Take a Minute…….
It is Tuesday morning around 7:30am. It is still dark in Thunder Bay but I can see the sky starting to break to let the new day begin. Something has been on my mind for the last few days and I finally thought it would be important to write about.
Last week, we celebrated International Women’s Day. I was lucky enough to spend the day in Toronto with the Provincial Women’s Committee and then the evening at the celebration sponsored by Edie in Region 5. It was wonderful, made new friends, listened to women, received information on important women’s issues around the globe and here at home. And then it happened……..Earlier that day…….
An OPSEU member asked “What is a residential school?” I thought I was going to choke on my muffin. I could not believe my ears. Wow, after hearing that and trying to explain I thought that maybe we have not done enough of a good job in educating our members about our own neighbours in our own backyard. It has been on my mind ever since. We do a wonderful job of helping others in the world but I think it is time to stop and learn about neighbours and friends in the far north of Ontario.
I am not from the north. I lived all my life in Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto. Twelve years ago, I took a leave of absence from my job at the courthouse in Ottawa to see what the north was all about and to reunite with an old friend. I should have written a book. I had no idea that life could be so different in Ontario.
I live away from my partner to work. I work as an employment advisor at the college in Thunder Bay. When I first started, I was working in the remote communities. Most of my clients were aboriginal people living in First Nation communities. I could not have paid for the education that I fell into or the culture of people that I have grown to admire and enjoy being with. Everyday was a learning experience and believe me, at times an uncomfortable experience. I was welcomed with open arms to many homes, ate traditional meals, and even learned a few words of the language. Close your eyes and imagine living in a community of maybe eight or nine streets, roads not paved, no basketball hoop to play with, and three bags of milk might cost you $12.00. Oh, I forgot, there may not be a school or even clean and safe drinking water.
I could go on but I am hoping that you are starting to get a picture and maybe even a flicker of interest to find out more about our friends and neighbours in the north.
Please take the time to educate yourself and others about our Aboriginal friends and neighbours. It is our history that we need to know and it is our responsibility to help to move forward and grow together for our future in this province we all call home.
In the next couple of months, The Provincial Women’s Committee will be fundraising to partner with the women of Fort Albany First Nation to help the community with some of the needs of the women. Ask yourself, “What can I do as a woman here to help a woman in the far north and make a difference in another sister’s life?” I know I am.
Provincial Women’s Committee – Region 7