Black History is a story of hope, courage and perseverance in the face of adversity


OPSEU's commitment to equity issues and international solidarity makes me proud to be president of this union. Our members are known as outspoken activists for social justice in our communities and province. Politicians are very familiar with our persistent call for them to stand up for what is right.

As we move into February, Black History month, I want to personally congratulate all of the OPSEU activists who work so hard as advocates and agents of change in our Workers of Colour Caucus. OPSEU's Equity Committees are a powerful force in our union, and we can all enjoy celebrating the success of our members who work tirelessly to further the cause of equity issues, so that our union can champion and represent the interests of all.

February is a call for collective celebration. This is an opportunity to share untold histories – stories of freedom, courage, democratic conviction; stories of generations who sat in, stood up, spoke up, marched, occupied; stories of people who risked everything in the struggle for fundamental rights.

The struggle for racial justice is not over. According to recent census data, 16.2% of Canada"s total population are racialized—that is, more than five million people. However, census data show that racialized communities have higher unemployment rates than non-racialized communities. In fact, the unemployment rate for racialized workers who identify as black is 73% higher than non-racialized Canadians. Both racialized women and men are over-represented in a range of traditionally low-paying, insecure and precarious businesses ranging from call centres to security services to janitorial services. Racialized workers are generally more educated than their non-racialized counter-parts, yet still face higher unemployment and lower income levels. 

These facts and statistics underline the continued urgency of the call for racial justice locally, provincially and throughout Canada.

This month provides an important opportunity to recognize the significant contributions of racialized Canadians, past and present, who have fought for change and exemplify integrity, vision and collective models of leadership. The struggles of racialized peoples are those of all working people. Leaders in the fight against racial injustice are also leaders for all of us. Their contributions to human rights and racial justice have transformed systems of inequality, racism and poverty.

As a union, we are all part of this struggle and stand in solidarity with the full diversity of our membership.

In solidarity,

Smokey Thomas

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