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CUPE’s Colombian visitor is now in the third week of a cross-Canada tour to meet CUPE members, tour their workplaces and exchange views on everything from free trade and privatization to youth activism and women’s equality.

Maria Fernanda Bolanos did not hesitate to join in when she learned that a major protest rally was taking place in downtown Halifax on July 28. She was keen to support the protest to stop the closure of an Air Canada base, especially when she learned that the majority of CUPE’s flight attendants are women.

Noticing the many young children at the rally, some wearing picket signs to support their parents, Bolanos commented that they would not dare to bring their children to such events for fear that they would be hurt by police.

Before the rally, 18-year veteran waste water worker Dave Dort (CUPE 227) showed the municipal worker from Cali, Colombia, how liquid waste treatment is done by CUPE members at the Mill Cove Water Pollution Control Centre. Other CUPE members, including a female operator, walked her through the water purification process at the J.D. Kline water-supply plant near Pockwock Lake.

After the rally, a CUPE 108 member gave Bolanos a walking tour of Halifax’s public gardens, another city facility run by CUPE members. On arrival, Bolanos made a short visit to picturesque Peggy’s Cove.

Her Nova Scotia stop will also take her to Acadia University in Wolfville, a free trade coffee operation and CUPE-run solid waste and recycling plants in Colchester County before transferring to New Brunswick July 30-August 4.

Bolanos was hosted by CUPE NS president Danny Cavanagh and national global justice committee co-chair Barb Moore.

During a similar tour of Toronto, she met with CUPE 416 president Brian Cochrane and some of his executive. The meeting ran long and our guest missed the planned tour of massive Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant. She also met with CUPE Ontario president Sid Ryan, secretary-treasurer Fred Hahn and several local executives.

Asked to compare her city waste management operation with Canadian ones, she commented jokingly that they all had one thing in common: the stunk. She described her work as a weigh-scale operator as being situated in the middle of a “mountain of garbage”. She works an eight-hour day, beginning at 6 a.m. after a one-hour bus ride.

Global justice staff adviser Derek Blackadder and national global justice committee member Edgar Godoy assisted Bolanos during her visit. Her Toronto tour included short trips to Niagara Falls and Cobourg where she met with Colombian Canadians.

In Ottawa, she toured waste management operations after meeting with CUPE 503 president Brian Madden and some of his executive. The local booked off Peruvian-Canadian city worker Carlos Ortiz, who works in waste management, to assist Bolanos. CUPE National staff member Sylvia Sioufi provided assistance throughout the Ottawa stop.

CUPE local members, as well as those from the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers took Bolanos salsa dancing one night. They also introduced her to Colombian families that were assisted in their move to Canada by activists from CUPE, PSAC, CUPW and other groups. She also met with several national staff members and PSAC national president John Gordon.

Bolanos will do similar visits to Fredericton, Moncton, Vancouver and Winnipeg before returning home on August 22 from Toronto.