Say "No" To Racism
Mar 21, 2007
Wednesday, March 21 is the International Day for the Elimination of Racism. There are many events and seminars happening around the province to note this special day.
Which is encouraging to see for someone who grew up in a family that didn’t talk about being Aboriginal because of racism in their community – the same kind of intolerance that seems to be acceptable in most workplaces.
Who hasn’t heard someone in the workplace say something to the effect of, “they got their job because of that Aboriginal program”? People assume that Aboriginals do not have the qualifications or the skill and ability to obtain employment any other way. That is why a large number of Aboriginal people do not disclose their heritage to their employer.
I grew up that way. Where I come from, my ancestors denied the fact that they were Aboriginal so that they could get a job, so that they could provide for their families, so that they could travel around the area without a “pass” from the Indian Agent. To be considered a person - not a ward of the government - and permitted free access to all that was available at the time for a non-Aboriginal, they had to give up who they were and deny where they came from.
So we now have successive generations of people who do not know their own history. On the maternal side of the family my grandfather forbid my grandmother to talk about the fact that she was from the “Petersfield Settlement”, she was a Sinclair from Manitoba. I have since learned who I am and have found my voice. I am a proud Anishinaabe woman.
I remember one of my first work experiences. My co-workers told me I had got my job because I was a woman and because I was Aboriginal. Despite that difficult start, I became skilled at my job and went on to complete my Civil Engineering Diploma at Red River College in 1999. After working for many years as an Engineering Aid, I went on to work in the Human Resource sector and now work as an Aboriginal Liaison Officer for the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union.
And when I go to speak to employees at MGEU workplaces or to other groups, I think back to what it was like for me before I found work at an organization that truly celebrates, respects and embraces our heritage.
That is why, if you see someone being treated differently in your workplace because of the colour of their skin or what they stand for, I urge you to speak up and say “no to racism.”
MGEU Aboriginal Liaison Officer
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