Profile: Mary Strong is the pseudonym of an Indigenous woman who was part of the “Sixties Scoop.” She was taken from her widowed mother and put in foster care where she learned nothing about Indigenous culture. Working in a Saskatchewan hospital in her late teens, she was raped by a police officer. She married, but after several of her husband’s friends also raped her, she made a suicide attempt. When her husband left her and their two children, she took temp agency service jobs to support her family. She moved around a fair bit, and had many employers, mostly in homecare or institutional care. It was hard, physical labour and she twice ended up on workers’ compensation.
When she was working at the Queen Alex Lodge for CBI in Edmonton, Strong became involved in an AUPE organizing drive. Once the local was certified, she joined the bargaining committee, took many union courses, and soon was elected chair of the local.
A big focus for her was on educating members about their rights in the area of occupational health and safety both in terms of steps they could take to stay safe and the procedures to follow if an accident did occur. Ability to refuse working with clients who behave disrespectfully to the workers has been a major issue for the union. Both her religious devotion and her union involvement gave Strong a feeling of greater control over her life.
Keywords: CBI; Homecare; Indigenous women as victims of sexual aggression; Right to refuse work; Sixties scoop; Union education programs; Workers Compensation Board
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