Labour to dissect Nunavut rights bill

Union officials to hold public discussions in Iqaluit


Iqaluit residents will get a chance to talk about Nunavut’s human rights bill, the future of medicare and workplace literacy starting Feb. 3 during four public events organized by the Northern Territories Federation of Labour.

The longest event is a day-and-half-long dissection of Nunavut’s proposed human rights law next Thursday evening at the francophone hall, and all day Friday at the new NEU office complex beside Arctic Ventures. Justice Minister Paul Okalik introduced the bill during last fall’s legislative assembly sitting in Pangnirtung, but it’s received little public discussion so far.

Mary Ellen Thomas, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s area council for Nunavut, said the public events give labour leaders a chance to show people that the union movement is about more than the struggle for better wages, benefits and working conditions for union members.

“It’s for social justice and social action. It’s not just about getting collective agreements in place. The union movement is a bigger movement. That’s why we have opened the sessions to the public and tried to get some meaningful discussion about what these things might look like in Nunavut,” Thomas said.

She said a group of national and Nunavut union officials are in Iqaluit next week anyway, to do education work with senior union officials.

“We decided that there’s no point in their being in their hotels at night and we might as well open it up to public discussion on a number of other issues,” Thomas said.

Labour officials will hold four public events in Iqaluit next week:

• Monday, Feb. 3, 6:30 p.m., at the francophone hall — discussion on workplace literacy led by Steve Peterson, literacy co-ordinator for the Northern Territories Federation of Labour.

• Thursday, Feb. 6, noon hour, at the francophone hall — discussion on the Romanow report on the future of health care, led by Mike Desautel of the Canadian Labour Congress.

• Thursday, Feb. 6, 6:30 p.m., at the francophone hall — panel presentation on the Nunavut human rights bill, with Doug Workman, president of the Nunavut Employees Union; David Onyalo, director of the CLC’s human rights department; Raj Dhaliwal, director of the Canadian Auto Workers human rights department; and Jean-François Des Laurier, regional vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

• Friday, Feb. 7, all day, starting at 9:00 a.m., at the NEU office complex beside Arctic Ventures — a clause-by-clause analysis of the Nunavut human rights bill, conducted by the four members of the Thursday evening panel.

“We want to hear what works, what doesn’t work, about legislation in other provinces and where it can be made stronger. We want to be on the cutting edge,” Thomas said of the human rights discussions.

The Northern Territories Federation of Labour is an umbrella organization made up of all unions in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

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