NEW WESTMINSTER – CUPE Metro Vancouver District Council hosted its sixth annual International Women’s Day lunch on Friday, March 7 for women who live and work in New Westminster and Burnaby, as well as community groups who provide services to women and children in need. Aboriginal Education Coordinator Bertha Lansdowne welcomed everyone to traditional Qay qayt (pronounced “Ka-Kite”) territory to honour the first peoples of the region who were wiped out by smallpox.
Besides the lunch, participants made beaded glass jewelry at the arts table, were entertained by CUPE 23 member Chika Buston from the group Cosmic Wink, and heard from New Westminster NDP MLA Judy Darcy.
Darcy saluted CUPE women for organizing the event. She noted that we are more powerful working in coalition at a community level. Although we’ve come far in many respects, Darcy highlighted some of the issues still facing women today:
- Childcare - B.C. still has the highest child poverty rate in Canada for ten years running.
- Reproductive Choice - Clinics have been hit with exorbitant fees so they are no long able to provide education services.
- Violence on the job
Health care is the most dangerous occupation because of low staffing levels.
Darcy explained that the NDP women’s caucus meets weekly, looking at legislation through the eyes of women. She said there is still no public transportation on the Highway of Tears, despite the issue being raised with government at least ten times.
Darcy encouraged all in attendance to participate in the upcoming civic elections this November. “It’ll be important to defend folks who support progressive policies like the living wage,” Darcy said, noting that New Westminster is the first municipality to bring in living-wage policies.
CUPE Metro President Cindy McQueen, event emcee, noted that the BC Liberals are slashing services for women and children.
The event concluded with the group singing “Bread and Roses”, a song from the 1911 women-led textile strike. Protein packs and sandwiches were available for guests to take home for those who couldn’t attend the event. This event was one of many throughout the province.
“More than half of CUPE members are women,” said CUPE BC President Mark Hancock. “We proudly celebrate International Women’s Day, honour our union Sisters, and work towards a better society for all.”
For more photos visit the CUPE BC Gallery