The Alberta Federation of Labour is marking National Aboriginal Solidarity Day by strengthening its commitment to promoting aboriginal involvement in the labour movement.
"For years now, aboriginal people have faced discrimination in the workplace and in the broader community," says Barb Ames, one of two newly-elected aboriginal representatives on the AFL's Executive Council.
"Unfortunately, up until recently, the labour movement has also been guilty of not doing enough to open doors for aboriginal people. We've failed to give them a real seat at the table. The good news is that's all changing."
At the AFL's recent convention, delegates from dozens of different unions voted unanimously to create two new positions on the AFL's Executive Council to represent aboriginal workers. Aboriginal caucus meetings will also now be held at every major AFL event.
"This is the beginning of a new and on-going commitment on behalf of the Alberta labour movement," says Ames. "We will be reaching out to the aboriginal community in an effort to find out how unions and aboriginal people can work together to promote justice and provide opportunity for aboriginals in the workplace."
The work of building bridges between unions and the aboriginal community has already begun. In March, the AFL held a meeting with aboriginal leaders and workers on the Enoch reserve south of Edmonton. Similar meetings - aimed at identifying common concerns and possible areas for cooperation - will be held across the province over the next year.
As a concrete example of the labour movement's commitment to working with the aboriginal community, Ames says she and the AFL will help lobby provincial and federal governments to designate National Aboriginal Solidarity Day (June 21) as an official holiday.
"The goal of having an Aboriginal Solidarity Day was to celebrate the contributions of aboriginal people and promote a better understanding of aboriginal culture and concerns," says Ames. "But without designating it as an official holiday, the day won't get the attention it deserves. If the government is serious about encouraging non-Aboriginal people to think about aboriginal issues, then they should consider making June 21 a formal holiday - a day on which all Canadians can focus on the history, culture and problems faced by aboriginal people. "
For more information call:
Barb Ames, Aboriginal Vice President, AFL Executive Council (403) 246-7144