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Advancing Equity in Region 6

Publication Date

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 (All day)

Local and Vocal Committee Report

On July 23, 2014, Jenny Craig, the Region 6 Provincial Human Rights Committee (PHRC) Representative, co-hosted together with Shauna Weston, the Region 6 Provincial Women’s Committee (PWC) Representative, Local & Vocal: Issues from a Northern Perspective. This focus was deliberate as the issues and challenges currently experienced in the North are unique. Issues such as demographics and the equitable access and availability of necessary supports require specifically tailored strategies.

Four Panelists spoke to a group of approximately seventeen members about the looming future of Sault Ste. Marie’s municipal daycares, LGBTTIQQ2S* as well as Sex Work & Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women. The speakers included Maria Pino and Abigail Anderson from CUPE Local 67, Sean Meades and Naomi Sayers.

Overview

The evening began with a song of welcome and a water teaching from Barbara Day of the Batchewana First Nation. Barbara shared her knowledge, affirming our collective connection to creation and the importance of reconnecting to our Mother Earth.

Maria Pino and Abigail Anderson from CUPE Local 67 spoke about the threat to municipally run Childcare Services in Sault Ste. Marie. Currently, subsidized and non-subsidized spaces are under attack due to the provincial funding formula which will be detrimental to children, parents and workers in Sault Ste. Marie. This will also undoubtedly have a negative impact on the quality of service as well as job security and deserved wages of the many devoted and hardworking employees who look after our children. There are approximately one thousand children on waiting lists for child care and if these centers are closed there is no indication of where these displaced children will go.

Sean Meades, an Instructor at York University and a former Professor at Sault College of Applied Arts, addressed the experiences of the LGBTTIQQ2S* community throughout the North and demonstrated how far along the community has come in establishing and creating safe spaces over the past six years. Sean spoke of his social justice activism and LGBT2SQ community building and noted that allies are always welcome. Sean also informed participants that the first Sault Pride Festival that is scheduled to be occurring in September; more details to follow.

Naomi Sayers discussed Sex Work and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Naomi, founder of the South Western Ontario Sex Workers, succinctly articulated how Bill C-36 Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act would classify all Sex Workers as victims, as it fails to differentiate between exploitative and non-exploitative situations. This failure will increase the violence experienced by Sex Workers, especially Indigenous Sex Workers, as it intersects with other forms of state/systemic violence and perpetuates the idea of Indigenous Women as being disposable. She also highlighted how Bill C-36 ignores and fails to be accountable to the role the state has in the creation of risks.

Conclusion

Each presentation clearly demonstrated how a single story, propagated by dominant society, fuels stereotypical images that we all accept as “normal”—images such as the overpaid unionized worker;  stereotypes held by medical professionals who conflate sexual conduct with sexual orientation; and those who negatively portray Indigenous Sex Workers as workers who require saving. Each of these single stories contributes to broad negative and harmful assumptions, creating divisions and factions within communities where there were originally none. Such single stories also amplify marginalization and perpetuate overt and covert violence.

What was heard at the Local & Vocal Panel were multiple stories and multiple realities which allowed a space for community building, raising awareness and for education.

We, as OPSEU Equity Reps, feel that our event was a success! We are motivated further to work towards similar events throughout our Region’s communities and encourage our members to get engaged! Please never hesitate to contact any one of our Region 6 Equity Reps regarding any questions, concerns, or ideas to further the cause of educating and creating positive and safe awareness amongst the union membership, and community members alike!

Thank you to all those that participated and supported this much deserved event!

Shauna Weston and Jenny Craig