PSAC Prairies 2013 Regional Women’s Conference: Telling Our Stories

More than 60 union women traveled to Banff for the PSAC Prairies Regional Women’s Conference, held May 3-5 at the Banff Centre. All materials distributed to Conference delegates are available online, along with Conference Chair Nancy Johnson’s report.

More than 60 union women traveled to Banff for the PSAC Prairies Regional Women’s Conference, held May 3-5 at the Banff Centre. All materials distributed to Conference delegates are available online, along with Conference Chair Nancy Johnson’s report. Scroll to the bottom of this page to view the Conference photo gallery.

The conference theme, “Telling Our Stories”, encouraged conference delegates to share knowledge and experiences in an effort to move forward together and advance women’s issues.

“There was such a diversity of women with different levels of experience,” explained Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President for the PSAC Prairie Region. “Some of the women had seen the gains we’ve made within the labour movement first hand, while others never realized there was fight to achieve some of the benefits and protections we have today. There was definitely a lot of experience in the room.”

Day One:

The weekend began with registeration and a meet and greet on Friday evening, but the conference officially kicked off Saturday morning. Delegates were welcomed by Elder Cindy Daniels of Stoney/Sarcee (Tsuu T’ina) heritage.

For Daniels, culture and spirit are integral pieces of her life and she has ingrained these values in her family. “A women’s life is one of the most sacred experiences because you get to be a witness to birth and to death,” she told delegates.

Rachel Notley, MLA Edmonton-Strathcona, followed up to discuss the people who mentored her. Prior to her election, Notley pursued a legal career in labour law, workers’ compensation advocacy and workplace health and safety issues.

Notley shared a story about someone who volunteered on her campaign for the first time and within three years was running campaigns because she saw the value of going door to door and talking to people face to face.

“Don’t be afraid to do political action. Take something that really matters and convert that into political action,” she said. “Take your action beyond demonstrations to the election of candidates, then hold them accountable. We own our government.”

Following a brief presentation on privatization of the Canadian Rockies Hot Springs by Kevin King, Union of National Employees Regional Vice-President for Alberta, N.W.T. and Nunavut, delegates participated in a political action workshop. During the workshop, strategies and actions for supporting PSAC members working at the hot springs were discussed.

Following the lunch break, Shannan Little and Sherry Hunt of Agriculture Local 30048 in Lethbridge gave a fascinating presentation on the importance of social media, especially in regards to political action.

Autumn EagleSpeaker, one of the local Idle No More Calgary & Treaty 7 area organizers, took the stage next to discuss the Idle No More movement and her involvement, as well as residential schools and her mother’s personal experience. Autumn is an Aboriginal Canadian of Blackfoot heritage from the Kainai (Blood) Nation in southern Alberta.

One of the final activities of the day was the “Herstory” workshop, in which women discussed the timeline of events significant to the women’s movement. They also each shared a story of something significant to the women’s movement from their personal lives.

A banquet was held that evening with entertainment from local artists Cori Brewster and Lori Reid. The video, A Struggle to Remember: Fighting for Our Families was screened. The silent auction raised $2,000 for the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter.

Day Two:

After a brief video about political action in the Prairie Region, Jeannie Baldwin, Regional Executive Vice-President for the PSAC Atlantic Region took the stage. Baldwin is the Alliance Executive Committee (AEC) Officer responsible for Women’s Programs.

Baldwin told delegates to prepare for “the fight for our lives with the Harper government” and ensured the sisters were behind her and ready to fight. She outlined the cuts and highlighted the “We Are All Affected” campaign as an achievement, since we are all truly affected by the cuts. 

Next, Andrée Côté, PSAC Women’s and Human Rights Officer, facilitated the “Kitchen Table Conversations” workshop, a part of the Rethink Child Care campaign. She outlined why the current child care system isn’t working and asked the women in attendance to host kitchen table conversations to move the conversation forward.

Resolutions followed, with debate on issues concerning women including PSAC’s family care allowance and a national childcare program. One of the resolutions passed called on PSAC to create a domestic violence awareness course for the education of members and affiliates on the struggles of victims of domestic abuse and of approaches that can be taken to make a difference to the lives and families of members affected by domestic violence.

Hladun and Nancy Johson, Regional Women’s Committee Representative on the Prairie Region Council (PRC) and Prairies Regional Women’s Conference Chair, closed the conference and thanked attendees for their participation.

“For those who may not be connected with a Committee, it’s not just about starting to attend committee meetings,” Hladun announced. “It’s about coming forward with ideas and starting to gear up for 2015.”

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