Black History Month
It has been a year since the Truth and Reconciliation Report was released. Within that year we have voted in a new government, one that promised action and to make strides towards reconciliation.
But as we see the crises continues. Boil water orders are still in place for many aboriginal communities. Schools are massively in need of funding and infrastructure updates. We saw the emergence of the suicide crises come to light in the media in the Attawapiskat First Nation and yet this issue goes unaddressed. They are looked at for a minute then once again ignored.
How can we eliminate these conditions in our very own country? We cannot do it by continuing to turn a blind eye or throw our hands up saying it isn’t our problem to fix.
We have to understand colonialism to begin to understand the system barriers that are still strong today.
In order to understand the systemic barriers in place, please take some time to watch the following video on Colonialism.
Justice for Aboriginal People: It’s Time https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5DrXZUIinU
Justice pour les peuples autochtones – Voyons-y! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMuJQjlU5KY&feature=youtu.be
I encourage each one of you on June 21st to attend or participate in a National Aboriginal Day Celebration in your area, learn about the issues and how you can help.
Let’s continue to be diligent with each other and hold the Government to account on the recommendations stemming from the Truth and Reconciliation Report as well as their commitments to the Indigenous Communities.
National Vice President – Equity
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
Chief Seattle, 1854
May is Asian Heritage Month
Sister Jeannine Nguyen is a member of the GSU Equity Committee. She volunteered to provide information on Asian Heritage Month for the GSU website. When I invited her to share a personal quote to include with the information article Sister Nguyen was gracious enough to share with all of us her family’s story.
As your locals or workplace’s recognize Asian Heritage Month in May, please take the time to not only learn about the celebrations and traditions of another culture, but to learn of the rich history.
Thank you Sister for allowing us to share your story.
Lori Walton, Chair GSU Equity Committee
My dad was one of the 60, 000 refugees who came to Canada by boat. My parents made the heart wrenching decision to split our family of 5 into two. My parents made the decision that my dad and older sister would accompany my dad on this risky endeavour in hopes of a better life for the family. My dad chose my older sister because my little sister was too young, and I had my grandmother who could help take care of me. My dad and older sister boarded the boat on the 5th of July 1979 at 2 am but due to the rainstorm that early morning, the boat had to make a stop near the Island to Thanh Ang. The boat was approximately 12 meters in length and 2 meters wide and had 105 people on board. My mom, little sister and I were left in Vietnam. I can’t begin to imagine what my parents went through, the thought of my dad and sister perishing in the the Pacific ocean crossed my mom’s mind many times.
There was an incident on the boat where the maintenance people mistakenly put water in the oil containers at night. When they went to refuel, they realized it was water and not gasoline and luckily did not refuel with it. They emptied the water into the ocean and used the containers to hold gasoline, which meant they had no water to drink for 3 days. They would catch rain water and used it for drinking. Food was scarce and they had to use salt water from the ocean to cook rice, which they did not eat much of. Only on the 3rd day out at sea did they see the peak of a mountain. This signalled an island is close by. After another day at sea, they made their way to one of the Indonesian Islands. When they landed, they were greeted by locals who provided them with water and some food. The police were notified and later moved the refugees to different towns and then to an isolated Island to keep the refugees for 3 months. Passing by the area was the French ship The Luminaire that was patrolling the area for refugees. They notified the UN and were brought onto a ship that transferred all the Vietnamese refugees to the Galang Refugee Camp on the Island of Galang.
Several months later, my dad and sister were interviewed by Canada and were later provided the Visas to enter Canada. They arrived in Canada on January 17th, 1980 in CFB Edmonton. After that they were moved to a CFB in Montreal. From Montreal they migrated to Val d’Or. My dad and sister were the first refugees hosted by that city. Only when my dad arrived in Val d’Or did he send the first telegram to my mom informing of their safe arrival to Canada and they’re alive. They stayed there for a few months, learned some French and then moved to Calgary in June 1980. My dad sponsored us and we arrived in October 1982.
My dad had the opportunity to go to California through sponsorship from family but did not choose the US. It would have taken longer to sponsor the rest of the family over in the US. My dad chose Canada because it’s a peaceful country. Although cold in the winter, the weather did not play any part in his decision to choose Canada. He wanted to secure his children’s future and give them the best opportunities in life, and Canada would allow that
This story means more to me as I get older and as I recognize the many contributions and sacrifices my dad and many other refugees made in hopes of a better life. For Canada to recognize this and designate May as Asian Heritage Month, it reaffirms my dad made the right choice to choose Canada. We all contribute to Canada not matter where we are from.
President GSU Local 30401
GSU Equity Committee Member
February is Black History Month
People, Workplaces, Labour Organizations, Communities, need to take pause to remember, celebrate, and to recognize Black History Month.
2016 Theme – Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories
In December 1995, the Parliament of Canada officially recognized February as Black History Month, following a motion introduced by the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament, the Honourable Jean Augustine, MP of Etobicoke-Lakeshore.
In February 2008, Senator Donald Oliver, the first black man appointed to the Senate, introduced a motion to have the Senate officially recognize February as Black History Month. It received unanimous approval and was adopted on March 4, 2008. The adoption of this motion completed Canada’s parliamentary position on Black History Month. Senator Anne Cools was the first black woman to be appointed to the Senate.
In 2011 Sister Sharon DeSousa, and Brother Larry Rousseau were elected as REVPs. They were the first Racially Visible members of PSAC to sit on the PSAC National Board of Directors.
Visit these sites to learn more about the Black History Month:
A Brief History of Employment Equity in Canada
Historica Canada – Black History Canada
It is time to celebrate the Black History Month, but let us not forget the work that still needs to be done.
Sister Souad (Sue) Soubra
GSU Equity Committee Member
October is Women’s History Month, it is a time to remember and celebrate the achievements and gains for women in our society. Please take the time to look at the Status of Women Website (http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/commemoration/whm-mhf/index-en.html) and look at the capsule section to see some prominent women throughout Canadian history.
October 11th is the International Day of the Girl, which brings awareness and support to girls around the world to ensure they have the education and support they need to make their futures brighter.
October 18th is Persons Day, the day that Canadian Women were finally recognized as Persons under the British North American Act (http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/commemoration/pd-jp/index-en.html).
And the most important day of all follows Persons Day rightly so, October 19th is Election Day.
Since the Conservative Government has been in power Women rights and gains have been under attack. As we should be celebrating and recognizing the rights and gains we have won over the years, this government has been eroding our rights.
2006 – Eliminated the planned National Child Care Program and all bilateral agreements with provinces were cancelled; Closed 12 out of 16 Status of Women offices; Eliminated funding to women’s groups doing research, advocacy, and lobbying; Eliminated funding for the Court Challenges Program.
2009 – Bill C-10 the omnibus budget implementation legislation which undermined the pay equity rights of federal workers and their right to be represented by their union for pay equity complaints.
2010 – Cut funding for the Sisters in Spirit database which kept track of our Stolen Sisters (Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women).
2012 – Cut funding for the Women’s Health Contribution Program.
With the erosion of Women’s rights under the Conservative Government over the last 9 years it is time for change. We must re-invest in our future, the future of our mothers, daughters and sisters.
Get out to the polls in great numbers, encourage those around you to vote, we must reclaim our gains, reclaim our rights and rebuild the kind of country we wish for our children and grandchildren in the future.
We want women leaders today as never before. Leaders who are not afraid to be called names and who are willing to go out and fight. I think Women can save civilization. Women are persons.
Emily Murphy – 1931
International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT)
The 2015 Global theme for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is LGBT Youth.
This past year I have personally heard from 3 friends who have Trans children who are facing Transphobia within their own school systems. Fighting for their child’s right to be safe and secure when attending school and in particular doing something we take for granted, using the bathroom. Being a kid is difficult enough, being a Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual kid is even more difficult, but being a Trans kid… well it is a whole different ball game.
Education and Understanding goes a long way to fight Homophobia and Transphobia, so let’s first take a look at some terminology.
What is Homophobia?
Homophobia refers to a fear and hatred of gays and lesbians. Homophobia ranges from derogatory comments, to harassment, to violence (gay bashing), to silencing (‘as long as they don’t talk about it’, etc.) to denial of human rights. Homophobia is also described as the fear of feeling love for members of one’s own sex, and therefore the hatred of those feelings in others.
What is Transphobia?
Transphobia is the unrealistic or irrational fear and hatred of cross-dressers, transsexuals and transgender people. Like all prejudices, it is based on negative stereotypes and misconceptions that are then used to justify and support hatred, discrimination, harassment and violence towards Trans people.
A lot of people harbour phobias towards Trans persons. This is for many reasons but it isn’t helped by the media reporting on the Conservative amendments of Bill C-279, sensationalizing the bill and perverting it from its true intention. Instead they are focusing and misinforming the public if the bill passed as it was written it would allow for men to prey on women and children in the women’s washrooms. The “men” they are referring to are not men at all, that they are purposely misgendering trans people to further their political aims.
Bill C-279 as original written, has been before Parliament for years now and essentially is asking for wording to be added to the Canadian Human Rights Act to protect Trans people of Canada. The conservative government is largely playing on the fears of the Canadians who do not understand what this bill is actually seeking. The government is hoping to convince the general public that this would be disastrous for the Canadian public if it went through. Ironically they are trying to detract from the simple fact that Transphobia exists, as they are clearly demonstrating Transphobia themselves. They are trying to distract from the fact that Human Rights for Trans people needs to be included and protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
To help show how absurd it is that they government is seeking to amend the Bill to have Trans people use the bathroom of the gender they were born. Below are pictures from the United States where in several states the law says they must use the bathrooms of their birth gender.
Now I ask you, who is more at risk here? Does it not make sense to allow people to use the bathroom they are most comfortable in? Where they wouldn’t be at risk for verbal or physical abuse by others who use those washrooms?
In 2013 in the Treasury Board TC Group Bargaining Team fought for and won the inclusion of Gender Identity and Expression under the No Discrimination Clause of their collective agreement. The current bargaining groups are working on getting the same language included. As a union we are taking steps to make this right for our Trans members while we wait for the government to pass this bill. We also need your voices to your MPs to scrap the “bathroom” amendment and put bill C-279 through as originally intended.
As for the “bathroom” issue; sometimes people just really need to pee, there is no ulterior motive.
Let’s work together to make a better, safer and more inclusive Canada for our LGBT youth.
“All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and
supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.” ― Harvey Milk
I look forward to any questions or feedback on this article. I have given lunch and learns on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in conjunction with employers, the PSAC and local resources and would be happy to help you do something similar if you wish within your own local workplaces. Contact me at email@example.com
Sisters and Brothers,
I encourage you to participate in the International Day of Pink, tomorrow, April 8, 2015. On this day, we invite Canadians to wear a pink shirt to send a message that homophobia, transphobia, harassment and bullying are wrong and will not be tolerated.
Day of Pink began in 2007, as an initiative started by two students in Nova Scotia. These students organized others at their school to wear pink to show their support for a Grade 9 boy who was being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. The action quickly caught on and has spread to schools and workplaces across Canada and beyond.
What you can do:
Share our #nobully graphics with your social media networks.
Use the following key messages:
– #nobully—Wear a pink shirt today to show solidarity and send a message that homophobia and transphobia are wrong and cruel and should never be tolerated in the workplace, school or union.
– #enoughisenough—Bullying and harassment make our workplaces unsafe. It’s time to create a new culture of acceptance and inclusion.
March 21st is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It is a day to challenge racism and explore our own biases, to explore and challenge stereotypes that we may have and not be consciously aware of them. I encourage you to look at the images on the following website http://www.un.org/en/letsfightracism/ for examples of this.
Recently in Canada we are seeing an increase of Isalmophobia. You hear it in conversations on the bus, read it in the comments section of our newspapers, hear the unspoken references in Political addresses, and see it in decisions impacting immigration ceremonies. You cannot judge all people of a certain race a certain way, please challenge those who do. We must stand up against racial discrimination in all of its forms.
Please post the attached poster on your union boards, reach out to your members who may be experiencing this form of racial discrimination and ask how we can help.
“You can’t hate the roots of a tree and not hate the tree.” Malcolm X
People, Communities, Workplaces, Labour Organizations and businesses across the country are celebrating Black History Month in February. It is a month to take pause, remember the gains of the Civil Rights Movement, celebrate the community and culture, and recognize the contributions of African Canadian people.
For me it is a learning experience. By participating in the various events and celebrations that will take place I am reminded to consider, as an activist, the realities that are not mine. Black History Month workshops and events will be an opportunity to explore the notion of White Privilege. To try to understand and fight against the systemic discrimination, racism and barriers that still exist. Our Black Brothers and Sisters have a rich history and heritage, vastly diverse in its own right.
You need only to look to the east coast of Canada, where in recent years they have seen cross burnings, black effigies with nooses and racial slurs spray painted across businesses. Racism is alive and well.
Within our workplaces and even our union racism still exists. It has taken on a different look, it isn’t as overt. If you have the opportunity to take Anti-Oppression training, I would thoroughly encourage you to do so. If you ever wonder why we have Employment Equity laws, this will help you understand and see beyond your own privilege how others live every day by simply being seen as black.
The National Film Board has an excellent education page for Black History Month 2015 you can view it in English at https://www.nfb.ca/education/virtual-classrooms/black_history_month_2015_virtual_classroom or a good resource in French is at Radio-Canada http://ici.radio-canada.ca/emissions/grands_lacs_cafe/2014-2015/chronique.asp?idChronique=327867
Yes Black History Month is a time to celebrate, but let us not forget the work that still needs to be done.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. –
Martin Luther King Jr
*White Privilege see “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”; P. McIntosh 1998
December 10th is World Human Rights Day. Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on December 10th. It commemorates the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Here in Canada our Human Rights are being attack as never before. The Conservative government is trying to limit our rights to bargain and organize workers. The government is stalling on the implementation of an inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women.
I would encourage all union leaders, activists and members of GSU to get out to an equity event, learn about the issues, the struggles and the accomplishments of those who are part of those equity groups.
Human Rights and inequality are immense challenges to overcome; sometimes you feel as if you are just one voice, what can one person do?
Become the spark.
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples” – Mother Teresa
November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honour Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th in 1998 prompted the beginning of a web project entitled “Remembering Our Dead” followed by a candlelight vigil that was held in San Francisco in 1999.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, and it is a day when we publicly mourn and honour the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten.
Since its inception Transgender Day of Remembrance has been held annually on November 20, with over 185 cities across 20 countries honouring members of the community that have been victims of Transphobia. It also represents the final day of Transgender Awareness Week, a series of events to provide educational opportunities to raise awareness about the transgender community as well as the issues they face.
Last year I was in Toronto with other Equity Activists from across the country for the PSAC Equity Conference. This was the first time I attended a Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil. A group of us from the PSAC LGBT Community and some PSAC Allies went to Church Street and attended a moving night of spoken word, performances, and tributes honouring and remembering those from the Transgendered community who had lost their lives. Those individuals are all too often forgotten.
I encourage you to get out to a Trans Day of Remembrance service in your area. Identify yourself as being a union activist wishing to show your support; the community would be welcoming and thankful.
For further information about Transgender Day of Remembrance as well as a listing of global events, please visit http://www.transgenderdor.org.
Solidarity, Brothers and Sisters, is sometimes learning a new point of view.
October is Women’s History Month.
In order for us to fully appreciate and celebrate the significance of this event we must remember the sacrifices and gains women have made over the past 100 years, and the inequality that still exists.
During the First World War women were valued enough to enter the workforce, however, not all women had equal access to work – employers preferred single women and clearly stated that “Mothers and wives need not apply”. Because of this need, combined with the actions and demonstrations by the Women’s Suffrage Movement, “White Women” gained the right to vote federally in 1918. But still it was not until 1929 that White Women were finally recognized as persons by the British North American Act.
With the outbreak of the Second World War woman’s labour was once again needed for wartime production in factories, shipyards and ammunitions plants. At first only single women were recruited but as demands for wartime production grew, childless married women and then women with children were also recruited.
Almost 30 years after White Women got the vote Racially Visible Women finally gained the right in 1948. But for Aboriginal Women it was a different story. They were allowed to vote in 1951 but only if the Woman was willing to give up her aboriginal identity. It wasn’t until 1960 that an Aboriginal Woman could vote without having to give up her heritage, status or identity. A full 40 years after their white sisters got the vote.
It was only in 1952 that restrictions on married Women in the federal public services were removed. In the past, Women public service employees were fired upon marriage. Before 1971 Women in the Military had to quit their job in order to get married and it wasn’t until 1974 that the RCMP allowed Women to join their ranks.
In 1991 the Canadian Human Rights Commission used a joint study as the basis for assessing pay equity complaints. The Final Report of the joint study found Women are underpaid. PSAC fought for and won pay equity for our members and in October of 1999, a tribunal order resulted in a pay-out of approximately $3.5 billion in retroactive pay equity adjustments for over 200,000 current and former members in Treasury Board Bargaining Units. And as recently as 2011 Canada Post was finally forced to process pay equity for female employees after a 30 year battle.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month in our workplaces and communities let us not forget the sacrifices our fore-mothers have made for us, the struggles that still exist and the fights that lie ahead.
Equity and Equality have still not been achieved, the fight continues. Women in Canada make 74% of what men make in comparable jobs. If you are a racially visible women that drops to 64.8%. And shockingly if you are an Aboriginal Woman it drastically drops to an appalling 46%.
For more information on Women in the PSAC click here to access: PSAC’s HERstory which outlines timelines of our gains and fights over the past 40 years in our union.
Celebrate the Sisters in your local, Celebrate Women’s History Month.