By Kieona George
Carol Sutherland, the former union employee at Ryerson’s Equity and Community Inclusion office who was fired while on medical leave, marched in the Labour Day parade to bring awareness to her cause on Monday morning.
“And to hold institutions accountable because Black workers matter,” said Sutherland in a black t-shirt with the words “Black Workers Matter” on the front and #IStandWithCarol on the back, matching with her group of supporters.
The group marched with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) along Queen Street to the Canadian National Exhibition grounds in the Labour Day parade meant to celebrate the strength and solidarity of workers, according to the CNE website.
Sutherland was fired by Ryerson’s administration while on medical leave in January, which started with a panic attack brought on by workplace stress. Her termination followed a report by a psychiatrist Ryerson recommended. Her request to see someone closer to home was ignored and Sutherland said termination was guaranteed if she did not go to the psychiatrist Ryerson recommended.
Sutherland has a negotiation hearing on Oct. 17 at 155 University Ave. between her union, OPSEU, and Ryerson University. “I’m hoping a lot of students and people come out,” said Sutherland.
In January, many faculty members and students were upset when they heard of her termination. The Eyeopener previously reported that the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) penned a letter condemning the termination—which was signed by 50 faculty members.
Susanne Nyaga, a former RSU president who was mentored by Sutherland, created the hashtag #IStandWithCarol in a Facebook post reacting to the termination back in January.
“She checked in on our mental health, helped us feel included, and showed us that we belong in post-secondary institutions,” reads Nyaga’s post. “She built relationships with Black students and marginalized students because she cared.”
Since January, Sutherland said Ryerson has done nothing to mend the situation.
Kikélola Roach, a social justice and democracy union chair at Ryerson, supported Sutherland in the parade. “I’m here today to also echo the message that Black workers matter and that all institutions really need to step up and make sure that they’re vigilant about [issues],” said Roach.
Roach said she believes there are people concerned about the widespread climate where it seems like Black workers come under extra pressure and are released, fired, their contracts are unrenewed, or they quit because of toxic work environments. “This is a phenomenon that goes beyond just Ryerson but we’re obviously concerned when it happens in the place that we work as well.”
Carol was a friendly person whose laughter lit up the room of the office. Her laughter was contagious, in a good way.
When I was working in the Student services department, there was a gossip monger, a Canadian-born faculty who wanted to create mischief with Carol because she assumed that a BIPOC work study student was ignoring the faculty.
The faculty attempted to stir a fight with Carol, and when that didn’t work, she falsely accused the work study student of harassment and the work study student did not know who created the accusations until a white supervisor yelled at him months later and shouted that he harassed the Canadian-born faculty. It also didn’t help that the BIPOC work study student was treated as if he stole the work study job from Canadians.
He went in my co-workers’s office and started crying because he didn’t feel okay with what the white supervisor told him. He told me that the supervisor accused him of misogyny and that his complaints of racial microaggressions were sexist against her because “she is a woman”.
He spoke of this incident with Carol, who told him that the same faculty attempted to start a fight with her during that same time.
The Canadians are envious of Carol and the humble attitudes of the Caribbean people, while the same Canadian people are booking private jets to Guyana and Suriname to steal the oil like they did to Trinidad.