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Ontario's Union for fairness, equality and respect at work.

Local 1006A members came out in force to the 2019 Canada National Indigenous People Day Conference.

“The union is stronger when all people are recognized…and not just from a collective agreement aspect but from a cultural aspect,” said Lorrie Russell, who works at Joe’s No Frills.

Members of the indigenous community came together with allies and leaders for the two-day conference, which focused on reconciliation and solidarity through community activism and member engagement. Participants heard from UFCW Canada President Paul Meinema, the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, Chief Johl Whiteduck Ringuette, the Ontario Native Women’s Association, Elders Andrew Wesley and Eric Flett.

Members also visited the Wandering Spirit School, Ashbridges Bay Gardens for a Food Sovereignty Tour, and the Anishnawbe Health Centre.

"The traditions, culture and history of Canada’s indigenous people make our union, communities and country stronger,” said President Wayne Hanley. “We are proud to stand with our members from the indigenous community helping to raise awareness and paving the path for justice and true reconciliation. We all have a role to play in taking action to end prejudice and discrimination, and in eliminating violence against Indigenous women and girls."

The National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls recently released a report stating: "We do know that thousands of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) have been lost to the Canadian genocide to date.”

The CBC notes: "The report, obtained by CBC News and verified by sources, concludes that a genocide driven by the disproportionate level of violence faced by Indigenous women and girls occurred in Canada through "state actions and inactions rooted in colonialism and colonial ideologies.”

Members said they learned a lot at the conference.

“It’s important for the union to participate in events like this because it builds understanding, unity and strength,” said Sandy Bissonete, a 1006A member from Manitoulin Hotel & Conference Centre.

“I wanted to attend this conference because I wanted to connect with indigenous people from across Canada,” said Shane Morse, a 1006A member from No Frills. “The union is one of the greatest resources to bring communities, workplaces, governments together to address issues."

“I learned and gained more knowledge about my culture and ways to improve mental health,” said Heaven Southwind, a 1006A member from Townplace Suites.

“Events like these allows us to come together as a union, to know how each of us lives – it also gives us an opportunity to get to know each other personally,” said Autumn Abotossaway, a 1006A member from Manitoulin Hotel & Conference Centre.

The CBC notes the report makes the following recommendations to all Canadians:

  • Denounce and speak out against violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
  • Decolonize by learning the true history of Canada and Indigenous history in your local area.
  • Develop knowledge and read the final report.
  • Using what you have learned and some of the resources suggested, become a strong ally … actively working to break down barriers and to support others in every relationship and encounter in which you participate.
  • Confront and speak out against racism, sexism, ignorance, homophobia, and transphobia, and teach or encourage others to do the same, wherever it occurs, in your home, in your workplace, or in social settings.
  • Protect, support, and promote the safety of women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people by acknowledging and respecting the value of every person and every community, as well as the right of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people to generate their own, self-determined solutions.
  • Create time and space for relationships based on respect as human beings, supporting and embracing differences with kindness, love, and respect. Learn about Indigenous principles of relationship specific to those Nations or communities in your local area and work, and put them into practice in all of your relationships with Indigenous Peoples.
  • Help hold all governments accountable to act on the Calls for Justice, and to implement them according to the important principles we set.