Marle Roberts, President of CUPE Alberta today made the following statement in recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination:
On March 21, 1960, police in Sharpeville, South Africa fatally shot 69 peaceful black demonstrators and wounded another 180. The demonstrators were protesting the apartheid laws that imposed restrictions on black South Africans, including the ability to move around freely in the country and to organize unions.
It is often reported that the apartheid regime was based partly on how the Canadian government treated First Nations in our country, just one example of how institutionalized racism forms part of our history.
While we have made tremendous strides toward the elimination of racial discrimination, many issues remain.
Canada uses programs such as the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and the Live-In Caregiver program to exploit vulnerable visible minority workers as sources of cheap labour, while discouraging their rights to collectively organize. We recognize, too, that many of our lowest paid members come from racialized and Aboriginal communities.
At CUPE’s recent National Rights Conference in Winnipeg, a membership survey highlighted the need for continued work to ensure equality for our racialized sisters and brothers. While unions provide better wages, benefits, and safer working conditions, there is still much to do.
CUPE is committed to engaging and organizing vulnerable workers in new ways, and supporting them to become leaders in our union. Learning about the conditions for racialized members helps us to understand how we can change.
Please join me in remembering the work of our brothers and sisters who have fought racial discrimination in the past, and recognizing that we still have much work to do, now and in the future.
Marle Roberts, CUPE Alberta Division President
Contact: (780) 918-3061