by Smokey (Warren) Thomas – President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), Major Conference Supporter and PLAR Advocate for over two decades
Every movement or change effort needs champions – individuals and organizations.
There are many in the business of PLAR; its story of birth, development implementation.
Locally Mr. Thomas walks both these lines. We became involved just prior to the dismantling of Kingston Psychiatric Hospital where Smokey was once employed and his concern for his patients and staff in 1999 when we took a PLAR team into the hospital to do portfolio work with employees who were being let go.
“PLAR became for me a bright spot in the fight for a better future for working people and the conference shines a light on the work that people are doing with PLAR in variety of ways not only in Canada but internationally both in mainstream and Indigenous communities. All of which I have grabbed onto to help. It is often a hard sell to the general population because of the educational system (at least in Ontario) keeps most educators in a box where we choose to play the traditional game in a seriously outdated government funding formula.
“I view PLAR as a more flexible and positive alternative to rigid, outdated academic processes for adult learners and a valid way for working people to demonstrate their skills and knowledge and their contributions to their families and communities. I have been fighting my whole life for social justice and the recognition of the contributions that working people make to our communities, our province and our country.
I am happy to support this approach and the PLAR conference and have done so for many years. I wish you every success in this, the 30th annual conference, and I am disappointed I can't be there in person. I always get charged up at these conferences with a few new ideas to try on my journey”.