The challenges facing Canada’s Aboriginal communities took centre stage at Unifor’s recent Convention, including emotional addresses to delegates, a march on Parliament Hill and awards given to two outstanding Aboriginal leaders.
Unifor’s Neil Reimer Award for social activism was given to Aboriginal child advocate Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the Fist Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and a Gitksan First Nation.
Blackstock called out all Canadians to recognize the underfunding of education and child welfare services for aboriginal children.
“It’s not that complex. The Canadian government has already done it for all other children in Canada, so why can’t they do it for First Nations children,” she asked. “
Unifor gave its Nelson Mandela Award to Murray Sinclair, the first Aboriginal judge appointed in Manitoba and chief commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“Reconciliation will take a long time. We need to be committed to it, and we need to persevere,” Sinclair said.
After the awards were handed out, delegates marched to Parliament Hill to demand swift action on missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, educational funding for Aboriginal children and repairs homes, public buildings and services in their communities.
Blackstock turned the stage over to several children, who introduced a music video they produced, and addressed the delegates.
“People can change, and the issues of our past should not determine our future,” said 19-year-old Mabel Toman-Harvey of Thessalon First Nation in Northern Ontario.
“Our skin tone is different, but we are all the same on the inside.”