June is National Indigenous History Month

By Michael Freeman

June, In Canada, is celebrated as National Indigenous History Month. Indigenous Peoples have lived and thrived in the territory that is now known as North America for millennia. Oh, people may argue with the exact timeline but oral history and traditional knowledge are all that We, the Original Peoples, need as substantiation.

National Indigenous History Month is a time for remembering, a time for learning, a time for celebrating, a time for healing, a time for growth, a time of unification, a time of reconciliation, a time of hope and a time for like-minded peoples to come together to be stronger in unity.

Indigenous Peoples within Canada (defined as Aboriginal, Metis, Inuit) have had a diverse history and a unique experience coast to coast to coast, interrupted, complicated and forever altered by the arrival of explorers and immigration to this land. The struggle to coexist has been the foundation of a fluid relationship fluctuating from confrontational, at the worst of times, to one of pride and celebration, at the best of times.

Through your own search and study, explore the rich history of Indigenous Peoples. Be sure to research a good mix of historical documents, treaty documents, policy and documents of reconciliation. There are many current Indigenous authors and a wealth of their works to keep you connected, reading and learning for many weeks and months to come. Do not fall into the trap of reading only the history tomes written by non-Indigenous authors and filtered through their non-Indigenous lenses.

Due to the current pandemic affecting every aspect of society, many of the gatherings, celebrations and ceremonies planned in honour and recognition of the rich and storied history of Indigenous Peoples have been postponed or cancelled. Look to the virtual experience as you explore the many web portals available.

It is time to loose the bondage of the undercurrent of racism, in this country, against Indigenous Peoples. Become part of the solution, if you are not already, by committing to understanding the true relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples and actively working to improve it. Dig deeper than the spectacular layers of pageantry and the ignorant layers of the stereotypical.

Be curious. Be teachable. Be willing to learn. Be open to new ideas. But above all, enjoy the experience.

Michael Freeman is the UNE’s National Equity Representative for Persons with Disabilities, member of the EB Bargaining Team, President of UNE Local 00128, and a teacher and policy writer for ISC on the Six Nations Reservation in Ontario.

 

 

PSAC-Prairies and UNE urge the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to not extend Mr. Young’s term as CEO

Dear Minister Guilbeault,

We have no doubt that you have been made aware of the recent disclosure by former employees of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) in Winnipeg that they experienced ongoing and systemic racism and harassment while working at this institution.

As the union representing 160 members employed at the CMHR, this came as no surprise to any of us. Our union Local Executive has been raising the issue repeatedly for several years. And recently, because management was not acknowledging or taking any action, our bargaining team tabled a proposal for mandatory anti-harassment, anti- discrimination training for all staff. As evidence of management’s refusal to take this matter seriously, the proposal was rejected.

Recently in response to media reports, the CEO, John Young, stated that “the level of concern raised on social media comes as a surprise to many people working at the museum”. This was no surprise to management and in particular the CEO.

The response that administration will reach out to staff and volunteers to listen to their experiences and concerns is, at best, a weak response that does not show the employer taking a stand against racism and harassment in a toxic workplace.

We understand the Mr. Young’s appointment as CEO is due to expire on August 16, 2020. Minister Guilbeault, for the well-being of the employees and to ensure the institution is on a path to restore their credibility, we urge you to not extend Mr. Young’s term as CEO of the CMHR.

We can tell you that “discussions” with staff following the social media posts were in no way sincere and there is absolutely no confidence among staff that the management team of the CMHR, under the direction of Mr. Young, understand or appreciate the seriousness of the situation.

The official mandate of the CMHR is:

“… to explore the subject of human rights, with special but not exclusive reference to Canada, in order to enhance the public’s understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others, and to encourage reflection and dialogue.”

Our members are so very dedicated and proud of the work they do but feel that what is happening behind closed doors is hypocritical to the mandate. Unfortunately, over the years, staff have chosen to leave quietly instead of going public so as to preserve the integrity of the institution. Minister Guilbeault, we urge you to not extend Mr. Young’s term and to ensure that any potential candidates for appointment as CEO have the skills necessary to ensure that appropriate actions are taken immediately to begin the process of restoring trust with employees and confidence with the Canadian public.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Marianne Hladun
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies

Kevin King
National President
Union of National Employees

PSAC Local 50773 Executive

PDF icon Letter to Minister Guilbeault_CMHR

Reflections on National Indigenous Peoples Day

By Lenora Maracle

We have watched the public reaction to racial injustice and police brutality, we must acknowledge our own history of colonialism and the injustices that have taken place and continue today. In communities across the country, people suffer from forms of discrimination.

I want to acknowledge those who endure the effects of racism and the people who support them. So many of us are hurting and angry that cannot and should not be ignored by current events.

I stand in support of Black people, Indigenous people, People of Colour (BIPOC) and the 2SLGBTQ+, as well as people living with disabilities or limitations of any kind. I will participate in the fight against racism, oppression and marginalization.

The one-year anniversary of the release of the final report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was earlier this month. We remember and honour the daughters, mothers, grandmothers, aunties and 2SLGBTQ+people who were taken away from us, and the survivors and family and community members whose lives have been changed forever.

Colonization often leaves its mark on Indigenous populations in a way not visible to the Canadian eye.

It becomes necessary for us to connect those dots for mainstream society; to point out that suicide rates and addictions can be rooted in trauma reaching back generations. And that Indigenous languages, culture and ceremony exist today in spite of that historical trauma.

We are a resilient people. Resilience is the inner strength that helps individuals bounce back and carry on in the face of adversity. Aboriginal identity, land, culture and history are resilience.

Resilience is in Aboriginal communities.

Aboriginal people need to reclaim their traditional culture, redefine themselves as a people of their territory and reassert their distinct identity. This is decolonization.

And we need to heal. To do this we need to learn how to learn and begin a journey to wellness that involves self-care. We need to understand the forces of history that have shaped present day lifestyles. We need to discover, name and transmit indigenous knowledge, values and ways of knowing, all the while understanding selected Western ways. We need to apply and adapt both indigenous and Western knowledge, values and ways of knowing to address challenges in today’s society.

In the Mohawk Language ‘Kanaronkwa’ means love but of an intense feeling of affection and care towards another person, this how I feel for my indigenous brothers and sisters.

Onen

 

Lenora Maracle is the UNE’s National Equity Representative for Aboriginal Peoples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Message from the UNE National Equity Representative for Racially Visible People

In a turn of recent events, images captured and circulated worldwide have shown a continued pattern of racism and human rights atrocities that has continually plagued Blacks. A series of tragic events, culminating with the killing of George Floyd. And while we know that the Union of National Employees rejects racism in any form, we understand that these events also come at a time when the world is experiencing a heightened sense of isolation, uncertainty, and fear.

The National Representative for the Racially Visible members recognizes the importance of reaching out and sending a message to express ongoing support to visible minorities who may be experiencing outrage, fear and frustration – not only as it relates to recent events, but also at the lack of mechanisms to address the systemic barriers and biases that feed into the racist practices and ideologies which lends itself to the overarching issue of racism and its ongoing impact that we, people of colour, are faced with on a daily basis.

Let’s take this moment to call upon the leadership, specifically union leaders, to speak up and reach out to your Components, your locals, regions and its representatives as well as those in your membership who self-identify as visible minorities.

Time is upon us and the air is heavy with unrest. We need to seize the opportunity to self-reflect and explore, and address the attitudes, beliefs, and systemic barriers that continue to harm Black and minority communities.

It is a time for us to become better informed about all forms of racism by developing and participating in anti-racism and unconscious bias learning activities. It is a time to ask ourselves what we can do as union leaders and activists to be part of the solution. The time is now, we must stand up and become an ally, be compassionate and respectful of those in our membership ranks who may be traumatized by the experience and realities of racism.

Conversations need to include discussions around the creation of safe spaces, racism, and discrimination; as well as unconscious bias as it relates to inclusion practices in the union’s rank and file, while advocating for change throughout all departments.

As part of these efforts, our union leaders need to highlight that as a collective we are all responsible for fostering an inclusive, accessible, respectful, equitable and safe workplace for people of all races.

We no longer have the option of adopting a false sense of security.

We no longer have the recourse of our rose covered spectacles.

We no longer can shield ourselves under the premise that We, this land, our union is immune to the happenings and the events that go beyond our borders.

Let’s stand together, raise our collective voices and work towards being agents of change in addressing anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, and all forms of racism.

Hayley Millington
UNE National Equity Representative for Racially Visible People

Pride Month

Members of the union family,

As the National Equity Rep for LGBTQ2+, I ask that we take some time to bring focus to and ask for support for the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

June is Pride Month, a time were people from within the community get together to celebrate the rights we have gain and fight for those we have not or bring focus to those who have yet to have the same rights. The community works to build the strength to be their authentic self in public, with family, friends and more so to themselves. Not everyone sees pride the same way. For some it is a Pride Parade, or social activities that bring people together, it is being with close friends, or going to a bar, doing karaoke, spoken word or live entertainment, or it is going online and learning about who they are. The list of activities varies and is very personal.

In this time of COVID, a large portion of the events have been cancelled or postponed. It makes for a very difficult time for people as this could be or have been their only time to be their authentic selves in a safe accepting environment. When you look at the news and you see oppression of marginalized groups everywhere, you see Straight Pride movement and town after town saying they will not support pride. It makes it very hard to draw on the strength needed to be who you really are with the lack of community or the feeling of support and acceptance. For some people being with their union family is the first and only time they are safe enough to be their authentic selves and now they are alone and needing more then ever support of there community.

We all know and are living a very difficult 2020 so far. With COVID, being asked to isolate, practice social distancing and work from home or in smaller isolated working groups, we need to take time and reach out and be active in our social communities. There are members in the 2SLGBTQ+ community that had to give up their social and family circles to live as their authentic selves. Their only support is their work community or union family and might in this difficult time, be very alone and need for someone to reach out and see how they are doing. Let them know that they are still apart of a community, they are missed and not alone.

This is also a time when you can learn about and how to support the community. Learn about the 2SLGBTQ+ acronym, about the letters and the umbrella terms that fall from those. Watch a 2SLGBTQ+ documentary or movie. Check out resources from your 2SLGBTQ+ community resource centre. Support and attend a Two-Spirit Pow-Wow. Be an activist, reach out, learn and support how ever you can.

As we are all family, sometimes we need our family members to just be there and be supportive until we are ready and feel safe before we can be our authentic selves.

Chris Little-Gagne
National Equity Representative  for LGBTQ2+
Union of National Employees

References:

www.unfe.org

https://twosofttwohard.com/

https://www.history.com/topics/gay-rights/the-stonewall-riots

https://www.cbc.ca/arts/the-fruit-machine-why-every-canadian-should-learn-about-this-country-s-gay-purge-1.4678718

www.egale.ca

www.ilga.org

 

 

PSAC remains committed to ending Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

May 17th is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. The date of May 17th was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. Today, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) recommits itself to fighting against the oppression, discrimination and harassment faced by the LGBTQ2+ community.

This year’s theme is ‘BREAKING THE SILENCE’; to speak up, speak out and take up space, because the voices, stories and lived realities of the LGBTQ2+ communities matter!

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, non-binary and two-spirit people continue to face discrimination, violence and harassment at work, in the community and in their daily lives. This is exacerbated for members of the LGBTQ2+ from further marginalized communities such as black, racialized, immigrant, living with disabilities and Indigenous.  PSAC stands in solidarity with our LGBTQ2+ workers in creating workplaces that are free from homophobia, transphobia and biphobia and work towards policies and initiatives that address:

PSAC remains committed to:

  • Fighting for the inclusion of HIV prevention medication and gender-affirming hormone therapies in extended health plans
  • Advocating for gender inclusive washrooms in workplaces
  • Providing education and raising awareness on being an ally to our LGBTQ2+ siblings (Take a look at our guide on Building Trans-Inclusive Workplaces)
  • Advocating for the recognition and inclusion of the LGBTQ2+ community in the Employment Equity Act
  • Bringing issues affecting LGBTQ2+ workers to the bargaining table

We all have a role to play to ensure LGBTQ2+ people feel safe and can participate fully as they are in society and in their workplaces. PSAC will continue to work towards breaking down barriers and making equity and equality a reality, because LGBTQ2+ rights are human rights!

Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on the Asian community

May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada, dedicated to celebrating the contributions of Canadians of Asian ancestry. But this year, it is an opportunity to understand some of the challenges faced by racialized people of Asian descent in the context of the global pandemic.

East Asians face a new wave of racist incidents

Racism in Canada has reared its ugly head once again with the COVID-19 pandemic—understood to have first emerged in China—serving as a catalyst.

Similar to what happened during the 2003 SARS outbreak, anti-Asian racism has been on the rise all across Canada since this current pandemic first emerged. Reports from people of Asian heritage living across the country have revealed various kinds of harassment as they go about their lives in their communities and workplaces — from experiencing racial tirades to physical assaults to front-line health care workers experiencing racism even as they try to save lives.

poll in Canadas’ three largest cities found that 1 in 5 people felt unsafe sitting next to an Asian person on a bus. In Quebec, the rise of harassment incidents directed at people of Asian background has led the province’s Human Rights Commission to warn that “the pandemic must not be a justification for any form of discrimination.”

More recently, anti-Asian racism was shown by a federal Conservative leadership contender, MP Derek Sloan, who publicly questioned whether the country’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, who is of Asian descent, is “working for China” rather than Canada and calling for her dismissal to keep Canada “sovereign.” Although the Prime Minister was quick to condemn the remarks as racist, the Conservative Party leader, Andrew Scheer, and other contenders for the party’s leadership all refused to condemn them.

To address anti-Asian racism, the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice was forced to launch its Stop the Spread campaign to counter rampant misinformation found across the internet. A similar campaign has also been launched by the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations.

PSAC calls on the federal government to urgently increase support, including through new public funding, for anti-Asian racism initiatives and to swiftly condemn incidents of anti-Asian racism. 

South Asians at higher health and financial risk from COVID-19

South Asian people are more vulnerable to COVID-19 because they have higher rates of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, which puts them at higher risk for health complications. Moreover, many Asians, including South Asians, live in multi-generational households, meaning elderly members are at higher risk of exposure to the virus.

Asian people, like other racialized people, also tend to be over-represented in precarious employment in the health, transport and service industries, which involve coming into close contact with the public during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, to date there has been no disaggregated race-based data (i.e., data with subcategories of race, such as South Asian) collected in Canada on those who test positive for COVID-19 or those who die from it, and health authorities have shown little interest in starting to collect and publish such information. In Ontario, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health dismissed calls to do so despite pressure from various public health associations. Yet, preliminary research from the United Kingdom reveals that South Asians—along with other minority groups—are dying of COVID-19 at a higher rate.

Thankfully, Toronto Public Health has initiated its own data collection during the pandemic, which will include race-based data. As stated by Toronto Board of Health chair Joe Cressy, “It’s absolutely essential, as it has always been, that we have comprehensive data to fully understand and in turn respond to COVID-19. In the absence of appropriate disaggregated race-based data, we cannot properly respond.”

Moreover, with jobs vanishing quickly, many South Asians are now facing economic crisis. For instance, an April 2020 national survey by the Association for Canadian Studies revealed that South Asians are among the mostly likely to be financially affected by the pandemic—experiencing income loss and difficulties with paying bills and making rent.

PSAC calls on all Canadian governments to urgently begin the collection of disaggregated race-based data to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on racialized communities and ensured adequate interventions are made available. 

Speak up and support one another 

PSAC reminds all members, including those of Asian descent, that they can count on their union to fully support them if they experience racism in their workplace. Moreover, PSAC encourages all members to be vigilant at work and speak out against racist views and actions.

The origin of Asian Heritage Month

Asian Heritage Month has been celebrated in many communities across Canada since the 1990s. In December 2001, Senator Vivienne Poy, an accomplished Canadian of Asian heritage, proposed a motion that was adopted by the Senate of Canada, designating May as Asian Heritage Month nationally. In May 2002, the Government of Canada signed an official declaration to designate May as Asian Heritage Month.

 

Source: http://psacunion.ca/understanding-impact-covid-19-asian-community

April 17 – Equality Day in Canada

Every human being is entitled to the same fundamental human rights: the right to live free from torture, the right to live free from slavery, the right to own property, the right to equality and dignity, and to live free from all forms of discrimination etc. just to name few among others.

If all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, why are we still fighting against discrimination, racism, inequal pay and gender inequality? Why are we still fighting against social and economic inequalities deep rooted in some communities in this country?

Well! Should we say Equality or Inequality Day instead? Well, let’s see, shall we?

Tomorrow will be Equality Day in Canada. We celebrate Equality Day every April 17 to mark the coming into force of the equality provisions in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter was signed on April 17, 1982. However, Section 15 of the Charter on Equality Rights and Freedoms for all without discrimination, was implemented on April 17, 1985, three years later. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom is here to protect all Canadian’s fundamental rights. Well, easy said than done!

The reality is, many decades later after this great breakthrough, we are still talking in this country about gender inequality: Canadian women still face major income inequality – gender pay gap between women and men. For example, in 2017, on average, women earned between 64 cents and 79 cents for every $1 that men earned. The pay gap is even wider for racialized women, immigrant and migrant workers, indigenous women, women with disabilities and LGBTQ2+ people.

Research also shows that there is a growing gap between the rich and the poor in Canada. Nonetheless, 35 years later, we are still fighting to address gender-based violence towards girls and women, fighting for equal opportunity in our workplaces and fighting against all forms of discrimination and racist behaviors! In addition, and surprisingly some communities are still fighting to have their basic needs met such as clean water, medical accessibility etc.

Yes, the implementation of the section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the rights for equality was a touchstone in Canadian history. It is one of our country’s greatest accomplishments and widely admired around the globe! As Canadian, this is one of the things I proudly brag about. However, have we reached the rights to equality and dignity goals? No! It is work in progress! Let’s admit it, there is still much work that needs to be done at home before reaching full equality rights in all areas in our society, workplaces and community at large.

Brothers, Sisters and fellow activists, today, April 17, is Equality Day in Canada. Let’s celebrate! However, every day should be Equality Day because every day we need to fight against the systemic inequality we experience or witness. In doing so, we reaffirm our commitment to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We don’t need a special day to promote or to defend our rights for equality. Let’s reflect today on the right to equality, its role in our society, and what we can do to promote and protect those rights. In conclusion, calling April 17, Equality or Inequality day in Canada, is up to you and me. Happy reading!

Céline Ahodekon
UNE Steward of Local 20278 & PSAC-BC Secretary for the Lower Mainland Human Rights Committee

Sources:

 

 

 

 

 

International Women’s Day 2020

What if we started this International Women’s Day deciding that we as women will be each other’s ally? That we support each other, we rally for each other and just be kind. From there we can try to understand where we are each coming from and the journey we are taking.

As young girls we learn to complete with each other, though for most of us it was not always in a health way. So, let’s relearn to complete, challenge each other and still be colleagues and celebrate the success of other women as it is not a reflection of our defeat.

Let’s learn to build networks and mentorships to help women succeed. Find ways to better connect women together to share our knowledge and history so this important information is not lost. Development of a networks where we can store and access information to support women’s ideas, goals and to be able to better strategize and plan. We need to start looking more future forward with strategic planning on where we are going.

It’s 2020 and yes, we are still fighting for basic human rights! Fighting that the victim is not to be blamed, clothes are just that clothes, NO means NO! and silence is not consent and women are not asking for it. Yes, these are still what women face and what we are still stand together strong fighting for!

2020 International Women’s Day slogan says, “We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society.”

Let’s in 2020 go out and show society that for all women today this to be true! That we will no longer be quiet, that we will no longer ask for what we are entitled to, that what we are here to do is: Step out of line ladies. Step out of line for equality.

Diana Walker
UNE National Equity Representative for Women

Black History Month – Celebrating our Members: Celine Ahodekon

February 7, 2020

Celine works for Parks Canada at the Fort Langley National Historic Site as a heritage presenter, telling visitors about our shared history – something she is very passionate about.

Celine has been very active within her component and local and has held many positions, including serving on the Parks Canada bargaining team and as the equity representative for racialized members for the Union of National Employees (UNE). She sat on the organizing committee of PSAC BC’s first ever conference for racially visible members. Celine is also involved in her local PSAC BC Area Council and Human Rights Committee, where she is currently busy helping to organize a Black History Month celebration in Abbotsford, BC.

We asked Celine why she felt Black History Month was important and she explained: “We still have much more work to do in order to create a society where everyone feels equal. Having Black History Month is one way to remember, teach and learn about Black people’s contributions to the economy, politics and social life in Canada.”

Source: PSAC Website