VANCOUVER— After pressure from Unifor members, transit workers across British Columbia can now show their support for residential school survivors by wearing orange on the job and can tie ribbons to bus mirrors.
“This is a grassroots campaign to demonstrate support for residential school survivors and their families,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.
Last week after requests from Unifor Locals 111 and 2200 in Metro Vancouver, Coast Mountain Bus Company (Translink) approved a five-day uniform policy exemption for orange t-shirts and ribbons.
In the community nearest the former residential school, transit operators represented by Unifor Local 114 in Kamloops felt a responsibility to extend the orange shirt campaign for all of June, which is National Indigenous History Month. The union took members’ demands to both the B.C. government and employers in an effort to make the campaign a province-wide transit initiative. On June 8, B.C. Transit issued a memo extending the uniform exemption for the entire month and Coast Mountain Bus Company followed suit on June 9.
“This is an important sign by our province’s transit operators and maintenance staff of their desire to show support for indigenous communities. During this time of grief, Unifor members are demonstrating that we can come together as British Columbians to say visibly that Every Child Matters,” said Rob Fleming, B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.
“Every child matters, and Unifor members are reminding us all of that each time we take transit. This show of support, and the donation made by Unifor and its locals, is a heartfelt commitment to ensuring that the voices of residential school survivors are never lost. As a province we join Unifor in remembering the violence the Canadian residential school system inflicted upon Indigenous children and how the consequences of these atrocities continue to this day” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Translink.
The orange tees are a symbol of the Orange Shirt Day on September 30, the annual event to honour and acknowledge the survivors of Canada’s shameful residential school system. The slogan “Every Child Matters” is a call to reform social services that have historically treated Indigenous children as less important and less valuable than non-Indigenous children.
Read Unifor’s statement on the missing children found on Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc territory. Unifor and its local unions are donating more than $20,000 to the Tk'emlúps nation.
Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.
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