Labour Literacy in the Workplace, Stories from the Front Lines

This video series (1 of 5) tells how literacy became important to the Canadian union movement, how it developed in the work place and how it changed people’s lives in profound ways. Workers, teachers, union members and literacy professionals talk about what they saw and did, their struggles and accomplishments, and why literacy training is still so important for workers, unions and society.

13 videos, French and English – click [CC] icon for subtitles. 2014, 13 min


Director, Interviewer, Editor: Dawn Buie

Camera: Ian Carlton

Sound recordist: Jeremy Kane

Sound designer: Rachel Ní Chuinn

A big thank you to: Isabelle Boucher, Sylivia Sioufi, Laurence Buenerd, Laurell Richie

All interviews were recorded in Toronto and Ottawa in 2013


Website: [No longer live]

Site Web : [No longer live]

Site Designer: Dawn Buie

Interview Subjects

Brigid Hayes
Brigid Hayes has developed an expertise in literacy and learning that spans almost 30 years as a senior policy advisor and program manager. She has worked as an independent consultant and expert advisor on learning, literacy, and work since 2007. Brigid shares her thoughts on adult literacy and training policy on her blog As I was saying…

Bushra Mir
Bushra Mir is an instructor with the Labour Education Centre in Toronto.

Donald Lurette
Donald Lurette is a consultant in adult education. He works with several organizations dedicated to literacy and essential skills. He contributes to the development of literacy programs and to research on issues and challenges related to literacy practices in minority language settings.

Fernanda Couto
Fernanda Couto was a garment worker from 1975 until her retirement in 2005. Her participation in a workplace literacy program led her to become a union activist, including president of her local.

Khaleelah McKnight
Khaleelah McKnight is an instructor with the Labour Education Centre in Toronto.

Monique Joly
Monique Joly was the coordinator of the BEST program with the Ontario Federation of Labour in the 80’s. She also worked as a CUPE education representative in Ontario and is now a retiree.

Normand Lévesque
De 2008 à 2015, Normand Lévesque has been executive director of the Réseau pour le développement de l’alphabétisme et des compétences (RESDAC). Most of his career has been dedicated to the concerns of francophone minority communities in Canada (1990-1997) as they relate to literacy, skills development and lifelong learning. He has also lived and worked in West Africa and Latin America (1997-2008), where he was involved in training and educating adults.

Paul Moist
Paul Moist is National President of CUPE, Canada’s largest union with 630,000 members. He has been a CUPE member since 1975. Paul is Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress and Governor of the Labour College of Canada. He has previously held numerous positions including Treasurer of the United Way of Canada, Vice-Chair of the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation and Co-Chair of the Premier’s Economic Advisory Council (in his home province of Manitoba).

Sydney Pratt
Sydney Pratt worked in Ontario in the literacy field for 18 years and is currently living in Brazil, producing books to be used in school classrooms. She used to work with Paulo Freire in the 1960s while living in Brazil and studied with him in Geneva. Even though officially retired, she still works on integrating Freire’s methods into English language training and teaching material. She also teaches English.

Sylvia Sioufi
Sylvia Sioufi is an Education Officer with the Canadian Union of Public Employees. She coordinated CUPE’s Literacy Program from 2000 to 2012 and was actively involved in setting up joint union-management workplace literacy and clear communications projects.

Tamara Levine
Tamara Levine is a long-time adult educator and literacy activist. She pioneered workplace literacy and clear language initiatives across Canada with the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress. She retired from her job in labour education in 2011 and now lives in Ottawa with her family where she writes, sings, walks, and swims with the loons.

Tom Ciancone
For most of his career, Tom Ciancone has worked with the Toronto Board of Education as an adult numeracy instructor. He is now an Independent Professional Training & Coaching Professional, participating in research and program design.

Winnie Ng
For over three decades, Winnie Ng has championed the rights of workers through her involvement with various labour organizations and networks: she has been the acting executive director of the Labour Education Centre, and the Canadian Labour Congress’ Ontario regional director; she is the labour co-chair of Good Jobs for All Coalition, an executive member of the Asian Canadian Labour Alliance and a board member of Labour Community Services. Recognized for her leadership in the Canadian labour movement, she is the recipient of numerous distinctions. Winnie has joined the Ryerson University of Toronto in 2011 as the CAW-Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy.