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BURNABYCUPE’s National Equality representative for the B.C. region, Conni Kilfoil, has been named as one of three inaugural recipients of the Carol McGregor CLC Disability Rights Award.

Established in memory of a long-time activist on the disability rights working group of the Canadian Labour Congress, this award recognizes the outstanding contributions of workers who have made an impact in the union and/or the community by promoting and defending the rights of persons with disabilities. This year, the CLC is recognizing the contribution of three exceptional people who represent three different kinds of activism. Sister Kilfoil, who began her Equality assignment in B.C. in 2005, was cited by the CLC as a passionate advocate who has made a remarkable contribution to deepening our movement’s understanding of the Duty to Accommodate.

In her 24 years in the labour movement, Conni has also been a Job Evaluation representative, a Research representative, and an in-house counsel. In her various assignments she has been teaching courses on bullying and harassment, human rights, and the duty to accommodate to CUPE local and district councils from coast to coast, to joint union-management groups in B.C., and through the Labour Studies Program at Capilano University for more than a decade.

Conni first became interested in disability rights in 1982 when she completed a certificate course from the Canadian Human Rights Foundation. Working with various First Nations in Quebec and B.C. in the 1970s and ’80s, Conni became acutely aware of the disproportionately high incidence of disabilities in the Aboriginal community. As a staff lawyer at CUPE, she came to see that the duty to accommodate had the potential to be a significant agent of social change.  She began a long career representing and providing legal advice on disability-related accommodation cases, educating and empowering union members and others about the duty to accommodate and the importance of disability rights.

As a member of the B.C. Human Rights Coalition, she has taught “Bullying and Harassment in the Aboriginal Workplace” courses (which deal with disability-related harassment) to various First Nations in B.C. and the Yukon.

Conni is truly a deserving recipient of this award,” says CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill.

Her leadership on disability rights issues in general, and the tremendous work she has done on Duty to Accommodate in particular, have made a huge difference—not only in the workplace but in the union as well. By reaching so many rank and file members, activists, and employers with that work, she has actually helped to change how we view disability in the workplace.”

This other recipients of the inaugural Carol McGregor CLC Disability Rights Award are Teamsters Local 931 shop steward Erik Desjardins, honoured for leading by example and fighting for inclusion at his workplace, and Derek Fudge, national director of public policy development and liaison for the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), and the first chairperson of the CLC’s Disability Rights Working Group.