Unions reach out to aboriginal community on Day to Eliminate Racism

ENOCH - The Alberta Federation of Labour is marking March 21, the United Nations Day for the Elimination of Racism, with a special workshop aimed at building bridges between unions and the aboriginal community.

The workshop will be held today, Friday March 21, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Enoch Cree Nation Arena on the Enoch Reserve south of Edmonton.

"The unfortunate reality in Canada today is that aboriginal people are marginalized and excluded from full participation in our society, our economy - and even our unions," says AFL Secretary Treasurer Kerry Barrett.

"That's why our human rights committee has decided to organize this workshop. We want to build bridges and foster understanding - so that unions can develop a deeper appreciation for aboriginal issues and concerns; and so that the aboriginal community can see unions as partners in the fight for economic and social justice."

The workshop will be divided into two main sections. First, union and aboriginal representatives will explain the history, priorities and concerns of their respective communities. Then the discussion will turn to strategies for cooperation between unions and aboriginal groups.

At the end of the day, the goal is to identify a number of concrete steps that can be taken to increase aboriginal involvement and representation within the labour movement.

"The labour movement wants to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to the fight against racism and discrimination," says Barrett. "Ultimately, we would like to see a Canadian society that is completely free of discrimination - in which all people have equal opportunities and representation regardless of the colour of their skin. But the first step is to take action within our own organizations."

Barrett says efforts to build bridges between different communities are particularly important in light of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

"The Americans are sending the message that aggression is the answer to conflict - and that harmonious relations can be enforced by an iron fist. We, on the other hand, think that the best way to reduce tensions between groups is to build bridges and foster understanding. That's what this workshop is all about."

For more information call:

Kerry Barrett, AFL Secretary Treasurer @ 780-720-8945 (cell)

Gil McGowan, AFL Communications @ 780-483-3021 (wk)

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