National Leadership Training 2017 – Speaker Biographies

Robyn Benson - PSAC National President

Robyn Benson was re-elected as the National President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada at PSAC’s 17th National Triennial Convention in May 2015. She was first elected as PSAC National President in May 2012. 

Born and raised in Manitoba, Robyn’s first involvement with our union began during the 1980 CR Strike, sparked by union sisters who were fed up with pay inequality. At the time, she was a single mother of two small children and working as a term for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). 

Robyn continued to work for CRA for 20 years while holding various positions within our union, including Treasurer and then President of her Local, and Prairie Regional Vice President for the PSAC component Union of Taxation Employees. In 2000, Robyn was elected as PSAC Regional Executive Vice President (REVP), Prairies. She served as REVP from 2000 to 2012. 

As National President, Robyn is responsible for a variety of national portfolios, including collective bargaining; communications, political action and campaigns; PSAC’s Social Justice Fund; the Joint Learning Program; and Workforce Adjustment. 

Whether she is walking side-by-side with members on the picket lines or standing in solidarity with sisters and brothers at rallies and demonstrations, Robyn has always been and continues to be a voice for all members. As a passionate advocate for human rights, social justice and strong public services, Robyn’s dedication to and respect for PSAC members guides her every decision. 

Jean-Pierre Fortin – CIU National President

Jean-Pierre Fortin began his career in 1982 as a Customs Inspector with Revenue Canada, first in St-Armand, then in Noyan, and later on in Clarenceville, Quebec. This particular area of the province is still considered “home”.

In 1987, as a member of the Eastern Townships District Branch, Brother Fortin began his involvement as a union representative. Initially elected Treasurer, then 2nd Vice-President, Jean-Pierre became Branch President in 1996. He remained in that position until he was elected to the National Executive as CIU’s 4th National Vice-President in March 2003.

At the 2005 and 2008 CIU National Conventions, Brother Fortin was elected 1st National Vice-President. In this role, he was responsible for National Office operations and, in 2009, negotiated the collective agreement for National Office employees. He also continued to hone his skills, chairing two National Board of Directors standing committees:  Border Security and Finance.

CIU first elected Jean-Pierre Fortin as its National President at the 2011 National Convention, and would go on re-electing him in 2014 and 2017, all three times by acclamation.  

Never one to back away from a fight, Jean-Pierre Fortin is determined to hold CBSA to account, both in terms of labour relations and of national security at all points of entry. He considers CIU members to be Canada’s first line of defence, and is proud to advocate on their behalf.

With a wealth of experience accumulated at all levels of the organization, Jean-Pierre will continue to fight for CIU, its members and their rights.

Marianne Hladun - PSAC Prairies Regional Executive Vice-President

Marianne Hladun has served as Prairies Regional Executive Vice-President for the past five years. For over 20 years, Hladun’s comprehensive union experience has spanned various positions including President of Agriculture Union Local 40022.

She was elected North Saskatchewan Geographical Rep on the Prairie Region Council in 1999 and Alternate REVP in 2008 and 2011. She was National Human Rights Director for Agriculture Union for nine years, and Regional Vice-President, North Saskatchewan for one.

Hladun is an Alliance Facilitator, a graduate of PSAC’s Union Development Program and CLC’s Labour College of Canada, and holds a Labour Studies diploma from the University of Saskatchewan. She was Vice-President to the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour for 10 years and sat on committees including Education and Collective Bargaining/Labour Legislation. She also chaired Political Strategy for four years.

With a strong commitment to community and social justice, Hladun has volunteered with the United Way of Saskatoon as Labour Representative on the Board of Directors for two terms, as well as the Saskatchewan Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. She is also involved with NASHI, a charity to divert youth from human trafficking and has participated in five humanitarian missions to Ukraine with the charity.

Since 1986, Hladun has worked for Correctional Services of Canada, Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration and Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Albert Dumont

Albert Dumont is an Algonquin author, poet, artist, and activist who was born on the Kitigan Zibi First Nation (Quebec) in 1950.  He has a long-standing interest in the Indigenous community, especially in preserving and revitalizing Aboriginal culture for future generations.  He is the founder of Turtle Moons Contemplations, a greeting card company which features his artwork and verse.

Christine Collins - Former UCTE National President

Social justice has always been a part of Christine Collins’ life.  As a student she was a member of organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Coalition of Concerned Students (CCS).  From 1976 to 1981 she was an active member of the Ontario Public Services Employees Union (OPSEU) and was a leader during the 1980 Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology provincial strike.  In 1981, she became a member of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees/Public Service Alliance of Canada when she started working at Transport Canada.  She was elected to a local executive position at her first meeting and continued until her retirement to hold elected positions in her Union. 

A strong advocate for members’ rights, her career in the Union has included highlights such as elected Local President for 9 years as well as the UCTE National Human Rights Officer from 1990-1999.  In 1999 she was elected to the UCTE National Executive as Regional Vice-President, Ontario as the first full-time female Officer.  In 2005 Christine became the first woman National Vice-President and in 2008 was elected the first woman UCTE National President.  Christine has also served as Vice-President on the Executive Board of the Ontario Federation of Labour for 10 years. 

Christine is probably best known for her work on the Pay Equity Complaint against Treasury Board.  As the Chair of the PSAC Pay Equity Action Committee for 11 years she organized and led rallies, demonstrations, occupations and was one of the key public speakers with the media as well as at meetings and public events.  She received three awards for her work on Pay Equity including the NAC Woman of Courage award on behalf of the women of PSAC.

Although a private person, Christine is a strong community activist and over the last 30 years, has been involved in community and social justice issues such as the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, Women’s Place, Interval House, Take Back the Night organizing committee, International Women’s Day Committee, the Anti-poverty coalition and the Coalition for a National Childcare.   She continues to be active in social justice issues and the broader labour movement today.

Donna Lackie - Former National President of GSU

Donna Lackie is the former National President of Government Services Union, 2011-2017.

As a former member of the PSAC National Board of Directors, Donna was also actively engaged in Board Committees, Co-Chaired the PSAC National Human Right Committee, NJC Equity Committee, PSAC Holdings, Roles and Responsibilities to name a few.

Prior to National President of GSU, Donna was the National Equity Officer for GSU, and prior to this position was Local President of Local 70015. As a member of the National Capital Region, Donna participated in regional committees and co-chaired the NCR Pride Committee.

Sister Lackie’s representation of the Federal Pay Centers and the members working there, and all matters relating to PHOENIX and the Pay Modernization Project continue as a priority.

Prior to being elected National President of Government Services Union, Sister Lackie was employed by Public Services and Procurement Canada in the department’s National Health and Safety Program for more than 20 years.

Larry Rousseau - Executive Vice-President Canadian Labour Congress

Larry Rousseau was elected as CLC Executive Vice-President at the CLC’s 28th Constitutional Convention in May 2017. Previously, he served two terms as the Regional Executive Vice-President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s National Capital Region, and one term as the Regional Vice-President of PSAC’s Union of National Employees.

A long-time federal public service worker, Larry’s first experience in the labour movement was when he started as a filing and stockroom clerk in the mail room of the Canadian Labour Congress at the age of 18. Shortly thereafter, he was elected shop steward for the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 225 (now COPE).

He went on to earn a master’s degree in Public Administration from l’École nationale d’administration publique in Quebec, and became an employee of Statistics Canada.

Larry has a long history of trade union and political activism, particularly on issues like labour relations, health and safety, human rights, and equity. His involvement in the LGBTQ2SI, anti-racism and peace movements has been an integral part of his engagement and commitment to social justice.

Gregor Murray

Holds the Canada Research Chair on Globalization and Work at the School of Industrial Relations, University of Montreal where he is also director of the Inter-University Research Centre on Globalization and Work (CRIMT - His work focuses on trade union renewal, globalization and workplace change, the dynamics and social regulation of multinational firms and global supply chains, and public policies on citizenship at work. He has been the principal researcher in two Major Collaborative Research Initiatives projects and with his CRIMT colleagues is now leading a new Partnership Project entitled Institutional Experimentation for Better Work. Gregor works extensively with unions in Canada and in other countries.

Barbara Byers, C.M.

Barbara Byers has fought for the underdog all her life: as a social worker, as

President of the Saskatchewan Government & General Employees Union (SGEU), as President of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL), and as an Officer of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).

Barb’s commitment and energetic work led to her first being elected as a CLC Officer in 2002.  She was a CLC Officer for 15 years, first as Executive Vice-President and then as Secretary-Treasurer, bringing a wealth of experience to the job as a labour leader committed to inclusiveness and as a “Prairie Populist.

As a social worker in Saskatchewan, Barb addressed issues of poverty, youth unemployment, aboriginal concerns, equality for all and labour rights. 

Barb’s strong community roots led her to become founder of the SFL Summer Camp for Youth in Saskatchewan and co-founder of the Prairie School for Union Women.

At the CLC Barb was responsible for labour education; medicare and health care; workplace training and technology; employment insurance; apprenticeships; and issues of concern to women workers, workers with disabilities, and gay, bi-sexual, lesbian and transgender workers.

In December 2015 Barb was named a Member of the Order of Canada in recognition of her “contributions as an important voice in the Canadian labour movement.”

In 2017 Barbara Byers was appointed by the Executive Director of UN Women to her Civil Society Advisory Group. UN Women is the organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Barb now resides in Regina, Saskatchewan and continues her work to create a more inclusive, equal, just and peaceful world.

Deena Ladd

Deena Ladd has been working to improve wages and working conditions in sectors of work that are dominated with low-wages, violations of rights, precarious and part- time work for the past 25 years. She is active in the Fight for $15 and Fairness Campaign, the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and in the Social Justice Committee at her daughter’s elementary school.  Deena is one of the founders and a co-ordinator of the Toronto Workers’ Action Centre. The Workers’ Action Centre organizes to improve wages and working conditions with low-waged workers, women, racialized and  immigrant workers in precarious jobs that face discrimination, violations of rights and no benefits in the workplace. 

Sharon DeSousa –  REVP Ontario

In May 2011, Sharon DeSousa was elected as the Regional Executive Vice-President (REVP) for Ontario of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), which represents over 30,000 members across the Ontario region. Sharon was re-elected to a second term as REVP in June of 2014 and acclaimed at the 2017 Ontario Convention in May.

As part of her duties Sharon sits on the Alliance Executive Committee, which is the national governing board of the PSAC, a union with over 170,000 members across Canada. She is the first racialized woman to sit on the Alliance Executive Committee and also the youngest.

Sharon is an experienced leader in the Labour Movement, and a strong activist in her community. Her commitment to breaking down barriers and creating an inclusive movement has not wavered. She believes in empowering workers to raise their voices in the fight for social justice.

Sharon’s goal is to engage and mobilize members to take political action to achieve progressive laws that strengthen our communities. She is committed to raising the living standards for all workers by building grassroots pressure for real change.

José La Luz

José La Luz is a labor activist and intellectual who organizes, promotes and advocates for worker rights in Puerto Rico and the United States.   La Luz is credited as the architect of the grassroots campaign that resulted in the passage of Law 45 in 1998. This law granted bargaining rights and allowed for the unionization of over 120,000 public employees in Puerto Rico.[1] La Luz is currently the Associate Director of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Leadership Academy.

La Luz attended the University of Puerto Rico where he embarked on the study of social sciences, before transferring with a sports scholarship from the YMCA to Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts. He is a graduate of SUNY’s Empire State College with a Bachelor’s degree in Labor Studies. Later he obtained a master’s degree in labor studies at Rutgers University.

Widely recognized as a labor strategist and intellectual, La Luz has served as a Visiting Labor Leader in residence at Cornell University, having written white papers[5] on organizing strategies in labor unions, as well as serving as an instructor in the Labor Studies Programs at Michigan State and Rutgers universities. He became a Wurf Fellow in the Kennedy School State and Local Government Program at Harvard University in 2007. In 2011, La Luz received a lifetime award for his distinguished career as one of America’s outstanding labor educators from the United Association for Labor Education.

Chris Aylward  - PSAC National Executive Vice-President

Chris Aylward was re-elected as the National Executive Vice-President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada at the PSAC’s 17th National Triennial Convention in May 2015. He was first elected to this position in May 2012.

Born and raised in Newfoundland, Chris has been an active member in PSAC for over 28 years. His involvement in our union started when he became a shop steward with Local 90000 - Union of Taxation Employees (UTE), at the St. John's Taxation Center.

In 1990, Chris transferred to Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Headquarters in Ottawa, where he became active in Local 70000 - UTE. Chris played a major role in the 1991 General Strike as a communications officer for the National Capital Region (NCR).

In 1996, Chris was elected as UTE’s Alternate Regional Vice President for the NCR, and then became the full-time Regional Vice President (RVP) in 1997. During his 14 years as UTE’s NCR RVP, Chris spent many of those years as a member of the bargaining team. He helped to achieve important benefits and ground-breaking improvements for PSAC members working for CRA that were then negotiated for more of our members under other collective agreements.

Chris is a vocal advocate for the rights of all members to a safe workplace, a fair wage, and a strong collective agreement.

Edith Bramwell

Edith Bramwell is the Director of the Membership Programs Bargaining Branch.  She was formerly the Coordinator of the Representation Section at the PSAC and before that, was Legal Counsel of the Collective Bargaining Branch. 

-       Edith has practiced and researched in the field of labour law since 1993, following her clerkship at the Federal Court of Appeal.

-       In her private life, she has served on the boards of numerous organizations which promote social justice, equity and visible minority rights. Edith has also served as a legal member of the Criminal Code Review Board, and has represented union members in most Canadian Labour jurisdictions.

Howie West

Howie West has been Work Reorganization Officer for the Public Service Alliance of Canada for about 17 years.

In this capacity he advises the union on workplace issues of including technological change, job security, privatization, federal government staffing policies, investment state agreement analysis, economic analysis, climate change and environment policy and other initiatives assigned by the executive of the union.

He has been involved in the pay transition file since the autumn of 2010 and has played an important policy and strategy role around transition plans and the impact on PSAC members as well as Phoenix mitigation efforts subsequent to the Phoenix roll-out in 2016.


December 12, 2017