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Sisters and Brothers,
Today marks the 20th annual traditional prayer vigil and feast for Leonard Peltier. From the Turtle Mountain Chippewa band, Peltier is a political prisoner who was incarcerated after being wrongfully extradited from Canada in 1976.
This year, in addition to calling for Peltier's release, the vigil will be an act of recognition and solidarity with the Idle No More movement.
As union members, we hold civil and human rights at the core of our beliefs. We fight to end racism, to improve equity in workplaces and in law, and we stand together with people in their struggles against oppression everywhere. Only by raising each other up can we achieve a fair, equal and peaceful society.
Thanks in no small part to CUPE Ontario's Aboriginal Council, we continue to seek equality for our First Nations members and their communities. This year, Sister Joanne Webb, CUPE Ontario Diversity Vice-President, Aboriginal, and a recent recipient of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal, will address the vigil and bring a messages of support from CUPE.
Idle No More is a grassroots movement. Like the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the highly visible First Nations movement of the 1970s, it is a struggle for rights and recognition that is led not by the rich and powerful, but by working-class people like you.
In January, Leonard Peltier also wrote a letter in support of Idle No More, reflecting on the movement's significance and commonality with his own environmentally motivated struggle:
"With personal knowledge I totally understand the difficulties of getting people to take action to bring about change. The direction that the world corporations have taken historically and today have largely been at the expense of the Indigenous People around the world. I encourage anyone who reads these words to become involved as much as possible to stem this tide of environmental destruction taking place."
We wish to take this opportunity to reaffirm our support for Peltier's release and to express our support for and solidarity with Idle No More.