March 8-9, 2016 I had the privilege and pleasure to attend the Saskatchewan Government Employees Union Women’s Conference (SGEU). Happily in conjunction with International Women’s Day (the 8th).
Because I work for an SGEU employer I have access to their events and offerings. I jumped at the chance to go to this conference when it was offered in January because of my degree in Labour Relations and my keen interest in the potential and benefit of unionization.
Our first day didn’t get started with a bang, we had an underwhelming session on nutrition. Followed by a member sharing their personal experiences with family members mental health and the support that unionization, the United Way offer, family services, Catholic family services, and the 24hr Mobile Crisis services offered.
The highlight of the first day was the keynote by Dr. Carrie Bourassa on the topic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). Dr. Bourassa is an expert in her field of community led research on Indigenous issues. She has worked with Sisters in Spirit on their landmark research about MMIWG and is a professor of Indigenous Health studies at the University of Regina.
Her keynote on the lingering issues of colonization on Indigenous peoples was enlightening and deeply personal. I am grateful to her for the efforts she is making to work with organizations to respond to Indigenous needs.
She highlighted best course of action for SGEU as to read and implement recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation report issued by the TRC.
We began with a presentation on the Moose Jaw Transition House. A place where women can come from all over North America to escape violence of any kind in the home. Our speaker also had a watch a video that speaks about toxic masculinity and how it needs to stop at the source.
It was poignant and relevant to the issues plaguing our society today. It’s not okay to expect that boys will be boys.
In conjunction with the Transition House theme we learned more about PATHS SK (Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan) which has some really interesting training programs that they do with organizational partners. Things about how to work with (ally) Indigenous peoples, seniors in the workplace, they have shelter checklists to help standardize responses across the nation and in Saskatchewan. This kind of research motivated information that helps standardize responses means that people who need help know where to get it and that those in workplaces know what information to give.
The PATHS presentation was great, except one of the presenters kept referring to literature reviews, which are generally university-centric and not always accessible for those who have not learned how to conduct a lit review.
It’s good for women that we have a Liberal or at the least a non-conservative federal government now. The Liberal government as part of their election platform committed to supporting an action plan to create solutions for violence against women. Including supporting the Shelter Safe website which is a clickable map to help women and children escape domestic violence.
Also to appeal to capitalism employers lose apx. 77 million dollars due to domestic violence. The CLC (Canadian Labour Congress) partners with University of Western Ontario to gather data on how domestic violence impacts workplaces.
Western has done some detailed work on Make It Our Business which provides workplace based support information to combat domestic violence and support victims and survivors.
It was a soft entry into union events. I greatly enjoyed the experience and have learned much about SGEU partnerships. A lot of information to parse still.