Sandra Ahenakew Reports
On April 2nd, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) held its first-ever Indigenous Lobby Day on Parliament Hill, which was the first in Canadian labour history.
The event was co-ordinated by the (CLC) and saw more than 130 trade unionists and community allies meet with 78 Senators and Members of Parliament to discuss issues such as missing and murdered Indigenous women, safe drinking water, honouring residential school children, Indigenous education, and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
At the opening plenary for the event, we gathered for a traditional smudge ceremony and heard from CLC President Hassan Yussuff, as well as Sixties Scoop survivors and traditional elders. In addition, activists took in several dance performances and received training on effective lobbying.
The lobby day is a great example of solidarity in action, and I was thrilled to participate as the PSAC Prairie Region Indigenous Representative.
Indigenous issues across Canada were elevated with the election of Justin Trudeau in 2015, the Liberal government promised a better relationship with Indigenous Peoples in Canada. The inquiry into the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) was promised and the community of Grassy Narrows was promised a new water treatment plant.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the inquiry into MMIWG was cut short despite calls for an extension. The report from the MMIWG commission was released June 3, 2019 including 231 calls for justice.
The PSAC National Indigenous People’s Circle (NIPC) representatives decided to focus on the issue of MMIWG with The Red Dress Campaign; post cards and information sheets were created to raise the public’s awareness of the facts surrounding the inquiry. People were asked to sign post cards addressed to the Prime Minister. The NIPC representatives marched to Parliament, Centre Block, for Question Period and presented over 10,000 signed post cards to the Prime Minister in April 2018.
PSAC NIPC met October 9-11, 2019 in Ottawa; The Red Dress Campaign will continue with the focus on calling upon the Government of Canada to fully implement the Calls for Justice as recommended by the MMIWG Commission.
In addition to the Red Dress Campaign NIPC is also supporting the PSAC Thirsty for Justice Campaign. Again we are demanding that the government of Canada fulfill its commitment to build a water treatment plant in Grassy Narrows and deal with the more than 100 First Nations communities across Canada that do have safe drinking water.
In April 2019 I participated in the first ever Indigenous People’s Lobby Day organized by the Canadian Labour Congress; we lobbying MP’s and Senators on Pharmacare, Pensions and Safe Drinking Water for Indigenous Communities.
I participated in the PSAC Leadership Training for Indigenous women in Leadership; this training was inspirational and motivational. Many of the sisters who attended this training are active in NIPC and within their Locals and communities. I was honoured to be selected and continue to use the tools provided in my role as the Indigenous Representative for the PRC.
Respectfully Submitted in Solidarity,
PSAC PRC Indigenous People’s Representative.