UFCW Canada Local 401 has teamed up with the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) and other leading civil society organizations to help one of the province’s most service deprived communities find hope through an inspiring project called “Operation Hockey”.
The Lubicon Cree Nation is a First Nations community in north-central Alberta where – despite being situated in a province currently awash with massive energy profits – the residents live in third world conditions with many homes lacking running water and indoor toilets.
“Operation Hockey is an initiative based on a problem that the Lubicon Cree Nation has been shunted aside and excluded from the wealth generated from the resources that this community is sitting on,” says AFL President Gil McGowan. “This community has unmet needs, and this initiative is all about the labour movement looking for a concrete way to help,” says AFL President Gil McGowan.
That concrete way to help, an ice hockey rink, became clear after the AFL’s Human Rights and International Soldarity Committee, which includes UFCW Canada Local 401 union representative Ricardo Demenezes, visited the Lubicon community last year.
“We talked to the adults and they expressed their concerns to us, and the Lubicon youth were very vocal about wanting to do something to build their community. They said they wanted a hockey rink. So we started Operation Hockey,” says Brother Demenezes. “We thought it was a great idea because the new rink could serve as a place for the kids to play, and, at the same time, become an anchor for the community.”
The first game on the new rink was played in February, with community members playing alongside labour leaders and union activists, including Local 401’s Rick Schneider and Kevin Braun.
While the project is already a big success, Operation Hockey is still active and still needs the help of activists, friends and supporters to finish the rink. For more information about this important campaign, contact the AFL.
Vol. XI, No 13 • March 28 2011