The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) wishes to respond to the controversy surrounding a recent recipient of our Scholarship for Indigenous Students.
NUPGE has 6 scholarships we provide for young people leaving secondary school for a public post-secondary education that are available to the children or grandchildren (including foster children and foster grandchildren) of our members. Of these scholarships 4 are intended for students from oppressed and historically disadvantaged people or communities. The scholarships are for $1,500 each and are given only once to a recipient.
We have always relied on applicant’s self-identification. We are not equipped to be arbiters of someone’s sexual orientation, disability, or ancestry, and do not want to go down that road. We have no desire to repeat the often-demeaning practice of forcing young people to prove their identity.
It is notable that we have been awarding these scholarships for more than 10 years without controversy. However, controversy has developed around one of our scholarships this year. After the award was given to the recipient, we were made aware of comments made on social media by them, that have given rise to challenges to the legitimacy of the award. NUPGE finds these accusations deeply troubling.
Given this situation we intend to review our practices around scholarships, consulting as necessary.
The young person in question has already received the scholarship monies. Under the circumstances, and to ensure that no one is adversely affected, for this year we will award a second Scholarship for Indigenous Students.
NUPGE and its Components are unhappy and troubled by the social media comments this recipient posted. These attitudes and opinions are not shared by the National Union or any of its Components.
However, we are also concerned about the overt hostility that has been directed to this young person. Threats of violence are highly inappropriate. We cannot condone aggressive and violent action.
Our intent with the scholarships has always been to be respectful and supportive of our members and their families while recognizing the historic and contemporary barriers many young people face. There has never been any desire to demean or disempower a community.
We will strive to improve how we work with communities and on these issues.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 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