Grey Bruce Labour Council responds to tragic death of Sharif Rahman in Owen Sound

Pointing to the perils of hate and intolerance while raising awareness and asking people to consider their own personal actions, the Grey Bruce Labour Council and Kincardine Pride issued a joint statement in June of this year. Affiliated unions and allies of the labour council and Kincardine Pride, representing vast numbers of people in our region, stood in person and shoulder to shoulder to show support for this critical message that those victimized are not alone.

“Those present and the wider circle of people and organizations endorsing the statement remains to this day a source of optimism that the tide of hate can be reversed. However, the conspicuous absence of public and media interest in the joint statement release was overwhelming and exposes at a minimum the tone deafness of people to the issues of hate and intolerance and at its worst, the support for the hate and intolerance that racialized communities, 2SLGBTQ+ people, women, and others experience and are targets of,” says labour council VP for Bruce, Dave Trumble.

“Community member, family member, business owner, friend, and member of a racialized community, Sharif Rahman, of Owen Sound lost his life in an unprovoked and vicious attack that by all description is representative of the very hate and intolerance that as people we need to remove from the lexicon of human endeavours,” notes labour council President, Kevin Smith. “In the strongest terms possible, the Grey Bruce Labour Council condemns all acts of violence and intolerance. In the same breath and on behalf of the many workers represented by the labour council, the council offers the deepest condolences to family, friends, colleagues and anyone suffering any form of adverse effect related to this horrific act and Sharif’s death.”

As this tragedy is examined in all its shocking reality, let’s not forget that outcomes such as Sharif’s death cannot be a complete surprise. In recent days, a store owner in the United States was murdered for flying a Pride flag, organizations that want to deny 2SLGBTQ+ members of our community their basic rights refer to progressive organizations such as unions and their allies as the enemy. Other organizations work to attack freedom of expression in literature, manifestos of racial hatred online that lead to mass shootings and so much more demonstrate the depth to which hate is embedded in our culture and too often found acceptable as it attempts to be hidden behind false religious statements.

“The way forward is not through violence or by muting literature, history or book burning. The path forward is made up of the opposite and no one must ever be the victim of violence, or no story of a people must ever be ignored, burned or muted” according to labour council VP for Grey, Chris Stephen.

No tragedy ever exists in a vacuum. Speaking to this, labour council Secretary, Amy Stephen adds the dimension of occupational health and safety. “As we witness the days and months to come as Sharif’s death is examined and hopefully litigated to the fullest extent of the law, let us not lose sight of what thousands, perhaps millions, of workers face every day. Working alone, dealing with harassing and possible violent situations and leaving work alone after dark are hazards found in so many workplaces. Sharif’s death may well point to the need for regulations to protect these workers as they are exposed each day to the potential of injury and worse” . Anna Morrison, labour council Sergeant at Arms, suggests “that this tragedy may help other workers to get home safe”.

The Grey Bruce Labour Council remains committed to standing with victims and to continuing organized labour’s decades long allyship with organizations such as Pride to never take a step back on human rights or labour rights.