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Anonymous picket line bomb threat sent to mayor, police; Unifor, Co-op not notified
REGINA -- An anonymous letter threatening to blow up the Unifor 594 picket line at the Co-op Refinery Complex received in February is now the subject of major criticism from the union, who said it was not informed as its threats were investigated by police.
The letter was stamped as “received” by the Office of the Mayor on Feb. 18, around the time of the most heated periods of the nasty lockout at the refinery when Unifor had set up blockades at the complex.
It was recently obtained by Unifor through a Freedom of Information request to the City and posted in full over the Victoria Day long weekend.
‘We can and will do it for them’
Addressed to the Regina Police Service and RCMP, the letter details growing frustration from farmers over fuel supply and cost issues caused by the blockades, calling them another stress factor for producers who were already dealing with issues like a difficult harvest in 2019 and needing to dry wet crops.
“Now the illegal blockades are causing fuel shortages and in turn increased fuel costs,” the letter reads. “We have to get our product to market involving fuel.”
The sender then describes the lengths they would be willing to go to if the Regina Police Service or RCMP did not take action in removing the blockade.
“We can and will do it for them,” the letter reads. “We farmers have always had issues with beaver dams on our land and we know how to get rid of them with some special products.”
“They usually blow the dams in all directions.”
It goes on to claim some “special mixes” had been set in place at some of the refinery gates and were “only a cell phone call away from [ignition] time,” with ignition misspelled.
The sender also implied to have a list of home addresses and names of union members, but does not elaborate further.
Union not aware of threats
In an update posted over the weekend, Unifor 594 says it was never made aware of the threats.
“We’ve always said that this whole dispute is a very tough thing to deal with and then to find out the police and the mayor knew about an active bomb threat against us and nobody notified us is scary,” Unifor 594 President Kevin Bittman said Tuesday. “You wonder who else knew about this and why did nobody come forward and let us know?”
Bittman said given how many people were on the picket lines at that point, the union would’ve taken every precaution to ensure safety although no evidence of any devices was found.
“Safety is our number one priority and we had lots of people on the picket lines,” Bittman said. “We would’ve brought in some bomb dogs, we would have done what we could to make sure that people were going to be safe. Doing nothing was unacceptable.”
Mayor Michael Fougere said the letter was passed on to RPS immediately after receiving it, as his office has done in the past.
“If I believe there's any type of threat that ought to be brought to the attention of the police service, I would do that,” Fougere said. “In this case once I received the letter we phoned over to the police service right away and two officers came over and picked up the letter from us and the investigation went over to the RPS after that.”
“On its face it seemed they were very angry individuals or person who wrote this, and that was the flag for me to say that police should take a look at this and investigate it.”
‘No credible threat’ revealed by RPS investigation, sender not found: Bray
Police Chief Evan Bray said an investigation into the letter allowed RPS to confidently say there was no credibility to the threats made.
Bray told reporters police were a constant presence at the picket line around the time the letter could’ve been written and sent, adding to their confidence in saying the threats were not credible.
"We were on scene for the dismantling of the illegal blockades, which included the complete documentation and itemization of all articles at the gates," Bray stated. "At the time of the receipt of the letter, there was not a blockade at the refinery, which is what the anonymous letter was demanding."
"Both the investigation into the anonymous letter along with a month of constant on-scene involvement at the upgrader allowed the Regina Police Service to confidently assess there was no credible threat to anyone at the refinery site," Bray continued.
Taking questions from reporters, Bray said nothing was identified as out of place by its members or the union throughout that time, who they were in regular communication with.
“People that were working at the Co-op Refinery and people that were picketing at the Co-op Refinery knew very well what should be on site, so 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.”
The investigation involved Canada Post and attempts at forensic identification but neither were successful in finding who wrote the threats or where they came from.
Bray said neither the Co-op Refinery or Unifor were notified, something Bittman and the union remain critical of.
“To me that’s very disturbing,” Bittman said. “What kind of investigation did they do when they didn’t notify anyone?”
"If we could do it again, I think we would have communication just to let [Unifor and Co-op] know clearly what I've said right now," Bray said. "We received the letter, we did the investigation, the investigation is ongoing but that being said we did not feel there was any credibility to the threat."
Police say the anonymous sender of the letter has not yet been identified and ask anyone with information to contact them.
Unionized workers of the Co-op Refinery have been on the picket line since Dec. 5 and a deal has yet to be reached between the two sides.