Montreal

Ken Pereira, union whistle-blower, tells his full story in new book

Ken Pereira was one of the star witnesses in the Charbonneau Commission on corruption in the construction industry. His explosive testimony blew the lid off deep ties between Quebec’s largest union and organized crime.

Organizer who exposed corruption in Quebec's largest construction union says he did it for the common man

Ken Pereira testifies at the Charbonneau Commission in 2013. (The Canadian Press)

Ken Pereira was one of the star witnesses in the Charbonneau Commission on corruption in the construction industry. His explosive testimony blew the lid off deep ties between Quebec's largest union and organized crime.

But Pereira, a long-time union organizer, wasn't done telling his story. His new book, Bras de fer (available only in French for now), goes deeper into his role as a union whistle-blower and his motivations for going public despite the threats he received.

"The book is an extension of what I wanted to say but never had the chance," Pereira told CBC's Homerun. His many media interviews were edited, and so was his testimony at the Charbonneau Commission, he says.

"The political aspect of my testimony wasn't there. There's a lot more I want to say and I want people to get the big picture," he said.

It started with inflated expenses

Pereira had discovered that Jocelyn Dupuis, the former head of the Quebec Federation of Labour (FTQ), was defrauding the union with inflated expense reports. Meanwhile, he was living a lush life of expensive restaurants, golf trips and strip clubs.

Dupuis was also meeting regularly with top people in the mob and the Hell's Angels. One of them, Raynald Desjardins, a former lieutenant of the Rizzuto crime family, said that he wanted a piece of the FTQ's Solidarity Fund, an $8-billion venture capital fund.

"That's when I found out that's what [the union] was trying to defend. Not defend workers, but get access to the Solidarity Fund," Pereira said.

Watch: Pereira tells his story to The National

Terrence McKenna tells the story of Quebec's biggest union, its alleged ties to organized crime and what one man risked to blow it all wide open 15:56

'Unions belong to us'

Pereira was offered luxury cars, money, free meals at fancy restaurants and strippers for his silence, but he kept on digging deeper and took his findings to the press.

"I believe that we don't belong to unions. They belong to us," he said. "Maybe it's my parents, or how I was brought up, but I didn't join a union to be a union businessman."

Pereira said he felt it was his responsibility as a high-ranking union man to expose wrongdoing and defend the common worker.

"If you turn a blind eye, you're part of the problem. I had the power to change things. A worker has no power, he just grinds away and wants his pay. I was part of the directors," he said.

Bras de fer, published by VLB, is selling for $24.95. An English translation is in the works.

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