There’s a new Premier in BC, and UFCW 1518’s passionate Indigenous Committee members are making sure he hears them. This month they repeated the message they’ve been sending to the province for over a year: “Make National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a paid, statutory holiday for all workers.”
On Nov. 25, the committee wrote to Premier Eby, demanding action on this important reconciliatory step. The five passionate union members also wrote to 10 fellow Indigenous women who comprise the Ministers Advisory Council on Indigenous Women (MACIW). You can read both letters, below.
November 25, 2022
To the Honourable Premier Eby,
Our names are Marylou Fonda in Nak’azdli Whut’en territory (Fort St. James), Anita Letendre in Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Squamish Nation and Musqueam Nation territories (North Vancouver), Laurie Simon in Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Squamish Nation and Musqueam Nation territories (Vancouver), Raven Morningstar in the Kwanlin Dun First Nations and Taa an Kwachin Council territories (Yellowknife, Yukon) and myself, Christine Holowka, in Lheidli T’enneh territory (Prince George). Along with all our fellow members at UFCW 1518, we welcome you as our province’s new leader.
We are writing to urge you to legislate Truth and Reconciliation Day as a provincial statutory holiday. Some employers in BC, especially in the grocery sector, had record profits since the beginning of the pandemic and chose not to acknowledge this very important day.
Many Indigenous workers were unable to observe the ceremonies held by First Nations communities on September 30. If their employer scheduled them to work and would not change the schedule, they could not attend their ceremonies with their respective people or community. Nor was this day recognized with statutory holiday pay.
Our committee has been pushing the BC government to honour National Day for Truth and Reconciliation for over a year now, with limited response. After sending letters to MLAs and the Premier and publishing our successful petition, we received a commitment from Premier Horgan to engage in consultations with stakeholders. We appreciate this openness to dialogue, but it is not enough.
We are grieving, and will continue to grieve, as more residential schools in Canada are being searched. Yukoners and British Columbians, who are allies, are saddened by this. They offer help and want to learn more about this land’s history. A large majority of our diverse population in Canada who never knew, never realized how bad the residential school system was, are shocked and saddened. The world is watching Canada’s response and is wondering why it is taking so long for the federal and provincial governments to rightfully mandate Truth and Reconciliation Day as a statutory holiday.
Today, we urge and call on you to follow the Yukon and make Truth and Reconciliation Day a statutory holiday. All Indigenous people, and the beautiful diversity of cultures in this province, need the healing to start as soon as possible. We need action on the promise of healing.
This very important action of making September 30 Truth and Reconciliation Day a provincial statutory holiday will be a huge step forward in the many steps that need to be taken on the road to truth and reconciliation. Please find our petition attached.
To the Minister’s Advisory Council on Indigenous Women,
The Indigenous Committee of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1518 (UFCW 1518) writes to you today seeking support. As five proud Indigenous women and union activists, we admire your work, amplifying the voices of Canada’s First People. We would be honoured if you would extend the megaphone to our Committee, so that we can amplify the voices of the workers and allies who signed our petition, urging the province to honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (September 30) with a paid, statutory holiday.
Attached, you will find the petition, which we shared with UFCW 1518 members and the broader public. We ask that our sisters in the MACIW consider it in all of your recommendations to Minister Rankin on Truth and Reconciliation actions.
We do not need to underscore the importance of Call to Action 80 to you — the MACIW knows why Truth and Reconciliation Day is so critical to building justice on Turtle Island. Rather, we come to you as representatives of Indigenous workers, employed in grocery, healthcare, retail, cannabis, and the industrial sectors, who serve their communities every day through the private sector and the public home healthcare system.
Just as we strive for equity-seeking language in our collective agreements, our Committee is now advocating for equity-seeking labour legislation. Worker rights must comport with and advance Indigenous rights, not only because Indigenous peoples are workers, but because private-sector employers profit from our Unceded and Treaty land.
As women, this issue is even closer to our hearts because we disproportionately fill primary caregiver roles in our families and communities. Indigenous women should not be burdened with extra childcare costs or unpaid leave to accommodate legislation that only grants their school-age children the day off on September 30 but not them. National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a day for families to grieve and heal intergenerational wounds; this is harder to do when families cannot be together on this day because some must work.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. We look forward to hearing from you.