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Since 1996, Canadians have marked National Aboriginal Day on June 21. It is a time to celebrate the cultures and contributions of the original peoples of Turtle Island. CUPE Ontario is proud to support this annual celebration and our members who organize and participate in events on this day.
Governments for many years have recognized that poverty continues to be a crisis in aboriginal communities, but have taken little action. Unemployment and precarious employment rates remain significantly higher in First Nations communities. Young people must still fight for quality education. Communities like Grassy Narrows continue to be left suffering from the health effects of horrible environmental degradation. And Stephen Harper’s Conservatives continue to block progress on the growing list of hundreds of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
We encourage all governments to take time today to consider their obligations to original peoples of Turtle Island, including basic necessities such as safe water, health care and economic sustainability.
Our union fights for fair wages and safe working conditions for all our members, and good public-sector jobs are important in supporting communities. We also have a strong history of solidarity with aboriginal peoples, of fighting racial discrimination and of working to improve the livelihood of First Peoples both within our union and throughout our province.
We applaud CUPE Ontario’s Aboriginal Council for its ongoing leadership. CUPE Ontario was the first provincial wing of the union to create a constitutionally mandated diversity vice-president representing aboriginal members on the executive board. That position is currently held by Sister Joanne Webb.
The Aboriginal Council plays an important role in outreach to Aboriginal members and communities through the attendance at Pow Wows and Aboriginal Day celebrations, as well as working collaboratively with many initiatives that seek to deal with the many challenges that Aboriginal communities face.
This year we ask members of all backgrounds to support their aboriginal sisters and brothers, particularly in helping ensure representation from their locals at conferences, such as next year’s Human Rights Conference. Through community outreach and local support, we can build a stronger Aboriginal Council, and more cohesive union and a better Ontario.
And so, as we celebrate the vibrancy and great traditions of our First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples on National Aboriginal Day, CUPE Ontario reaffirms its commitment to fight for equality, justice, full inclusion and the right to self-government for all aboriginal peoples.