SEIU-West Multicultural Mentorship Committee (MMC) members attended the Regina and District Labour Council (RDLC) Equity Conference and have provided the following reports:
Yolanda (Multicultural Mentorship Committee)
Thank you to SEIU-West for this opportunity to attend this one-and-a-half-day event by RDLC. It was an awesome event, getting to know the importance of accepting all cultures and sexes, as well as the importance of preventing harassment and discrimination. All the speakers were amazing! Talking about their experiences give us the knowledge to prevent these things from happening again, if we are all well-educated on how to treat each other equally, no matter where we came from. There was also talking about the homeless, international students, reserves and low income. All of these are big problems at the moment. It's nice to know that there are groups out there trying to help these people and if there's any way we can help, I would do my very best.
Jeanne (Multicultural Mentorship Committee)
I would like to thank SEIU-West's Multicultural Mentorship Committee for such a wonderful experience I had attending the 2023 RDLC Equity Conference.
It was a very informative one-and-a-half-day conference. The first speaker was Judy Kobsar, who was the previous RDLC Equity Chair. She shared her experiences as a newcomer and her difficulties finding a job. The integration process was such a challenging experience for her because employers kept on asking her for Canadian experience. Being a new immigrant, female and black, the struggle was real for her. She was overqualified in every job she applied for, but she was rejected multiple times. She told the story of how she got her first job in a library. She was definitely overqualified when it comes to her typing speed and stenographing speed. Her story showed that striving and never stopping in reaching her goal in life really paid off.
We had table discussions as well. Discussed were: the effects of the pandemic, how pandemic effects marginalized people, and how we can make difference to marginalized people. It’s so amazing that we all felt the same and we all ended up agreeing that the pandemic made poor people poorer, marginalized groups of people were displaced, and it was challenging for them as well to access the different services that they used to access prior to COVID-19. Services were in place, but even with the different services, staff members faced challenges of how to reach out their target group of individuals.
We enjoyed the live band named Call Me Mildy. It was so much fun.
The next day, Sobna Radons, President of the RDLC, welcomed everyone. Ashley Hicks from Canadian Labour Congress read the 45th call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation calls to Action.
Carol LaFayette-Boyd, of the Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage, shared her experiences growing up in a farm near Regina, being the only black family in their community. She shared the struggles of no running water, no electricity, and also her experiences when they moved in Regina, still with no running water. She also shared that because she has fair complexion compared to her other siblings, she was treated differently in their community and even in school when they were growing up. She got more privilege than her siblings, who are darker.
There was only one panel during the conference, it was a powerhouse of speakers:
- Jeff Cappo – Indigenous Education Coordinator for Regina Public Schools Indigenous Education, also an Advocate for Indigenous worldview, traditions, language and land-based learning
- Alysia Johnson – Board Chair/President of Carmichael Outreach
- Fritz Pino – Assistant Professor at University of Regina Faculty of Social Work with research focusing on lives of marginalized communities; LGBTQ2S+, racialized and immigrants
- Neelu Sachdev – Executive Director for Regina Immigrant Women Centre Inc
- Shiva Souri – Student, Project Advisor University of Regina Students' Union
Why did I say a powerhouse panel? They brought to the table so much information and experiences that touched me, I don’t know if others have the same experience. Of course, I was so privileged to find our third and but not the least, speaker for our conference. And yes! I think it was definitely destiny for me to be there and hear Shiva talked about the hardship as a student, as somebody who came from a different part of the world and is here in Saskatchewan fighting to finish school and with financial struggles. What really touched me was when Alysia shared her first encounter with the labour movement.
She’s from the U.S. and she was on a working visa during 2016 Union strikes at the legislative building. She had so much on her plate; she got pregnant, and when she had a baby, she had no money, was living in a not-so-well area of the city, was struggling, had no formula for her baby, had no diapers. So, when she was walking by the protesters, she mumbled towards them that you guys are fighting for zeros and 1% increase, but there are more less fortunate than you guys, and mentioned that she doesn’t have money for groceries or formula for her baby. As she was walking away from the strikers or protesters, a truck pulled over beside her and told her that they heard what she said, and they said they would like to buy her groceries, formula and diapers. She cried. I was crying too as she was telling us her story. That’s the first time she encountered the labour movement and the real meaning of solidarity. It was a very touching story. It was an eye opener too, when Jeff mentioned that in the city, kids were struggling because education was transitioned to virtual instead of face to face. In the reserves, Jeff shared that not only they do not have Wi-Fi, no tablets, no resources to continue education during the early pandemic days, they were also struggling with the more basic needs, such as having clean running water. I felt guilty, because, sometimes when our Wi-Fi went down, my kids were complaining and my tendency was to complain as well, not thinking that in other parts of Saskatchewan, there are people who don’t even have Wi-Fi and worse, no drinking water.
We shared our takeaway from the conference. For me, my takeaway is that it’s true that the pandemic brought the realization and made it clearer what inequality we have in our society. The marginalized groups of people were affected more from the pandemic with hurdles such as: fear, depression, job loss, delay in life phases, mistrust in health systems, not knowing who or where to get help, social distancing, and for newcomers – isolation in a new place. But lots of services (mostly NGOs and NPOs) stepped up and found innovative ways to continue functioning during the pandemic. The pandemic exposed inequality and Anti-Asian hate heightened. Not only doubled, but triple layered worry was brought by pandemic.
What strikes me the most is what Fritz said. "What can we do about the inequality, racism and discrimination? Having this kind of event, showing resistance gives hope for a better tomorrow. Do not stop resisting, show no compliance. Educate the community about race, the human race."
Claudia (Multicultural Mentorship Committee)
I met Shiva Souri from University of Regina Student’s Council, and she is an amazing human being. She came from Iran and explained the hardships that she encountered here as an international student. For example, they pay three times the tuition to take the courses and then get discriminated against for taking the seat in education.
There was an Indigenous man that talked about reserves and how all they want is books. They don’t have a library on the reserves, they don’t have WiFi and have no access to education. If they just had WiFi and books, their kids would have something to do. They don’t want impossible things, just access to education.
We all knew about the water issues on reserves in Saskatchewan, but I hadn’t considered that they wouldn’t have access to education through books and online. I have no idea how they managed to continue with education during the pandemic when schools were closed down and everyone had to learn online. He asked us all to close our eyes and imagine our lives without books or WiFi. We are bringing in New Canadians to fill jobs while completely forgetting that there are youth right here that want a future in the workforce, but they appear completely forgotten.
I had a chance to connect with people and make new friends. The bigger our social circle gets, the more we learn and grow from others. I enjoyed meeting incredibly inspiring people.
My favourite thing was an activity where we were grouped by various characteristics. In the end, we all ended up being mixed with other races and we found common. That is what stuck with me the most. If we look, we are all more similar than we think.