Every Child Matters – Chaque enfant compte

This summer’s horrific news of the discovery of unmarked graves on the sites of former residential “schools” in Western Canada motivated Quebec Steelworkers to develop a way to honour and recognize Sept. 30 – the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Steelworker Staff Representative and National Aboriginal Committee member Jean-Yves Couture, along with two other National Aboriginal Committee members from Quebec, Tshakapesh Jérôme and Christian Chouinard, discussed ways to commemorate Sept. 30 and the tragedy of trauma and death Indigenous children suffered at residential “schools” and how to participate in Orange Shirt Day.

The group approached young Montreal-based Innu artist Alyssa Jérôme to design an image for an orange T-shirt the district would produce and distribute to Steelworkers local unions. Jérôme’s “Chaque enfant compte” design features a mother turtle and her young turtle, symbolizing a child of Turtle Island, a reference in some Indigenous cultures to the continent of North America.

The initiative took off with many locals and members participating. More than 1,000 shirts went out to Steelworkers locals all across Quebec.

Members were asked to share photos of themselves wearing the shirt for Sept. 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Members took part in community events including wearing the shirts outside the National Assembly in Quebec City and in many workplaces.

It was a gesture of solidarity with Indigenous people and a recognition of a shameful part of Canada’s history that must be faced. The union believes that we must learn about the “truth” in order to move towards reconciliation.

The topic of Indigenous reconciliation and actions we can take within our union and as individuals will be on the agenda at the District 5 Annual Assembly in November.

We must listen, and then offer and show our support. We must push governments – provincially and federally – to do more than make empty promises on Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous people.

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