Calgary – April 21, 2020 – International Mother Earth Day, April 22, is an annual acknowledgement of our interconnectedness with the planet and the community we share with all living beings. Ron Klassen, Métis and Treaty One member and UFCW Local 401 member, knows all about the importance of taking care of each other as human beings and as union members.
Ron has made it his life’s work to stand up for justice and fairness for all workers and ensure that diversity and inclusion efforts are respectful and inclusive of Indigenous traditional ways. Ron is also a founding member of the UFCW Canada Indigenous Sub-Committee, where he works with a team of dedicated Indigenous UFCW members to ensure that UFCW Canada inclusion efforts are aligned with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
In November 2019, Ron wrote to the Alberta provincial government to inquire about the use of a traditional eagle feather for court proceedings, instead of making an oath in civil, family, or criminal court in Alberta by swearing on a religious text or by making a non-religious affirmation. Today, traditional eagle feathers are now available for use in all Alberta court proceedings, and as a long-time Commissioner of Oaths, Ron uses a traditional eagle feather to support Indigenous individuals attending court proceedings, in addition to his work within community.
Growing up in a home where Métis culture was not practiced, Ron recalls a special moment as a young adult when he was on a city bus and was approached by an elderly Indigenous woman. She looked at his hand and pointed to a birth mark that looked like a heart. She told him he was given the heart of a Buffalo, according to traditional teachings. Eventually Ron ended up holding an executive position at a Calgary Friendship Centre, where he unpacked his past, his traditional ways, and encouraged others to do the same. He continues to do so within his Local Union today.
Ron’s story is symbolic of why it’s important to honour International Mother Earth Day. By taking care of Mother Earth, we can take care of each other.