Aboriginal council created, priorities set

CUPEB, 1 March 2004

KELOWNA—About 130 participants rolled up their sleeves over the weekend to found CUPE BC's aboriginal council and to exchange views on what it needs to do to give voice to CUPE's aboriginal members across British Columbia.

Passionate, is how CUPE BC president Barry O'Neill described the three-day event. I personally learned much and I know others did as well. It was truly history-making for our union.

About 100 registered delegates tackled the theme issue, Breaking the Barriers, and voted on 11 priorities for the new council. These were to:

  1. Develop and promote collective agreement language that addresses cultural differences, including traditional ceremonies;
  2. Hold a follow-up provincial aboriginal gathering;
  3. Hire First Nations representatives, including young workers, at the national and regional level and in education and communications roles;
  4. Make national Aboriginal Day a paid statutory or floating holiday;
  5. Lobby all levels of government on issues of concern to aboriginal workers;
  6. Better inform aboriginal members about the union;
  7. Help our brothers and sisters to acquire more cultural awareness;
  8. Have First Nations advocates;
  9. Ensure that hiring practices embrace aboriginal peoples;
  10. Provide and train aboriginal facilitators for union education;
  11. Informed and sensitize local union executives and staff on aboriginal issues and concerns.

A working group that organized the gathering is made up of aboriginal members and staff. They will be charged with developing the council's terms of reference and dealing with the above priorities.

Delegates also endorsed the following resolutions to go to CUPE BC's convention on April 21-24, 2004:

We are proud of these members, O'Neill said. The hard work they have done at this historic gathering is a big step towards addressing the concerns of our aboriginal members.