National Convention Day 1 – Powerful opening to in-person USJE National Convention

The USJE 18th National Triennial Convention had a powerful start to the day with 158 delegates and 16 observers coming together in person in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, after nearly 4-1/2 years since the last Convention.

The Convention began with Métis Elder Amelia Reimer offering prayers to the Creator and acknowledging the unceded ancestral homelands of the Mi’kmaq and Beothuk on which USJE was meeting, as well as acknowledging the other Indigenous peoples, the Inuit of Nunatsiavut and NunatuKavut, and the Innu of Nitassinan, who also reside on unceded territory on this land.  

National President Stan Stapleton, who will be retiring at this Convention after seven years in office, gave an impactful opening address, highlighting some of the USJE’s accomplishments over his time in office, which was extended due to the delay in the Convention timing.

Stan Stapleton also spoke about how Canadians can no longer turn away from the brutality and violence of residential schools, calling them acts of genocide, and reinforcing the need for all 96 Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Report to be fulfilled.

He thanked everyone for their support over the years, particularly his wife, Cathy Stapleton, and spoke about the challenges and opportunities ahead for the new President and National Executive, who will be elected at the Convention on Thursday.

PSAC National President Chris Aylward also gave a rousing speech to the Convention Hall regarding the fight to get public service employees and other workers fair and decent contracts in the face of steep rises in food and gas prices.

Chris Aylward also expressed heartfelt thanks to Stan both as a colleague and a friend, which led to the second standing ovation of the day for our outgoing National President.

Later in the day, delegates adopted the reports of all 17 Regional Vice-Presidents and voted to pass the reports from the National President, Director of Labour Relations, Rebecca Thompson, and Director of Finance and Administration, Christina Hatchard.

Christina’s speech to Convention included a moving tribute to her former colleague at National Office Diane Leduc-Doran, who passed away in 2017 from complications caused by Lyme Disease.

RVP for the National Capital Region (NCR) JP Surette presented on USJE special funding that was distributed in 2020 under USJE’s Community Investment Initiative. He presented a video that featured  some of the great results from the money given to Bear Clan Patrol in Winnipeg, the Youth Diversion Program in Kingston, Ontario, Mirimachi Youth House in New Brunswick and Yale First Nation in Southwestern BC.

There was a lengthy and at times impassioned discussion on the Budget resolution. Talk on this point continued up until the end of the day, with the resolution to return again to the floor on Day 2 (Wednesday).

The National Equity Committee held a reception in the evening along with a music jam session, giving everyone an opportunity to learn more about the Committee’s work on equity issues, and connect with other delegates.