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Posts published in March 2021

CUPE condemns anti-Asian racism

Since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in China, Asian Canadian communities have experienced an increase in racist threats, slurs and physical violence.

A new report by the Chinese Canadian National Council documents over 1,000 racist incidents directed at members of the Asian community in Canada over the past year.

The intensification of anti-Asian discrimination is not limited to Canada. In the United States, Asian Americans have also experienced a spike in racist crime and abuse. This includes the tragic loss of Asian and immigrant women killed last week at their workplaces in Atlanta.

CUPE stands in solidarity with Asian communities. Our union is committed to the ongoing fight for human rights across the country and will continue to be in solidarity with workers across the globe.

CUPE invites members to join in a moment of silence on Friday, March 26 at 1:00 pm Eastern as we recognize and honour the lives lost last week in Atlanta.

World Water Day

On World Water Day (March 22), CUPE commits to end water injustice in Indigenous communities and to fight privatization of water and wastewater services.

Safe, reliable water and wastewater services are a human right and the heart of healthy communities. But these rights are denied to many Indigenous communities in Canada. Water services and resources are also under growing pressure to privatize.

The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted just how important clean water is to our health and safety. Clean water for hand washing is essential to stop the spread of the virus – something that is almost impossible for Indigenous peoples living in communities with no clean water and overcrowded housing.

Colonization continues to have devastating effects on Indigenous communities. Access to water and sanitation are human rights according to international law, yet many Indigenous communities in Canada have water that’s unsafe to drink or wash with. Some communities have lived with unsafe water for decades. Other First Nations don’t have any functioning water system at all.

Even before the pandemic began last year, the federal Liberal government wasn’t on track to meet its commitment to end all boil water advisories in First Nation communities by March 2021. Worse, that plan doesn’t have enough long-term, predictable funding for operations and maintenance to end the crisis.

Indigenous peoples are defending and reclaiming their water and territories, protecting them from discriminatory policies and actions known as environmental racism. It’s a form of systemic racism that disproportionately affects Indigenous, Black and racialized people. Many Indigenous communities rely on water sources that have been harmed by resource development projects or are being threatened by new development going through their territories. Corporate resource extraction, including the bottled water industry, is draining water sources, while Indigenous communities next door don’t have access to safe drinking water.

For these reasons and more, CUPE members adopted a resolution at our 2019 convention proclaiming “Water is Life” and recognizing this basic human right for all people. The resolution supports reconciliation by honoring Indigenous peoples’ role as the stewards and protectors of the waters of their treaty lands and traditional unceded territories.

CUPE has a long history of defending public water and wastewater services. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we must be on the lookout for new threats to our water, including from the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB). The Liberal government’s bank of privatization is targeting water and wastewater systems and cash-strapped municipalities and Indigenous communities.

We can stop the spread of water privatization by contracting in. Some local governments are making the choice to end privatization, taking back public ownership and control of water and wastewater services. Learn more about how to bring water and wastewater services back in house and stay alert for signs of privatization in your community.

Learn, act and engage:

  • Coming soon: watch for the launch of the Water is Life campaign, led by CUPE’s National Indigenous Council. Read this Counterpoint feature article about the urgent need for safe, reliable and well-maintained water and wastewater systems in Indigenous communities, and the call to protect and heal water in Indigenous territories. 
  • Be on alert for the Canada Infrastructure Bank in your community. Share CUPE’s list of questions for municipal officials with your local elected representatives and with members of your local, and learn more about how the bank’s first water privatization project failed. Find more CIB resources at
  • Use our checklist to spot the early warning signs of privatization during the pandemic, and share it with members of your local.
  • Order copies of Back in House. This report documents the benefits of contracting in and tells the story of water services coming back in house in several Canadian communities.
Artwork by Christi Belourt, "Manitou Giigoonh #2, 2017, Acrylic on Canvas"

Niibi Bimaadiziwin - Water is life

Checklist: Protecting public services during the pandemic and beyond

Not for sale

Mapleton rejects private takeover of local water system

The Canada Infrastructure Bank: 10 essential questions for municipalities

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Every year on March 21, CUPE marks the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

And every day, CUPE members across the country continue to confront ongoing racism in our union, communities and workplaces, including racial profiling and criminalization, Islamophobia, lack of employment and education opportunities, inadequate health care, precarious work, unequal access to public services, environmental racism and lack of basic human rights for migrant workers.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, racism towards Asian, Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities has spiked. This spike is a pattern of refueled racism towards marginalized populations.

CUPE stands strong members experiencing racism. CUPE does not tolerate any harassing, racist and discriminatory remarks and acts of violence against anyone. Instead of division, we need global and local cooperation, and mutual aid.

CUPE embraces its members, neighbours and friends in this trying time, and re-affirms that unions play a vital role in fighting hatred and fear in Canada and around the world.

It is important for our members facing any form of racism, discrimination and or harassment to contact their local steward or executive member to file a complaint and or grievance. It is equally important for Locals to act promptly by listening to the member and by ensuring that the complaint is brought through the entire grievance process.

At the same time, March 21 is also a time to recognize the significant achievements of Black, Indigenous and racialized peoples in advancing equality and justice in our communities, our workplaces and our union. This includes our members whose activism has strengthened our movement by bringing new ideas, perspectives and energy into the struggles of working people.



  • Take a workshop, book a speaker. Register for a union workshop that deals with anti-racism practices, dealing with harassment, discrimination or bullying. Invite someone to speak about anti-racism at your next union meeting.
  • Sign up for updates and read Canadian Labour Congress report on Islamophobia and how to fight it in the workplace.


  • Download and print CUPE’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination poster.
  • Support the Migrant Rights Network in their campaign for justice for migrant workers in the age of Coronavirus. Sign their petition and share with your networks.
  • Intervene. Educate yourself on the best ways to intervene to challenge racist actions and how best to support the person or group affected. Speak out against racist acts like jokes, slurs, graffiti or name-calling.
  • Challenge your workplace. Speak out about racist and discriminatory policies and practices in your workplace.
  • Challenge yourself. Consider how some of your own assumptions might be influenced by discrimination.
  • Become an ally. An ally is someone who actively supports racialized groups facing challenges. Being in alliance helps strengthen relationships in the workplace.


  • Negotiate employment equity language into your collective agreement. Contact the Human Rights branch for information at

COVID and Occupational Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new health and safety hazards into our workplaces. It has also impacted the severity of existing hazards, including those related to mental health. Although the mental health impacts of the pandemic have been widely discussed, the workplace perspective is often missing from these conversations.

Workers have the right to psychologically healthy and safe workplaces. Nevertheless, many public sector workplaces poorly managed psychological health and safety even before the pandemic began. The additional stresses of increased workload and the risks posed by COVID-19 have compounded these issues and highlighted the lack of systematic controls to address psychosocial hazards.

Psychosocial hazards are workplace practices that cause unnecessary stress, leading to mental injuries. We can create safer workplaces by identifying psychosocial hazards in the workplace and establishing effective controls to prevent mental injuries from occurring. This is the practice of psychological health and safety.

Mental injuries are distinct from mental illness. However, as with physical injuries, repeated mental injuries can have a cumulative impact on workers’ physical and mental health.

Researchers have identified 13 factors that impact mental health and safety in the workplace:

  • Psychological support
  • Organizational culture
  • Clear leadership and expectations
  • Civility and respect
  • Psychological competencies and requirements
  • Growth and development
  • Recognition and reward
  • Involvement and influence
  • Workload management
  • Engagement
  • Balance
  • Psychological protection
  • Protection of physical safety

When these factors are not managed properly, psychosocial hazards that lead to mental injuries can arise. During the pandemic, the psychosocial hazards associated with these factors have been amplified, increasing the risk of mental injuries.

For example, workload has skyrocketed for many CUPE members due to increased demands for service, short staffing, and physical limitations on how work can be conducted. Members are also struggling with balance between the various aspects of their lives as work demands increase. Workplaces with poor engagement are failing to involve frontline staff in decisions on service modification and delivery, and how workers are being protected. For some, the isolation of remote work arrangements is limiting access to psychological support. Opportunities for growth and development have likewise been limited by restrictions on travel and in-person gathering.

We cannot eliminate the stress of the pandemic. However, we can limit its impact by methodically managing psychosocial risk factors in the workplace.

As health and safety advocates, CUPE members should be wary of “solutions” proposed by employers that try to shift responsibility for workplace mental health and safety from the workplace to individual workers. Many workplace resources being offered to address the current situation are examples of “resilience training.” This type of training focuses on increasing workers’ capacity to withstand mental injuries, not on preventing mental injuries from occurring in the first place. Like exercising to better your health, resiliency training is good for workers. However, any employer approach that focuses exclusively on actions workers can take individually (i.e., exercise, journaling, meditation, etc.) and does not address workplace hazards misses the point. Employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace by taking appropriate actions to manage workplace hazards. Resilience training can be part of a comprehensive approach to enhancing the psychological health and safety climate of your workplace, but it is not a standalone solution.

Psychological health and safety does not offer solutions for workers who are currently in crisis. It is an approach that, over time, will prevent more workers from reaching the point of crisis. If you are looking for supports for a worker in crisis, please contact the mental health crisis line in your jurisdiction.

For more information, please check out: