CUPE 3903 First Nations Solidarity Working Group

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2007 FNSWG Annual Report

Introduction

The First Nations Solidarity Working Group is a new working group that was struck at last year’s AGM. The working group has four primary aims which are as follows:

1. To educate and organize the CUPE 3903 membership about issues relating to matters of indigenous sovereignty and solidarity and to encourage membership participation both within the working group and the local on this issue.
2. To work within and to help build rank and file networks of union activists working on issues of indigenous solidarity and solidarity.
3. To co-ordinate efforts in support of indigenous sovereignty with other local, regional and national (union and non-union) projects in support of indigenous sovereignty and solidarity.
4. To actively participate in supporting indigenous struggles such as (but not limited to) the Six Nations land reclamation.

The first year of the working group’s existence has been one of slowly but steadily laying the groundwork for doing this kind of work in a sustained fashion. There are over a dozen members of the working group, and the working group has been quite active to date.

Working Group Activities

In March of 2007 members of the working group worked with the Caledonia-based Community Friends organization to hold an educational and organizational meeting where trade union activists could learn about the struggle at Six Nations and figure out what concrete steps they could take in support of the people of Six Nations. Over 50 people representing a dozen different unions attended the meeting in Hamilton.

The working group co-sponsored and helped to organize the event “Hip-Hop for Six Nations” held in June of 2007 in conjunction with Toronto’s Black Action Defense Committee and the family of Chris Hill, the Six Nations political prisoner. This work was particularly useful in building links between the Black community in Toronto, trade union activists in 3903, and the people of Six Nations. The working group paid for organizers from BADC to drive down to make links with youth at Six Nations; helped to organize a meeting at the BADC offices where friends and family of Chris Hill spoke about the reclamation and the situation of political prisoners; and paid for the bus which took CUPE 3903 members, Black youth organized by BADC, and other Toronto area activists to the hip-hop show held at Chiefswood Park in Six Nations.

In June of 2007 the working group financially and politically supported the holding of a community potluck organized by the Community Friends group in Caledonia which brought together people from Six Nations and Caledonia area residents to build links of solidarity and mutual understanding.

Members of the working group participated in the June 29 AFN Aboriginal Day of Action by marching in rallies in Toronto and also by going to support the protests in Tyendenega Mohawk territory.

Members of the working group organized carpooling to attend the Six Nations of the Grand River powwow in July of 2007.

Members of the working group traveled to Caledonia during the Sterling St. standoff in October of 2007.

The working group endorsed and financially supported the Native Youth Movement Anti-2010 Olympics tour in February of 2008.

In January of 2008, tensions between natives and non-natives in the Caledonia-Brantford area again began to increase as news spread of a planned neo-Nazi weekend retreat that was being held on a Brantford area farm. Increased sightings of neo-Nazis in the area were reported including well-known Canadian neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier Paul Fromm. In this context a group of Brantford area non-native supporters and trade union activists held an organizing meeting in Brantford which eight members of our working group attended in January of 2008.

The meeting of some 30 people decided to organize a public educational forum in Brantford on March 6 to take some proactive steps in educating non-native residents in the area about the history of Six Nations and their land rights. Given that over one half of ongoing Six Nations land claims are within the Brantford area, Branford is a likely flashpoint for further protests and land reclamations. The working group has endorsed the March 6 public meeting and has made a donation of funds to help pay for the meeting hall for the event.

Conclusion:

Over the course of the past year, the working group has served as a space to facilitate CUPE 3903 members making regular visits to Six Nations to support the reclamation site when anti-native protests have taken place, and has also assisted in the developing of more mundane and low-key links of solidarity and support. Members of the working group are building ongoing networks and relationships with people at Six Nations and it is our hope that this will continue into 2008. Some work is also taking place within the working group to develop an educational documentary film about the struggle at Six Nations that can be widely distributed amongst union activists and the general public.

Most recently, the working group has been building links with members of the York Aboriginal Student Association and is looking forward to holding a series of public educational events for the purposes of better in forming our union’s membership about ongoing indigenous struggles. We also have a lot of work to do in continuing to build links with other trade union activists active in supporting indigenous struggles. In particular, the Hamilton area Steelworkers of Local 1005 and the CUPE National Aboriginal Council, are two union groups with which we hope to build ongoing working relationships.

And of course, another area that we need to improve in is in reaching out more effectively to the CUPE 3903 membership and involving you all in our work. If you’re interested in getting involved with the working group or would like more information about our activities, please contact 3903fnswg@gmail.com for details.

In solidarity and struggle,

The CUPE 3903 First Nations Solidarity Working Group.

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June 5, 2008 Posted by | admin, reports | Leave a comment

Why Canadians Should Support Six Nations Land Rights

This is the text of a leaflet that was developed by the Community Friends group in Caledonia Ontario and distributed with the support of members of CUPE 3903

1. Because their claim is just and right. Canada has a long and shameful history of mistreating First Nations peoples. Canada has broken treaty after treaty and has refused to fulfill its obligations to First Nation peoples, the Six Nations people included. Despite the fact that the Six Nations people have always been (and remain to this day) a national Confederation with whom the British crown entered into nation to nation agreements, the Canadian government imposed its own “Indian Act” by force upon them and encouraged the illegal sale and theft of land and revenue belonging to Six Nations. Respect for First Nations land and treaty rights and respect for indigenous sovereignty is a matter of upholding human rights, international law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Colonization and appropriation of other peoples resources is morally wrong and must be opposed, even if we or some of our ancestors have benefited from it.

2. Because the fault in this conflict lies with the federal Canadian government, not the people of Six Nations or Caledonia. The government knew that the Douglas Creek Estates (DCE) lands were contested when it allowed them to be sold. If the government had developed a comprehensive land claims settlement process and had negotiated in good faith with Six Nations from the start, this problem would never have taken the form it has. People from Six Nations occupied the Douglas Creek Estates to stop a housing development from being built on contested land. Now that the situation has been escalated, non-natives on and off the Haldimand tract can best resolve this issue by pressuring the Canadian government to establish a fair and comprehensive settlement of all outstanding land claims with Six Nations.

3. Because this situation will not be resolved by violence and conflict. The time when the Canadian government or non-native vigilantes could drive first Nations Peoples off their land has passed. Any attempt to use force to resolve the reclamation of Douglas Creek Estates will only make matters far worse and will likely end in bloodshed and serious injury on both sides. As events at Ipperwash and Oka proved, native land rights are political issues that must be solved through dialogue and negotiation. These are political and not “law and order” issues, and the use of force or threat of violence will not resolve them. Might does not make right, and attempts to raise the level of tension through the Friday night rallies in the Canadian Tire parking lot or through proposed events like the October 15 march against the reclamation site will only make the situation worse and increase the likelihood of people being injured or even killed.

4. Because the environment and our quality of life is improved by recognizing first Nations land rights. The conflict over the Douglas Creek Estates and the future conflicts brewing over the Haldimand tract stem from the greed of real estate developers who are turning farmlands, animal habitat and countryside into suburban sprawl in order to enrich themselves. This way of life is not sustainable in the long-term and although it makes profits for the bankers, realtors and lawyers it does not benefit rural life or the average people in small towns like Caledonia. As suburban sprawl spreads small businesses are pushed out by the major chains and big box stores, farmers are pushed off the land and our natural environment is degraded. First Nations peoples have a long history of protecting the environment and of respecting nature. A recognition of their rights will ensure that the lands on and around the Haldimand tract are not ecologically devastated by further suburban sprawl or clogged up by excessive road traffic and smog.

5. Because it is the only way that Caledonia as a community can heal itself and move forward. The people of Six Nations and of Caledonia live closely connected lives, sharing schools, workplaces, friendships and families. The tensions caused by this conflict need to be resolved. The people of Six Nations have made clear over and over again that they are not calling for the removal of non-natives from their lands. No non-natives living in Caledonia are at risk of eviction. What Six Nations wants is the compensation they are owed and recognition of their land and treaty rights. It is possible for natives and non-natives to live together in peace and harmony, but in order to have peace there must be justice.

Community Friends for Peace and Understanding with Six Nations

June 5, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Proposal for a CUPE 3903 First Nations Solidarity Working Group

This is the text of the motion that was passed at the 2007 CUPE 3903 AGM to create the CUPE 3903 First Nations Solidarity Working Group.

Proposal for a CUPE 3903 First Nations Solidarity Working Group

Preamble: Indigenous struggles in Southern Ontario have reached a new level of intensity over the past year, primarily as a result of the year-long reclamation of land near Caledonia by the Six Nations of the Grand River. Over the course of this struggle CUPE 3903, through both officially constituted bodies (such as the GMM, the Flying Squad and the International Solidarity Working Group) and through the actions of its individual members, has expressed its solidarity with the people of Six Nations in a wide number of ways.

The local as a whole has made several significant financial contributions to the reclamation site, the International Solidarity Working Group has attended local solidarity organizing meetings in Toronto, and the Flying Squad has brought members down to the reclamation site during particular moments of tension when supporters were most needed. At the same time, individual CUPE 3903 members working both on their own initiative and through these working groups have been involved in supporting Six Nations in a wide varieties of ways (doing grassroots media work, organizing solidarity demos in Toronto, keeping tabs on right wing anti-native protestors, attending and organizing public information meetings and fundraisers throughout the area, and working through a Caledonia based solidarity committee – Community Friends for Peace and Understanding with Six Nations).

As the Six Nations struggle has intensified over the past year, one of the most interesting and important aspects of the solidarity organizing that has taken place has been the role that organized labour has played in building support for this struggle. Almost every major trade union organization (from the CAW to the Steelworkers, to OPSEU, CUPE and the CLC) wrote letters of support and made financial contributions to the reclamation site. At the same time, because of the fact that cities surrounding the Haldimand tract have one of the highest trade union densities in North America, much of the grassroots support and activism by settlers in support of indigenous struggle has come from rank and file union members. This has certainly been the case with the Caledonia Community Friends group, whose core activist membership is made up of rank and file members of CAW 505, CAW 707, USWA 1005, CUPE 3906, CUPE 3903, CUPE 4200, and several other SEIU and CUPE locals.

Work to consolidate and build an increased network of grassroots union activists that can both push the trade union bureaucracy to give more meaningful support to indigenous struggles within against the Canadian state and build a rank and file network of union support for indigenous sovereignty is an important area of work that CUPE 3903 with its history of support to Six Nations and other indigenous struggles is uniquely able to contribute towards.

Therefore, the following motion is being brought forwards to the March 5th, 2007 CUPE 3903 AGM.

BIRT CUPE 3903 create an First Nations Solidarity Working Group whose mandate shall be as follows:

  1. To educate and organize the CUPE 3903 membership about issues relating to matters of indigenous sovereignty and solidarity and to encourage membership participation both within the caucus and the local in general on this issue.
  2. To work within and to help build rank and file networks of union activists working on issues of indigenous solidarity and solidarity.
  3. To co-ordinate efforts in support of indigenous sovereignty with other local, regional and national (union and non-union) projects in support of indigenous sovereignty and solidarity.
  4. To actively participate in supporting indigenous struggles such as (but not limited to) the Six Nations land reclamation.

BIFRT an annual budget of $5000 be allocated to the First Nations Solidarity Working Group to carry out its work.

BIFRT the organizational structure of the First Nations Solidarity Working Group shall be as follows:

Every six months the First Nations Solidarity Working Group shall elect 2 co-ordinators to make sure that meetings happen regularly and to serve as contact people for the executive and the rest of the local, as well as taking on such administrative tasks as keeping an email and phone list, and keeping track of financial expenses.

The First Nations Solidarity Working Group itself shall meet regularly and shall work by consensus. If consensus cannot be reached on particular issues decisions shall be resolved by majority vote.

The First Nations Solidarity Working Group shall develop such other organizational structures as it deems necessary.

The First Nations Solidarity Working Group shall regularly report its activities to the CUPE 3903 GMM.

June 5, 2008 Posted by | admin | | Leave a comment