Canada Employment and Immigration Union -
October 11, 2011

Ontario Women’s Committee gears up for political action

CEIU’s Ontario Women’s Committee spent an intense and rewarding weekend looking at the importance of political action for women and practical ways to carry it out. Among the speakers working with the committee were federal NDP MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan, Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) Secretary-Treasurer Marie Kelly and OFL Director of Women’s Rights Carol Ann Sceviour.

“This was the energizing event that every union gathering should be,” said Kamla Ishmael, CEIU’s National Vice-President for Women’s Issues, “and we will work hard at engaging more of our members in political action. We need to put effective political pressure on Harper if we are to save public services and the jobs of our members.” 

The speakers from the OFL focused on how women could play a strong role both in their union and in the wider political arena. They were followed by recently elected NDP Member of Parliament Rathika Sitsabaiesan (Scarborough-Rouge Valley) who was active in her union and in her community before running for elected office. In her remarks, she stressed the importance of engaging people effectively at the grassroots level and offered suggestions for breaking down the barriers to women’s participation in politics.

Sister Ishmael will be maintaining an ongoing relationship with the Scarborough-Rouge Valley MP to build the important connections between our union, the community and elected officials. Sitsabaiesan is a member of the parliamentary committee on Citizenship and Immigration but the goal is to work with her on issues that affect CEIU members at all departments: HRSD/Service Canada, the IRB and CIC.

The Women’s Committee extended invitations to CEIU Ontario leaders who were not Committee members. “We wanted to reach out beyond the Committee,” said Ishmael, “because developing political action is important for all of our members and for the services we deliver.”  Activist Paul Soeiro called the speakers “amazing” and recommended that the training be repeated at the region’s upcoming conference of local representatives.

The Committee worked hard at preparing the meeting but offered special thanks to newly hired CEIU National Representative Patricia Homonnay for pulling together important arrangements, including the guest speakers, on very short notice. “A lot of great work went into making this training a success,” said Ishmael, “and a lot of energy and enthusiasm came out of it.

L-R: Adrienne Mcfarlane, Brenda McKinnon, Nicole Ma, Paul Soeiro, Rathika Sitsabaiesan, Carol Ann Sceviour, Kamla Ishmael,Travis Lahnalampi, Marie Kelly, Jacqueline Wheway-Bacon, Connie Lento, Val Fargey, Isabelle Defreitas

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