"During this month of February, we celebrate the contributions Canadians of African and Caribean descent have made to our communities. But we commit to working with our allies to fight for lasting equality and justice for all." — James Clancy, NUPGE National President.
Ottawa (04 Feb. 2015) — Each year, February marks Black History Month. It is a time to celebrate the rich history of, and contributions by, Canadians of African and Caribbean descent. It is also a time to examine our progress, as a society, in expanding and defending equality in our communities. The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) hopes to use this month to encourage governments and employers to promote, defend and expand a commitment to equality and justice.
Evidence of racial discrimination and inequality surrounds us
It would be impossible to ignore the racial divide that continues to grow in the United States. After unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri, and a grand jury refused to indict the officer involved, the city erupted in disappointment and anger. As reported in Mother Jones, Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the Mousouri chaper of the American Civil Liberties Union's put it in a statement of condolence to Brown's family, "Unarmed African-American men are shot and killed by police at an alarming rate. This pattern must stop."
But it isn't just in the U.S. Similar complaints of unjust and discriminatory treatment of Canadians of African and Caribean descent have been made across our country. Concerns continue to grow as income inequality rises among various ethno-racial groups, and racial profiling continues, particularly of African Canadians, by police. We still see overrepresentation of African Canadians in the prison population and know the discrimination they face generally in the criminal justice system.
People of colour are disproportionately affected by Income inequality
In Canada, as communities struggle against this tide of economic uncertainty, people are being pitted against each other in many ways. Unfortunately, history has shown that during tough economic times far too often people of colour disproportionally experience the effects of the downturn. It remains true that Canadians of African and Caribbean descent are overrepresented in lower-paying work, manufacturing and precarious work. These are jobs that will often feel the impacts of an economic crisis first.
The lack of good jobs with liveable wages and the increased cuts to public services hit these families the hardest. Women are especially vulnerable during these periods of economic instability, since they face the double burden of work and home, including child and elder care. Consequently, women will feel the effects of job loss and the unstable economy more so than most men.
The National Union believes that it is vitally important that workers of colour, indeed all workers, should not suffer for the economic failures of their employers and governments.
Equality and justice for all
"During this month of February, we celebrate the contributions Canadians of African and Caribean descent have made to our communities, " said Clancy. "But we commit to organizing and mobilizing with our allies to fight against intolerance and for lasting equality and justice for all."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE