Black history is Canadian history. But the stories of Black Canadians have been undocumented and untold. Why? The answer is systemic racism. In Canada, Black people and Black communities have had to endure segregation based on their ethnicity and the colour of their skin. The stories of Black enslavement in Canada must be told and shared widely. We need a shift in perspective to move away from the biases embedded in our systems of power.

These are just some of the messages delegates at the 3rd National Black Canadians Summit heard throughout the three day gathering in Halifax, Nova Scotia in July, 2022. Over 1,200 delegates from across Canada came together in one space to recognize, honour, and inspire Black Canadians, allies, and leaders to push for and create long overdue change.  Delegates learned from each other and shared strategies to break down barriers and create institutional improvements. The summit emphasized the importance of taking a proactive approach to prevent all forms of discriminatory practices and actions in Canada, including racism towards Black people across Canada’s stolen land.

A CUPE delegation of 14 attended the summit to listen, learn, and engage. Black and racialized CUPE members from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec represented labour in every space they joined.  They raised issues of precarious employment and the need to prioritize employment equity to better increase workplace representation of Black, Indigenous, and racialized people, including those who identify as 2SLGBTQ+, women, and persons with disabilities.

On the final day of the summit, Black elders including Lynn Jones, the Honourable Michaëlle Jean, El Jones, and Senator Wanda Bernard presented the Halifax Declaration. The declaration’s demands for justice include the recognition of Black people and people of African descent in Canada as a distinct group, the recognition that the enslavement of Black people in Canada and its impacts are real, and the need for reparations for Indigenous and Black people in Canada. The declaration was presented through an artistic performance featuring singing, drumming, and movement. The gathering was an historical moment for Black Canadians, leaving participants ready to take action.

At CUPE’s 2021 National Convention, delegates adopted an anti-racism strategy. The strategy’s overall aim to create an anti-racist labour movement. This means CUPE will continue to fight and dismantle racism against Black people as well as racialized and Indigenous people.  The implementation of the strategy’s ten goals has already begun and will continue in the coming years.

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