Mistissini teacher Charles Bourassa is a happy man after a $30,000 defamation suit filed against him by two fellow teachers was thrown out of court.
Bourassa was sued by teachers Robert Briand and Michel Tremblay after he accused them of racist behaviour in a 1992 letter. In a letter sent to all teachers, Bourassa charged that “a group of mafioso” had seized control of the local teachers’ union, and this group was shutting out Crees from the union.
The letter didn’t actually name Briand and Tremblay as racists, but everyone in the community knew who Bourassa had in mind.
The case went to court in January.
Two weeks ago, a Chibougamau judge ruled in Bourassa’s favour. Both sides must pay their own court expenses.
“Obviously I’m disappointed,” said Briand. “I believe I’ve always done my job well.” He said the two-year controversy has cost him the chance to get a job as school principal or administrator. “I probably would have enjoyed that type of challenge,” he said. “I feel I have something to give to the community.” Tremblay, now on sabbatical leave, would not share his feelings with The Nation. He plans to return to Mistissini to teach in September.
“I would stand up for the Crees tomorrow again,” said Charles Bourassa.
“I don’t regret anything.” Bourassa, whose court expenses total $5,000, said he is still worried that the 51-member Mistissini teachers’ union is run by a small clique of the white teachers. Contrary to tradition,
Mistissini’s union of teachers is sending no Cree or English delegates to this month’s union congress in Chisasibi. Who is going? Robert Briand, his girlfriend Dominique Baillargeon and his mother Marguerite Briand (all three are teachers).
Bourassa called on the executive of the 1,000-member AENQ union to step in and appoint some Cree and anglo delegates. The AENQ has the power to do so if enough local union members complain. “The union is going down the drain in Mistissini,” said Bourassa. “There is a reason. We should look into it The union is a good thing. It is the use we make of it that is sometimes wrong.”