Saskatchewan

Unifor president livid with police, union not told about bomb threat later deemed non-credible

Warning: This story contains language some readers may find offensive.

Warning: This story contains language some readers may find offensive

The Regina Police Service was on scene during the picket by Unifor members and the public on February 17, 2020. The letter with the threats would be received by the City of Regina the next day. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Jerry Dias is livid at the Regina Police Service's (RPS's) decision not to notify Unifor Local 594 about threats made against union members in a letter in February.

"I'm just absolutely disgusted. I just can't believe that the chief of police would make a unilateral decision on my behalf," Dias, Unifor national president, said over the phone on Tuesday.

Unifor members who work at the Co-op refinery in Regina were locked out in December, days after issuing a strike notice. The dispute is ongoing.

Police Chief Evan Bray said Tuesday that the anonymous letter, obtained by Unifor through an access to information request and posted online by the union Sunday, was received by the City of Regina on February 18. The RPS was notified the next day.

The letter expressed anger at Unifor executives who had flown in from out of Saskatchewan, and at the union for setting up barricades and picket lines at various Co-op locations.

The letter writer claimed to have the addresses and names of union members and wrote that if Regina police did not take action "this week," then the picket lines would be bombed in the same way a farmer would bomb a beaver dam.

Bray said RPS determined the threat was unfounded and that the service gets comments all the time that mention people know where union members live.

"This is a fairly small community," Bray said.

Dias accused the police chief of gambling with the lives of the union and the general public.

"[Bray] made the unilateral decision that I did not — and others in my situation — did not have the right to know that my life and my family's lives were being threatened," Dias said.

"Well f--k him. He's got a lot of nerve."

Dias said he has received threats in the past, but the letter was not like a 3 a.m. call from a drunk or a "keyboard warrior." Lines indicating the writer knew Dias's address were particularly concerning, he said.

Police in other jurisdictions have knocked on doors and made arrests in previous instances of threats, Dias said. 

Jerry Dias, Unifor's national president, said he has received threats before but the letter and bomb threat was a heavy escalation from the usual "keyboard warriors." (Charles Lalande/CBC)

The letter was allegedly co-authored by a group of farmers who are also supporters of Federated Co-operators Ltd., the company that owns and operates the refinery.

"We were confident, having been on scene for so many days prior to receiving the letter, we didn't feel there was any credibility to this threat," Bray said.

"We received the letter. We did the investigation ... but we did not feel there was any credibility to the threat or danger to the safety of the individuals at the site, which included our police officers."

Officers had been monitoring the labour dispute and were already on site "24/7" prior to the letter's delivery, Bray said.

Regina Police Service Chief Evan Bray said an immediate investigation took place but that the threat was not deemed credible. (CBC News)

Bray said that when the letter was delivered, the Unifor blockades were already down.

"If someone had seen something suspicious or seen someone that shouldn't have been there we would have heard about it," Bray said. "We didn't get any of those reports."

Bray said RPS learned with the help of Canada Post that the letter had been processed in Regina on February 16.

RPS had already been on scene at Unifor picket lines and appearances, such as when they were directing traffic on Ninth Avenue N. on February 7, he said.

Bray said the threat wasn't revealed to Unifor or FCL, but added there has been communication between RPS and the parties in the labour dispute.

He said that in situations where the police have notified the public of a bomb threat, it is in situations where no officers are present, no other information is available or the location is unfamiliar.

Premier Scott Moe said on Tuesday that the letter was "unfortunate," but that Unifor does have a right to picket legally. He cautioned the union about "crossing the line" into illegality.

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