Joanne Foote, a 30-year activist from CUPE 6095 (Hospital Employees’ Union, B.C.), is the winner of this year’s Grace Hartman Award. The award is presented to a CUPE activist who embodies the qualities and legacy of CUPE’s first woman president.

Sister Foote, an Ojibwe Elder from the Rama reserve in Ontario, recently retired from her job as a recreation aide in Maple Ridge, B.C.

Foote spoke of her roots in Sudbury, growing up in a mining town with a father who “seemed to always be on a picket line.” She told the story of Hartman joining striking Inco workers when Foote was a girl. “I asked my father who she was, and he said ‘She’s the leader of a big union, and she’s here to support us.’” Foote noted the deep honour she felt in receiving the award, and the beauty of “the way the circle closes, for me to receive this in Grace Hartman’s name at the end of my career.”

In dedicating the award to her union sisters, Foote said she lived by the principle that “we should always walk beside each other, not ahead and not behind.”