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On Wednesday, July 29, the Provincial Government announced the launch of an independent LTC COVID-19 Commission, headed by Ontario Superior Court of Justice Associate Chief Justice Frank Marrocco.

Associate Chief Justice Marrocco will be joined by fellow Commissioners Angela Coke, a former senior executive with the Ontario Public Service (OPS), and Dr. Jack Kitts, who served as President of the Ottawa Hospital from 2002 until his retirement in June of this year.

According to the Government, the three-member commission, “will investigate how COVID-19 spread within Long-Term Care homes, how residents, staff and families were impacted, and the adequacy of measures taken by the Province and other parties to prevent, isolate and contain the virus.”

The Commission, if inclined, will also present recommendations to the Government on what steps should be taken to protect LTC residents and staff in the event of future outbreaks.

CUPE Ontario, with the support of CUPE National staff, have been working together in anticipation of the Commission’s launch. A team of Coordinators, researchers, legal and communications representatives has been at work for some time to ensure that front-line CUPE members are protected, and their voices and experiences are heard by the Commission as they undertake their important work

The Commission has a broad mandate to obtain information and to call witnesses as they see fit, as well as being able to compel evidence and the production of documents they deem material to their investigation. Failure or refusal to comply with requests from the Commission can result in contempt charges being laid.

This commission must have the ability to operate with full independence and without government interference, limitations or restrictions. While this important work is underway, it cannot be used as a stall tactic to implementing the important changes that we know are needed today. Our loved ones cannot wait until next spring for change.

Under the Terms of Reference provided by the Government, the Commission will be required to present its final report to the Government by April 2021 and may also produce an interim report. All reports are to be made public.

Your CUPE Leadership is committed to ensuring that your voices and your vision for a safer, more equitable and responsive LTC sector are effectively represented to the Commission.

While the Commission’s work has finally begun, many details remain to be worked out. As more information is provided, we will share it with you when it becomes available.

If you have questions, concerns or an opinion you would like to have shared with the Commission, we encourage you to contact your Local Union’s leadership, so we can make sure your thoughts are incorporated into CUPE’s submissions.

In Solidarity,

Fred Hahn

Candace Rennick