An Indigenous feast kicked off the first night of the Aboriginal and Workers of Colour conference. Elders, artists and speakers from the Saugeen Nation joined in for the meal, the first of its kind for Unifor. The conference was planned to coincide with National Indigenous People’s Day.
“It is so important that we show respect for our Indigenous elders, Indigenous communities, our Union elders and that we learn from their teachings and from each other,” said Christine Maclin, Unifor Human Rights Director.
The participants enjoyed creative workshops, cultural activities, networking opportunities and challenging discussions about reconciliation and justice in workplaces, within the union and in society.
Unifor President Jerry Dias highlighted the importance of the federal election and how conservative attacks on workers have a direct impact on Indigenous and racialized communities.
“It’s the politics of division, hate, fear and isolation taking hold of mainstream politics, and driving wedges between workers, based largely on race and faith,” he said.
As part of the ‘Being an Ally’ workshop, the delegates loaded onto buses and walked with Unifor local 2458 members in the Kincardine Pride parade
“We need to be unified to end all forms of oppression and injustice and work with our allies and as allies to ensure we achieve a society where injustice to anyone is unacceptable,” said Dias.
Manitoba NDP MLA Bernadette Smith presented the blanket exercise, which is a unique, participatory history lesson about truth, understanding, respect and reconciliation among Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. It was emotional for all the delegates and ended with a smudge ceremony.