Celebrate National Aboriginal Day


By Ruby Langan

Have you attended a National Aboriginal Day celebration? National Aboriginal Day is on June 21. This year, the date falls on a Sunday. This is your invitation to join the festivities.

There are three Aboriginal groups in Canada – the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. They each have their own distinct heritage, language, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs. National Aboriginal Day gives us the opportunity to honour, celebrate and share knowledge about Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.

National Aboriginal Day occurs on June 21, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. For many centuries, many of the first inhabitants would celebrate the arrival of warm weather on this day. National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations) called for June 21 to be National Aboriginal Solidarity Day. Canada’s Governor General proclaimed the first National Aboriginal Day in 1996.

This is the one day of the year many, many people devote to Aboriginal-ness. My union sisters and brothers are happy to engage in this awesome community event in Vancouver. Come to our table and converse about Aboriginal, worker, family, public service issues and potential solutions. Bring your children to have their face or hands painted by our amazing artists. We will again have the beautiful and functional Water is a Human Right/Idle No More slap-fans/posters but be sure to get them early because they are in high demand.

Check your local newspaper or Aboriginal Friendship Centre for events near you. Come and join the fun. Eat, learn, play, volunteer, be entertained, get involved. Will you accept this invitation?

A Path of Light – Saturday, June 20, 2015 (Edmonton)

See the attached poster for the details on this large, exciting multi-phase event, ending in a grand entry welcome to the APTN Edmonton event described below.

APTN’s Aboriginal Day Live & Celebration– Saturday, June 20, 2015 (Edmonton & Winnipeg)

The 9th annual Aboriginal Day Live & Celebration is the largest event in Canada to recognize National Aboriginal Day. It includes a day-long program of free family-friendly activities, and a free evening concert held in Winnipeg (at The Forks) and Edmonton (at Louise McKinney Park) featuring a stacked roster of award-winning and up-and-coming Indigenous entertainment. All Canadians are invited to partake in this event – whether in person or via the live broadcast on TV, radio, or the live stream at  http://www.aboriginaldaylive.ca/

National Aboriginal Day – Sunday, June 21, 2015 (Vancouver)

Please join us as we celebrate National Aboriginal Day on Coast Salish Territories. This is a community-based, full day of events that showcase and celebrate the diversity of Aboriginal people from across Canada. First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples gather to share their spirit, experiences, stories, songs, art and dance with each other and the general community. All events are FREE, and all Aboriginal community members and supporters are welcome. This is a family-friendly event.  No alcohol or drugs are permitted.  Make sure you bring your cameras and video recorders!


Solstice Festival 2015 Friday, June 19 – Sunday, June 21, 2015 (Ottawa)

Vincent Massey Park, Ottawa Ontario

Festival & Pow Wow Hours:

Friday, June 19            6pm to 10pm

Saturday, June 20        10am to 10pm

Sunday, June 21          10am to 6pm


Métis and Heritage: Follow the Mi’kmaq trails, Sunday, June 21, 2015 (West Pubnico, NS)

Time: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Location/Venue: Musée des Acadiens des Pubnicos, 898 Hwy 335

National Aboriginal Day, Sunday, June 21, 2015 (Boyd’s Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador)

Beothuk Interpretation Centre

Time: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Come and celebrate Aboriginal culture and traditions, past and present. Make a Beothuk pendant, sample Indian Brewis, visit our Spirit Garden to leave a handmade offering.

National Aboriginal Day, Saturday, June 20, 2015 (Dawson)

On June 21st the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre situated in downtown Dawson City, celebrates National Aboriginal Day with outdoor events including the Hän Singers, live contemporary music, tours, activities, refreshments and an opportunity to visit our heritage galleries.

Aboriginal Day has been set aside for all people to recognize, celebrate and learn more about the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation and Aboriginal culture and heritage in Canada.


National Aboriginal Day, Sunday, June 21, 2015 (Iqaluit)

Full day of activities.

National Aboriginal Day events in other locations across Canada are listed at the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada website:


Ruby Langan is the UNE’s National Equity Representative for Aboriginal Peoples.

May is Asian Heritage Month!


“I’m Asian.” “No, you’re not. You’re Filipino.”

This was part of a conversation between my niece and a friend of hers several years ago. As Filipinos, we too are part of Asia but somehow we end up being identified solely as Filipinos. It is important to note that Asians are a diverse group of people that celebrate different cultural practices and religious beliefs.

One interesting fact about Asia is that it is the largest continent.  Asia is comprised of around 50 different countries.


Canada is home to a large percentage of immigrants from these countries.  They brought their rich culture along with their determination to strive and work hard to achieve their goals. In various ways, they contribute to the development and growth of Canada.

In May, 2002, the Government of Canada signed a declaration designating May as Asian Heritage Month.  Adopted by the senate in 2001, this was proposed by Senator Vivienne Poy, the first Canadian senator of Asian heritage.  This is to acknowledge and recognize the various contributions of Asians in Canadian society.

There is a long list of Canadians of Asian heritage who have excelled in various fields:  politics, economics, science, arts and service – but I would like to add to this list – all Canadians of Asian heritage. In their own diverse ways, directly or indirectly, they have contributed something to their community, their workplaces and to Canadian society as a whole. In May, let us celebrate all Asians in Canada. Let us be one with them and show our support for them in their effort and struggle to achieve their goals and realize their dreams.

On behalf of all Asians I invite and welcome everyone to experience Asian culture.  Check out the activities and festivities that have been organized by Asian Heritage Month Societies and other Asian groups in your communities.  Explore the exotic spices and culinary delight that will leave your taste buds craving for more.   May is a very opportune time to learn more about Asia and appreciate its history, culture and its people.


Submitted by:

Shirley Torres

Filipino…..and Asian

Shirley Torres is the UNE’s regional human rights representative for British Columbia and Yukon.

* Event in B.C. – May 14th – short films & panel discussion | snacks | photo booth and henna! 

National Day of Mourning – A Dignified Remembrance


By Kevin King

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend our UNE National Convention in Toronto, it was an opportunity to renew friendships and  forge  new ones. We debated issues important to ourselves, and more importantly, members we represent.

There were a lot of activities near our convention site, the Royal York Hotel on Front Street, and delegates and guests made use of the facility and the many locations around it.

On the first morning of proceedings, I went out along Front Street, walked about three blocks or so, and came to a monument for workers killed on the job in Ontario between 1900 and 1999.

The Tribute called the WSIB Simcoe Park Workers Monument, located directly across from the Toronto Metro Convention Centre, near Spadina Avenue,

Two separate pieces of work combine to make this monument. The first is called 100 Workers and it consists of two long, low walls made out of polished red granite. On the top of the walls are 100 bronze plaques, engraved with the name of a worker who died in a workplace accident. There is one worker named for each year from 1901 until 1999. The plaque for the year 2000 has been left blank.

The second part of this monument is called The Anonymity of Prevention. This is a bronze sculpture of a man, dressed in work clothes and wearing full safety gear, kneeling on one knee and appearing to chisel into the wall of 100 Workers.

I could not take my eyes of the beautiful stonework that described the names, where they worked, and how they died on the job.

They had families, and I am most certain they expected to be home to those families each and every day after their work was completed.

I wish I had told the convention delegation of this find, three blocks from the hall, and felt a little guilty that I did not share an opportunity to mark our visit with a solemn procession and a dignified remembrance.

Let us go forth and always recognize April 28th, the national day of mourning for workers killed or injured on the job, and make more resolute our commitment as union activists to make our workplaces safe from any workplace hazards or occupational diseases.

To view photos of the Monument, please click here.

Respectfully Submitted,

Kevin King
National Executive Vice-President
Union of National Employees, PSAC


National Day of Mourning


By Geoff Ryan

April 28 is the National Day of Mourning for Workers Injured or Killed on the job. On this day flags on government buildings will fly at half mast, and ceremonies will be held in communities across Canada. Workers will gather at these ceremonies, some will wear black arm bands, some will lay flowers or wreathes, candles will be lit and the names of workers who died due to workplace incidents and illnesses will be read. People will be asked to observe a moment of silence to remember and honour them.

It is important for everyone to attend these events, not only to remember those people who have died, but also to bring awareness that health and safety in the workplace needs to be improved in Canada.

Most people are aware of the dangers in using a power tool, but what about the dangers entering an office building? Did you know that asbestos exposure is the single largest on-the-job killer in Canada accounting for almost one third of all workplace death claims approved since 1996? Asbestos is in products such as brake pads and can also be found in pipes and insulation. Many countries have banned asbestos, but Canada has not. The government also has not cautioned citizens that even low levels of asbestos can be a carcinogenic health risk. There is no national database of buildings containing asbestos in Canada despite requests from unions to create one. Saskatchewan is the only jurisdiction in Canada with such a database. It was created with the passing of Howard’s Law.

The annual observance of the National Day of Mourning strengthens the resolve to establish safe conditions in the workplace, and prevent injuries and deaths. As much as this is a day to remember the dead, it is also a call to protect the living. I encourage everyone to participate in the Day of Mourning ceremony in their area and if there is not a ceremony in your area please consider having a moment of silence in your workplace.

Geoff Ryan is the UNE’s National Vice-President for Human Rights.

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – March 21


By Jennifer Chieh Ho

In 1966, the United Nations designated March 21 as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It was meant to commemorate the 1960 massacre that took place in Sharpeville, South Africa, where a demonstration that started off as peaceful, ended with shots fired by police. That day, 69 South Africans were killed and over 180 were injured. The demonstrators took to the street to protest; they called on the apartheid government to abolish laws that required all black men and women to carry reference books containing their personal information. If someone was found without their book in a public place, they would be arrested and detained in prison.

Canada was among the first countries to support the UN resolution designating March 21 as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Our nation first observed the day in 1989.

However, 49 years later, there is still much work to be done to wipe out racism. Every day, people are subjected to racist comments and stereotypes in the media, schools, public spaces and workplaces.

Continually putting the spotlight on race, ethnic background and skin colour creates an atmosphere where racial discrimination can thrive. Whether intentional or not, actions towards people based on their race, ethnic backgrounds or skin colour can have a negative impact on the day-to-day lives of racialized members of society.

I am often asked:

“Where are you from?”

“What is your background?”

“Where did you learn English?”

I am often subjected to unsolicited comments such as:

“You don’t look Chinese.”

“You speak good English.”

I recognize that questions are often asked out of curiosity, but it’s the manner in which questions are asked that is key! If the questions are asked as a means to get to know me and are asked in a respectful way, then, in the spirit of open dialogue, they are welcomed. If questions or comments pander to racial stereotypes, then please do not ask them or state them.

I am ethnic Chinese, but I am not from China (yet I have been told to “go back to China!”). This is a common remark made to racially-visible persons.

I am a Canadian with three children, two of whom were born in Canada; imagine how you would feel if your children were told to go back to a country they were not born in! Would you feel that your children were welcome and respected in their birthplace?

We live in a country of great diversity – one where everyone should be treated equally and with respect. So why do some of us have to work so hard to get people to look beyond our ethnic backgrounds, our places of origin or our skin colour? Why can’t people look at our skill sets, our abilities, our education, our experiences, and, most importantly, at our worth as individuals, instead? It’s sad to see that racial discrimination still exists. The only thing that will make a difference is when each and every individual is treated with respect and dignity – when we are all accepted on the basis of our own unique merits. In order to actively eliminate racial discrimination, we have to continue to educate and speak up. And we must actively work on racism, both on a personal and institutional level, for our children and for future generations.

Jennifer Chieh Ho is the regional vice-president for the British Columbia and Yukon region. This article was written as part of our union’s member journalism program. If you’d like to find out more, click here – to pitch a story or for any questions, please send an email to communications@une-sen.org.

International Day of the Francophonie


By Karl Lafrenière

Each year, my grandmother spends the greater part of the winter in Florida. For a few years now, I’ve been driving her car there so that she has the ability to run errands once she’s there. The first time I did that long drive to the Sunshine State, I travelled with my brother.

We stopped pretty regularly, picking up snacks for the road. One stop I’ll never forget was in South Carolina. It was late at night and we needed to get fresh supplies for the road ahead. When we entered the corner store, my brother and I were speaking French while we discussed what we intended to purchase. Once we made our way to the cash register, the cashier greeted us with a “Bonjour” and asked us, in French, if we had found everything we had been looking for.

My brother and I were surprised to hear this person speaking French to us, with a strong accent; we replied in English, as a means of accommodation.

The cashier was quick to tell us, once again in French: “No, please speak to me in French. I never have the chance to practice this great language, so when I have the opportunity, I take advantage of it.”

We happily finished our conversation in French.

Once we arrived in Florida, my brother and I decided to recount our corner store adventure to our grandmother. We were soon even more enthralled to learn that my grandmother’s friend had recently made a presentation to a conference held by the Alliance Française de Sarasota.

I’m proud to know that my language is sprinkled around the world; in the most unexpected places.

There is even an organization that represents Francophones across the world: the International Organization of La Francophonie. Created in 1970, its mission is to “embody the active solidarity between its 80 member states and governments (57 members and 23 observers), which together represent over one-third of the United Nations’ member states and account for a population of over 890 million people, including 220 million French speakers.”

Its members share the use of the French language and the values of “La Francophonie”, which includes working in solidarity to promote the French language, as well as cultural and linguistic diversity, democracy, human rights and education.

But even if someone doesn’t identify as Francophone, this doesn’t mean they’re not genuinely interested in our language. And it’s up to us, as Francophones, to foster that interest.

So, if I may, in conclusion, propose some friendly advice to my fellow Francophones: when someone attempts to speak with you in French – even if they struggle – don’t switch to English. We too often do this to be helpful, but I believe this isn’t helpful at all. We should embrace their efforts and provide them with a unique opportunity to practice our cherished language.

Karl Lafrenière is the regional vice-president for the Outside Canada region and a member of our francophone committee. This article was written as part of our union’s member journalism program. If you’d like to find out more, click here – to pitch a story or for any questions, please send an email to communications@une-sen.org.

“I can’t afford to strike”


By Richard Ballance

Here we are, in the midst of negotiations with an employer that is hell-bent on saving money on the backs of workers. The talks are moving slowly – and many members are curious about possible job action. We’ve all heard it: members who declare, “I can’t afford to go on strike.”

Currently, we’re a long way from strike action. Negotiations continue, albeit slowly. All parties are at the table. Before we are in a position to strike, there are several things that have to happen.

First of all, a legal strike cannot take place without an essential services agreement, which outlines all positions that are designated essential. Bill C-4 gives the government control over essential services (although this is likely unconstitutional) and Bill C-31 has revoked all existing essential service agreements. The government must revisit and identify amendments to essential service agreements before we will be anywhere near a strike position.

Second, a legal strike can only take place once members of the bargaining unit have voted to initiate strike action. A strike vote can only happen if the PSAC national president authorizes the vote. Based on the results of the vote, the PSAC national president then has the authority to call for strike action. Members only walk the picket line if they have democratically voted to go on strike, and the PSAC national president calls for a walk-out.

We’re far from that point for the time being. There won’t be a vote held unless negotiations reach an impasse.

Is it true that our members cannot afford to strike? During job action, our members will not be paid by the employer. We all have obligations such as mortgages, car payments, tuition fees for our children’s education, monthly bills (and more bills…, heat, hydro, internet, telephone, etc.). Many members will struggle with keeping up with payments if they lose a week or two of pay. Any longer, and most members will have challenges.

I’d suggest that, in fact, with the current negotiations, we can’t afford to not strike. We stand to lose a whole lot more than a couple of weeks of pay.

One of the “features” of the “short-term disability” (STD) plan that our employer wants to impose on public servants is a seven-day unpaid waiting period before anyone qualifies for benefits. Think about it…. If you are ill and you have used up your six days of sick leave, any further period of illness is unpaid for up to five working days, before you qualify for “STD”.

And often the devil is in the details. What if you fall ill again at a later date? Will you automatically qualify for “STD” or will you have another waiting period? Having had some experience with the insurance industry, I suspect the latter.

Just when you need a paycheque, you may not get one. To make matters worse, you’ll have to deal with a for-profit organization like SunLife trying to pay you the least benefit possible.

Can I afford to strike? Not really. However, given what our employer is offering, we stand to lose even more over time. We can’t afford not to strike.

No one wants to get stuck with an STD, especially from this employer.

Richard Ballance is the regional vice-president for Treasury Board members in the National Capital Region. This article was written as part of our union’s member journalism program. If you’d like to find out more, click here – to pitch a story or for any questions, please send an email to communications@une-sen.org.



Pink Shirt Day – February 25


By Christopher Little-Gagné

Pink is a colour that has long provided a bright and easy target for bullies to attack. Unfortunately, it’s not the only subject of mockery. Even within the most progressive institutions fighting for equality and activism, bullying happens. People have always tried to bring themselves and their kin to equal footing with those of perceived privilege. Unfortunately, this is usually done at the expense of others; putting them down to bring themselves up.

I remember being at a union function, recently, where I heard a person of influence talk about our ability to lead change. They said that we need to bring people “out of the closet and into the light” to fight for our rights. Being a person who belongs to a group for whom “being in the closet” has a strong meaning, I took offence to this comment.

No matter what the closet is for you – be it sexual orientation, spiritual belief, political belief, union activism, etc. – why is it the goal of others to decide when you come out?

This is a form of bullying.

We need to remember that everyone has the right to be in the closet. Our goal ought to be to make society welcoming and respectful for those who are ready to come out.

Now that I have a son, I look at things differently. When it came to advancing civil liberties and human rights, I used to do things based on my own personal agenda. This year, I will be wearing pink on February 25 in the hopes that my son can grow up in a culture of equality – one where bullying is something he sees in old movies and in old stories, which lead him to wonder how we lived in such a barbaric time.

I hope that everyone out there will do what they can to stand up against bullying or, at the very least, reflect on how their actions and words can impact others.

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Chris Little-Gagné, regional vice-president for Manitoba, and Jacqueline Nanali,
regional representative for human rights for Manitoba, both wearing pink!

Christopher Little-Gagné is the regional vice-president for Manitoba and proud papa of two-year-old Caleb. This article was written as part of our union’s member journalism program. If you’d like to find out more, click here – to pitch a story or for any questions, please send an email to communications@une-sen.org.


Parks Canada is hiring (soon!)


by Eddie Kennedy

After suffering from crumbling roads and dilapidated buildings for some time, it looks like there’s help on the way for our national parks and historic sites. The federal government has announced that it will invest the bulk of a $2.8 billion fund towards some much-needed infrastructure projects at Parks Canada.

During a January 20 meeting, Parks Canada provided us with an update on the coming changes to their staffing policies, as they begin the process of hiring personnel to work on these projects.

Pierre Richer de La Flèche, chief human resources officer at Parks Canada, explained how the agency plans to implement a streamlined process to facilitate hiring new employees. The agency aims to manage the hiring process at the national level.

During the meeting, Richer de La Flèche also outlined the agency’s plan to create pools of qualified candidates that will be accessible to managers across the country. These pools will be used to fill new positions and backfill for others. To select a new employee from the pools, managers would use the “right fit” approach. Parks Canada intends to provide clear guidelines and keep the processes transparent.

The agency will use a variety of methods to advertise the vacant positions, including social media. Some job opportunities may only be posted internally, while others may also be promoted externally to PCA and the public at large, depending on the level and the skills required. Managers can still hire locally, bypassing the pools, but only for determinate staffing and only by using the same statement of qualifications as the national competition.

The agency said it remains committed to its obligation to the priority placement process as it moves forward with staffing.

Parks Canada also acknowledged that many questions remain, since some plans and processes haven’t yet been finalized. For this reason, the agency intends keep us regularly informed of what is happening.

They also encouraged us to keep them informed of our members’ concerns; they understand that our ability to communicate issues early on can help them respond to concerns and provide factual information to employees. For this reason, they see great value in our capacity to shed light on our members’ concerns.

As your union’s representatives, we’ve expressed some concern about the use of pools. We’ve had issues with pools in the past, since they inject a degree of bias in the selection process. For one, it allows for the hiring process to be easily manipulated; favouritism and prejudice can lead to the best person for the job being sidestepped in favor of a different candidate.

It goes without saying that we appreciate the work that will be generated by these infrastructure projects. Like many of you, we look forward to seeing improvement in the facilities where we work – improvements that should make our workplaces better places to work. That said, we also want to ensure that our members are treated fairly by the staffing process.

Over the coming months, we will be meeting with senior management as they finish fleshing out the rest of this staffing policy. We encourage you to contact us if you have any concerns with anything related to these projects.

On our end, we will continue to keep you updated of any new developments as they relate to this topic.

In solidarity,

Eddie Kennedy

Eddie Kennedy is the National Advisor on Parks Canada for the Union of National Employees. If you’d like to reach him, you can send him an email at eddie.kennedy@une-sen.org.

Human Rights Day – Dec. 10


by Geoff Ryan

The United Nations chose December 10 as the day to celebrate human rights achievements – but human rights really ought to occupy a place in our daily lives, beyond just one cold December day. That’s why the UN is celebrating this Human Rights Day under the banner of Human Rights 365 – to bring home the idea that every day is Human Rights Day.

I believe that this concept holds true at the Union of National Employees. I’m so proud to be part of a union that places so much importance on human rights. During the last few months, I’ve had the tremendous pleasure of working with the passionate members who make up our human rights committee. I’ve been touched by how everyone at the table is so willing to share their experiences – and how everyone grows as a result.

This capacity to put ourselves in the shoes of others is what propels us forward. So, for the next 365 days and beyond, open your mind and be compassionate. That’s the first step to becoming an ally.

Geoff Ryan is the National Vice-President for Human Rights. This article was written as part of our union’s member journalism program. If you’d like to find out more, click here – to pitch a story or for any questions, please send an email to communications@une-sen.org.