James (Jim) Cardinal

Year: 2005
Location: Fort McMurray
Profile: Jim Cardinal grew up in Owl River in a Cree-speaking Indigenous family of 12 children that survived through trapping, fishing, and farm labour. At 16, he left for Fort McMurray to help construct Suncor, which later employed him in various trades positions. He was involved in the McMurray Independent Oil Workers, which, after a strike in 1986 that landed Cardinal in jail, joined today’s UNIFOR. Initially, Suncor gave Cardinal only the dirtiest jobs, likely because he was Indigenous. The union fought such discrimination. Cardinal became the local’s vice-president in 1999. He laments mistreatment of temporary foreign workers and the nefarious role of the Christian Labour Association of Canada.
Keywords: CLAC; Cree; Immigration; Indigenous; First Nations, Métis, Inuit; McMurray Independent Oil Workers; Racism; Strikes; Temporary foreign workers; UNIFOR; Welder
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See also: Indigenous Labour in AlbertaSystemic Racism in Alberta’s HistoryTemporary Foreign Workers