How I began my life as a statistic
Last Christmas, the Provincial Executive came up with a great idea: let’s bring in a photo of ourselves when we were children or babies and then guess who is who! Everyone was excited except me. I quickly texted the President and quietly asked, “Can we not?”
Growing up in foster care
My childhood was a rocky one. I was in and out of foster care. My adopted mother died when I was ten, putting me back into unstable, rapidly changing environments. Finding a picture of me under the age of 35 takes some real work. When you are constantly being moved from one home to another, photos that may have been taken are lost. Later when I had a camera, I was frequently behind it. As a single mother, I took loads of photos of my daughter, but there wasn’t anyone who could take pictures of me.
The President understood and changed the game immediately. That was important. What was also important was that it opened a deeper dialogue of what Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity really mean. I belong to three different equity seeking groups, but without identifying them, how would anyone know?
I began my life as a statistic. As a child of the system, it was unlikely that I would ever amount to much. For most of younger years, including on the day I sat in a Montreal hospital holding my day old newborn, I was visited by social workers and sometimes RCMP. They provided me a constant reminder that I was at risk, though they were never clear on what that risk was.
Finding my foundation
Adversity and risk, also brings opportunity. When I was 17, I wandered into an NDP candidate’s office in Halifax and asked how I could help. That impulsive decision became the foundation for every decision I made after that. The political world welcomed me. They did not see me as a statistic. They saw me as a person with potential. It changed my life by changing my self-view.
Becoming a role model
I went to university, paying my own way by having a full time job in addition to attending classes full time. I raised my child on my own and helped put her through university so she could become an adult with fewer barriers than I had. I married late in life and when the pandemic hit, I used my lifetime of emotional and mental resilience to survive, and even thrive, as the only income earner in my house, as the Regional Vice President, and as a full-time Healthcare Worker. I even had the capacity to enrol in a certificate program (currently in progress). (I place a very high personal value on education.)
Stepping into leadership
I am driven to be a role model for my daughter, which in turn gives me the drive to be an activist in the labour movement. Although my life changed back in that Halifax NDP election office, I have consistently declined requests to run as a candidate at any level of government. Why? Because what I learned is that my passion is focused on grassroots activism. What I care about on a deeply personal level is whether or not people have jobs that pay fairly and where they can be treated with dignity.
As a child, I cared about whether or not I would see three meals that day. I cared if I had clothes that didn’t get me teased in the classroom. Those are the issues that face our members, and even more acutely, our members with children. Those are the issues of the labour movement. I care about fair wages in return for a fair day’s work because, without those basic rights in place, we are just a statistic.
My passion for the needs of our members is what drives me every day.