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NUPGE Environment Conference—Climate Justice: Workers taking action

“Climate change is the crisis of our time. We need to continue to build the awareness and sense of urgency in order to force our governments to seriously act.” — Bert Blundon, NUPGE President

Ottawa (26 Oct. 2022) — Members of the National Union of Public and General (NUPGE) and environmental activists gathered in Ottawa for the Climate Justice: Workers taking action environment conference. 

Meaningful opening

The conference opened with a traditional territories acknowledgment and blessing from Sheldon McGregor, an Algonquin Anishinaabe knowledge keeper from Kitigan Zibi.

Bert Blundon, President of NUPGE, provided a welcome and opening remarks. “Climate change is the crisis of our time,” he said. “We need to continue to build the awareness and sense of urgency in order to force our governments to seriously act.”

Workers must be at the table

Steve Shallhorn and Karen Charnow Lior from the Labour Education Centre led participants in a workshop, which underscored the role of workers in climate action. It covered the basics of climate change, understanding mitigation and adaptation, Just Transition, and what workers and their unions can do about climate change. 

Jason MacLean, NUPGE's Secretary-Treasurer, spoke about the need to support workers and communities that are being affected by climate change now, as well as to be proactive to mitigate climate change and adapt to its effects.

Marginalized communities at the centre of climate justice 

Eriel Deranger from Indigenous Climate Action spoke about the importance of Indigenous leadership and knowledge in climate action. Given the link between colonialism and climate change, she underscored how Indigenous rights are part of the solution to the climate crisis.

Christopher Wilson and Denise Hampden from the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists facilitated a workshop and important conversations about confronting environmental racism and how we can take action in our unions. 

Coalition building is challenging, but necessary 

Lauren Latour of Climate Action Network Canada, of which NUPGE is a member, spoke about coalition building. She shared lessons from efforts to build and work in coalition on climate action and Just Transition.

Knowledge sharing among members

Conference participants were NUPGE members, activists, and leaders from across the country.

Throughout the conference — in small-group discussions, workshops, and Q&As — participants shared their own expertise and experiences on climate-related initiatives. It was an opportunity to learn from one another and build connections.