Labour in the North

By June 19, 2014Labour Views

Labour Views for News North June 16, 2014

Submitted by Mary Lou Cherwaty, President

The last two weeks have seen some exciting times for the Labour movement in the North.

On June 3, the Northern Territories Federation of Labour (NTFL) hosted a Political Activism Workshop in partnership with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). Over 60 participants discussed valuable ways to engage in electoral politics. Whether it be to run as a candidate in an election, or to volunteer on a candidate’s campaign, union members recognize that they need to take part in shaping government policy at all levels.

On June 4, 99 delegates from all across the Northwest Territories and Nunavut attended the NTFL’s 19th Triennial Convention. Our guest speakers included: the new CLC President, Hassan Yussuf, Member of Parliament for the Western Arctic, Dennis Bevington, Director of UNIFOR’s Women’s Department, Julie White, and WSCC’s Chief Safety Officer, Judy Kainz. All of them provided great information, encouragement, and helped set the stage for the tasks that we, as trade-unionists, must accomplish.

NTFL delegates recommitted to work with the CLC and its affiliates to advance the rights of all workers. A new position was created to have a Youth Vice-President added to the NTFL’s Executive Council, bringing our total Executive to 12 members across the North. Please join me in welcoming the following members:


Gayla Thunstrom, Vice-President for the Northwest Territories

Appitak Enuaraq, Vice-President for Nunavut

Christopher Parsons, YouthVice-President

Alexander Lambrecht, Treasurer

Sheila Laity, Secretary

Bruce Gudeit, Regional Vice-President Dehcho/South Slave

Crystal Walsh, Regional Vice-President Tłįchǫ/Somba K’e

Dudley Johnson, Regional Vice-President   Sahtu/Inuvik

Sam Inaksajak,Regional Vice-President   Kitikmeot

Maureen Doherty, Regional Vice-President   Kivalliq

Hanna Wolff, Regional Vice-President Qikiqtani

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Executive members leaving us: Geoff Ryan and John Vander Velde of Nunavut; David Bob, Ken Stewart, Blaine Dumkee, and Sandra Lockhart of the Northwest Territories. Thank you all for a job well done!

Most of our executive and delegates travelled to Whitehorse the following day, to join our Sisters and Brothers in the Yukon, for the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) North’s Triennial Convention. The event started on Friday June 6 with a full day Health & Safety Conference entitled “Change Starts With You: Health and Safety Matters”. Vikki Quocksister, President of the Yukon Federation of Labour, and I, were pleased to be invited as guest speakers to discuss Health and Safety from a Northern perspective.

At noon, we all marched to the site where the new Workers’ Memorial will be permanently displayed, honouring workers who have lost their lives as a result of workplace tragedies.

Saturday and Sunday, PSAC North delegates from all three territories and their guests were treated to an action-packed convention. One of the highlights for me was a panel presentation that discussed the great work of PSAC members, through their Social Justice Fund. The stories included: helping in the Philippines after the devastating typhoon, teaching about Human Rights in Columbia, and building not only structures, but more importantly, relationships in Guatemala.  The commitment and passion of the members who talked about these experiences was truly inspiring!

I was also pleased to see a resolution adopted to lobby the federal government to make June 21st a National Holiday. Currently, the Northwest Territories is the only jurisdiction that recognizes National Aboriginal Day as a holiday. Aboriginal people in all parts of the country deserve to be celebrated, and our Federation will assist in making sure this becomes a reality!

Convention delegates elected new leadership for the ensuing three year term.  Jack Bourassa is the Regional Executive Vice-President (REVP), and Marie Buchanan is the Alternate REVP for PSAC North. On behalf of the Northern Territories Federation of Labour, congratulations; and we look forward to working with you on our mutual goal of protecting the interests of workers, their families, and our communities!