Charges dropped against union exec months after protest arrest

Alex Silas, PSAC's national executive vice-president, smiles outside the Ottawa Courthouse on Friday, the day charges laid in February were dropped.  (Antoine Fontaine/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Alex Silas, PSAC's national executive vice-president, smiles outside the Ottawa Courthouse on Friday, the day charges laid in February were dropped. (Antoine Fontaine/Radio-Canada - image credit)

All charges have been dropped against the national executive vice-president of the country's largest federal workers' union, months after he was arrested during a rally for striking civilian staff at military bases.

Charges against Alex Silas included mischief and counselling an uncommitted indictable offence after he joined dozens of Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) members outside a military building in Ottawa in February.

In a video taken by CBC News, a police officer can be seen telling Silas that he was being arrested under Ontario's Highway Traffic Act for impeding traffic.

On Friday morning, the charges were officially dropped.

"I think it's a victory for the movement because the right to strike has been maintained. We defended the right to strike and we won," he said.

His defence lawyer Vanessa Garcia said in an email to CBC that Silas was exercising his right to peacefully protest and never should have been charged in the first place.

Alex Silas, a regional executive vice-president for the Public Service Alliance of Canada, is led toward an Ottawa police vehicle by officers on Feb. 7, 2024.
Alex Silas, a regional executive vice-president for the Public Service Alliance of Canada, is led toward an Ottawa police vehicle by officers on Feb. 7, 2024.

Silas was arrested by Ottawa police in early February after participating in a rally outside the Department of National Defence/Canadian Armed Forces Joint Intelligence Operations Centre on Star Top Road. (Avanthika Anand/CBC)

Silas had been under a number of conditions, including not being able to picket. He said having the charges dropped was like a weight lifted off his shoulders.

In a statement, the union called the original arrest and charges "an intimidation tactic."

At the time of his arrest, Silas had been a regional executive vice-president, but has since been promoted.

That strike ended in April in eastern Ontario after civilian employees voted in favour of a deal that included a three-year deal bumping the average salary by about $6,000, along with changes to leave and meal reimbursement. Staff in Quebec return to work next week.