“Similarities rather than differences”
The BC Federation of Labour’s 58th Convention opened today at the Vancouver Trade & Convention Centre
with a lone voice singing a song of welcome and closed with the 949-strong delegation repeatedly voting with
one voice. Proceedings began with Alec Dan of the Musqueam Nation welcoming the delegation to his
ancestral lands with a traditional prayer and song and the day closed with the unanimous passing of five
Human Rights resolutions supporting Indigenous Nations, people with disabilities, asylum-seekers and those
What we heard between the sound of Dan’s drum and motions carrying was a call for unity in action.
First up, newly-elected mayor of Vancouver, Kennedy Stewart, who graciously acknowledged that his win, and
that of the four other labour-endorsed mayors present on the large stage, wouldn’t have occurred without the
support of BC’s workers.
In her President’s Address following Stewart, outgoing president Irene Langzinger shared 10 lessons she’s
learned on her long road as a teacher/activist, at once encouraging and admonishing. The first woman to serve
as BC Fed president urged delegates to “organize, organize, organize” and set aside differences and seek
common ground to find big and bold solutions for the huge challenges we face, particularly poverty and climate
Jagmeet Singh, candidate for Burnaby South MP & federal leader NDP, echoed Langzinger in his rousing opening “we’re all one and when we lift each other up, we all rise”. Singh hit all the notes befitting a campaigning politician
speaking at a Vancouver-based convention: affordable housing, secure healthcare, the environment and
proportional representation. Combine Singh’s personable charm and seemingly sound policy ideas with his
high-energy walkout song and call to recognize data as a public infrastructure and it’s not hard to see our
current Trudeau has met his match. One CUPE 15 member cheekily suggested a ‘walk-off’ a la Zoolander
between and Singh and Justin Trudeau could be in the works.
Following with a more subdued but equally heartfelt address, Brian Ramsay, director of the CFL Association,
briefly outlined how players’ day jobs and a lack of adequate medical support-players are exempt from the
current Workers Compensation system-leaves many with unresolved injuries and insurmountable medical bills.
In a room of intelligent, driven activists Cheryl Casimer, Political Executive of the First Nations Summit, stood
out. Casimer began by pointing out that the year of the inaugural BC Fed convention was the year that status
indians were able to vote without losing their status. She urged building partnerships and relationships in
seeking reconciliation, asking delegates to “look for similarities, rather than differences…because we have
more in common than not”. It’s easier to believe this is possible coming from one of the Ktunaxa people who
achieved sociocultural alchemy by turning their residential school in what’s now known as Cranbrook into a
profitable resort, casino and golf course.
Many delegates left to fulfill the call to committed action by heading to evening caucuses and an International
Solidarity Night at the nearby Westin Bayshore, fulfilling Langzinger’s call to achieve the highest level of
engagement possible. Others of us simply caught the bus home to digest all we’d heard and rest up for Day 2.