Our union has been plunged into the middle of the fallout over the violent killing of George Floyd and several other Black and Indigenous people in the U.S. and Canada.
Like everyone else, these events have caused us to listen better, and to look at ourselves, our communities, our workplaces, as well as our responsibilities as a union.
Not only must we vigorously defend our collective agreements, but we must also set an example of what fairness, equity and humanity look like.
A couple of weeks ago, I read a vicious article about the incident involving a journalist at the CBC.
In it, the author casts some young journalists as snitches and rats.
It was a hurtful article that unacceptably accuses whomever spoke out of betraying some fictitious moral code.
I completely disagree. As media workers, we know whistleblowers play a vital role in our democracy, and force accountability within organizations.
In fact, I believe it’s time to bring in a better process for members to speak up without fear of repercussions.
I know this incident has been a difficult one for many of our fellow union members and the public. Sides have been picked, and camps formed.
There are real hurts within the corporation – and I get it.
Over the years, Black, Indigenous and People of Colour at CBC/Radio-Canada have voiced their experiences about being silenced, passed over for jobs, or pushed aside. Personally, I’ve watched talented Indigenous employees leave in frustration, or because they felt isolated.
So it was against this backdrop that I discovered in horror, that while reading the article in question on Facebook I inadvertently hit a key. The wrong key.
It was an accident – but what a slip to make at such a critical time.
I want to stress that I am unequivocal when it comes to making the corporation an equitable, healthy and inclusive place to work for everyone, especially for those who have been and continue to be disadvantaged.
Our union, too, is far too White, and I am working to change that.
An important job for me and my fellow union members, is to critically examine why this is so, how it impacts everything we do as a union – including how we respond to our BIPOC members – and bring change that tangibly addresses anti-Black racism, racism against Indigenous people and against People of Colour – just as we’ve asked of others.
As first steps, we have tasked a team to develop anti-racism policies and strategies that can be included in our collective agreements, and be raised with employers as a priority. We are also looking at ways to invest in anti-racism education as part of union education programs.
Because we know many temporary employees are BIPOC, I’ve also asked the federal government to provide targeted funding for CBC/Radio-Canada to convert 600 temporary employees to fulltime permanent staff.
We have a lot of work ahead, but we also have resolve to make a difference.
My careless mistake hurt friends who were shocked to see the “thumbs up” emoji beside something so objectionable.
I am sorry for that, and to everyone this hurt.
And I regret that it takes focus away from the important work my fellow union representatives and I have been doing, and need to do.
CBC/Radio-Canada Branch President, Canadian Media Guild