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Unions key to winning a more equitable future: Panel

The CLC Convention’s first panel presentation focused on Equity for a Fair Future. Moderated by Beth Lyons from the New Brunswick Women’s Council, the presenters included Amira Elghawaby from the National Council of Canadian Muslims, Émilie Nicolas from Québec inclusif, and Susie Mangar from Magnet.

Lyons asked the panelists to reflect on their vision for an equitable future and how to get there. Amira Elghawaby started off the discussion by stating that it is crucial for the labour movement to deal with this because, by 2031, a full one-third of Canadians will be racialized.

“In order to maintain a labour movement that is vibrant, it is vital to have these discussions now,” she said.

She continued by adding that tensions are now rising and pointed to the recent mosque shooting in Quebec as an example.

Émilie Nicolas said she was also was shocked by the shooting, but not surprised given the media environment that popularizes divisions.

“If we don’t wake up, we will create a Canadian Donald Trump,” she warned. “We need to deal with the stresses between the people and the elites.”

Susie Mangar said that looking at who is in the labour market, who lives in our communities, and how we employ people is significant. She also stated that we need to change the way we view people, saying “I am not different from you. I am different like you!”

The panelists talked about how trusting institutions, governments, NGOs and the media has become difficult, and how so-called populist movements grow stronger because of the belief that the system is not working.

“Unions have an opportunity to fill this gap,” added Elghawaby.

Nicolas agreed, saying that unions need to step in and offer solutions that mobilize.

The panel challenged unions and the labour movement to speak and act on racism and discrimination, and to work with other groups to ensure that problems are not made invisible.

One way, the panelists agreed, is by ensuring diversity within labour leadership.

Creating more inclusive and diverse workplaces, they concluded, would go a long way to breaking down barriers, not only at work, but in society as a whole.

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