didn’t allow unions in the federal government. Spence’s actions meanwhile illustrate why the Northwest Mounted Police were founded back in 1873 (upgraded into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1920). In both cases the goal was to uphold the law for all regardless of their race, creed, religion or political affiliation.

And in both cases, Clarence Louie’s sage words of advice apply: “Quit your sniffling.”

This Democracy
Mischa Popoff is a freelance political writer with a degree in history


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