In March 2019, eleven members of the PSAC, from across Canada traveled to Guatemala with the PSAC Social Justice Fund to participate in the Education In Action (EIA) project. Since 2007, sixty-eight PSAC members have volunteered and taken personal time off from their work to join an EIA delegation to Guatemala, making EIA one of the most sought out projects by members to get involved in.
“We began this journey listening to heartrending stories about injustice. Working together we found our collective strength - our Union experience served us well.” - Janet St. Jean, PSAC Social Justice Fund Advisor
The members that participated in 2019 work in many government departments: Service Canada, Department of National Defence, Parks Canada, Employment and Social Department Canada, Canada Revenue Agency, Canadian Centre Occupational Health and Safety, Women’s Penitentiary in Quebec, Environment & Climate Change Canada – Wildlife Service and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
This project is to promote solidarity with organizations in Guatemala that are protecting the human rights of Indigenous peoples, women, workers and land defenders.
Delegates met with many groups. One of which was 8 Tijax, a collective of women supporting the families who suffer from the devastating fire that took the lives of 41 young women (their children) at a notoriously abusive state-run facility, named Hogar Seguro.
We participated in the International Women’s Day march together with Mayan women, children strengthening our solidarity and commitment to equality for justice and hope for a better future for all.
Guatemala is rich in agricultural and mineral wealth, but continues of have high rates of poverty and inequality. Canadian mining companies have wreaked havoc on communities, perpetuating violence, murders, mass rapes, forced displacement and corruption. The EIA group met with members of the the Xinka Parliament and from community members who are in resistance to Pan American silver, a Canadian mine.
The delegates met with Congressman Leocadio Juracán, an indigenous leader from the Comité Campesino del Altiplano (CCDA), who has devoted his life to human rights and justice for Mayan and indigenous communities.
The CCDA has been defending the economic, social and cultural rights of the Mayan people since 1982, struggling for equitable land distribution, developing sustainable agriculture, and promoting the economic empowerment of women. The PSAC Social Justice Fund has been supporting their programs since 2006.
Today, the CCDA’s membership extends over 20 of the 22 cities in the country and 60% of program coordinators are women. Women are encouraged to become more economically independent through bee farming, honey and macadamia production and Tilapia fish farms.
During our stay in Quixayá, a CCDA community, PSAC members helped to construct two new classrooms for a primary school in a local community. This new space will be use for education, a place for children to play and for women to gather.
On our final day, the delegation held a meeting at the Canadian Embassy where concerns were raised regarding violations of Indigenous rights; specifically, the lack of due consultation between the Canadian mining corporation and the Xinka community on, and the general lack of corporate accountability of Canadian mining companies in Guatemala. The delegates also raised the importance of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) having the mandate to compel evidence.
PSAC members continue to advocate for human and labour rights, support social justice initiatives and bring what was learned to the forefront of their union and communities.