On Friday Nov 25, Union of Canadian Transportation Employees –PSAC (UCTE) lost a longtime activist and leader when Sister Christine Collins passed away after a brief illness.
From 1976 to 1981 Christine was an active member of the Ontario Public Services Employees Union (OPSEU) at Algonquin College in Ottawa. She was a leader during the 1980 province-wide strike of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology. In 1981, she began working at Transport Canada HQ and quickly became active in the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees/Public Service Alliance of Canada. She attended her first meeting of Local 70703 and left as a member of the local’s executive. That was her first position within the union and the start of a lifetime of activism and commitment that continued until her retirement.
She was President of Local 70703 for 9 years; a local that represents, the Head Quarters of Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, the Transportation Safety Board, and the Transportation Tribunal. Between 1990-1999 Christine was elected to the position of UCTE National Human Rights Officer. In 1999 she was elected to the National Executive as the Ontario Regional Vice-President, becoming the first full-time female officer in the component. At the 13th Triennial convention in 2005 Christine was elected the first woman National Vice-President, and in 2008 became UCTE’s first woman National President. During this time, Christine also served as Vice-President on the Executive Board of the Ontario Federation of Labour for 10 years representing the PSAC and the PSAC National Board of Directors.
Christine was a tireless advocate of women’s rights throughout her active years in the union. She worked on the Pay Equity Complaint against the Treasury Board. During her 11-year tenure as the Chair of the PSAC Pay Equity Action Committee, she organized rallies and demonstrations. During the 1991 Treasury Board national strike, Sister Collins was one of 10 union members arrested for occupying the Office of the Minister responsible for the Status of Women to protest the government’s inaction on Pay Equity. She was recognized several times for her work on Pay Equity including the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) who honoured her with a Woman of Courage award for her work on behalf of the women of PSAC.
Social justice and activism was always a part of Sister Collins’ life. It started when she was a student as a member of organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Coalition of Concerned Students (CCS). One of her early jobs was to manage Ottawa’s Le Hibou Coffee House, an internationally known coffee house and folk music performing venue. Folk music and union songs were a lifelong passion. She was a strong community activist bringing her union principals to work when involved in community and social justice issues. She was active with 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, the Coalition for a National Childcare, and most recently, the Ottawa Health Coalition advocating for improvements to our universal public health care system. While in hospital she wanted to write a letter to the Minister of Health about the state of Ontario’s hospitals.
Christine exemplified UCTE’s principles and was recognized for her life’s work in the union with a Life Membership in 2017. She was a supporter of the Workers’ History Museum from the beginning.