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On the heels of CUPE’s first Human Rights Conference in Vancouver, November 23-26,CUPE members and all Canadians are entering a month during which human rights’ issues will be highlighted through a series of commemorative days.

Today is the first. It is World AIDS Day. On this day we want to remind Canadians that many CUPE members have met this disease face-to-face, either through work as care providers or through more personal circumstances.

Brother Claude Généreux, your national secretary-treasurer, has witnessed first-hand the pain and devastation that AIDS has inflicted in South Africa.

Today we feel compelled to remind governments in Canada and across the world that stopping the spread of HIV/Aids must be a worldwide priority.

On August 16, 2006, Brother Paul Moist, CUPE’s national president, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper deploring his boycott of the largest world conference to date on the AIDS epidemic that has killed more than 25 million people.

Clearly, Mr. Harper’s absence from this significant gathering held on Canadian soil was not our prime minister’s first international gaffe, nor will it be his last. But his absence and the refusal of the government he leads to put Canada at the forefront of thwarting the onslaught of this disease is painful for all Canadians.

The cancellation of a promised media event during the International AIDS Conference held in Toronto went further to suggest that Canada’s conservative government has nothing to say or offer on this worldwide pandemic. While our government expresses concern about future pandemics that could be facing us all, they remain silent on the action front when it comes to HIV/AIDS.

And recently it became evident that this government is threatening to stop funding the critically important Vancouver needle exchange program.

So today, on World AIDS Day, we once again call upon the government of Canada to steer our country to the forefront in the fight against this disease.

We also call upon CUPE members to stand up and speak out on behalf of all the women, men and children suffering from HIV/AIDS. We ask too that you remind the government through your MP that concrete support for furthering the fight against AIDS is required immediately. Our collective voices will contribute to making Canada’s voice stronger at home and abroad.

Perhaps by the time we commemorate World AIDS Day in 2007 we will have a government committed to this cause.

Paul Moist, CUPE National President
Claude Généreux, CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer