The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU) celebrates National Aboriginal Day, which takes place June 21, by marking its service to the province’s Aboriginal community with the addition of two major entities into its membership fold.

Workers who provide health and social development services for the Cowessess First Nation have voted to join SGEU, marking the first time a Saskatchewan band has been served by a union.

“That we are the first union to work this closely representing workers in a band is a huge step forward for our whole province and one we’re proud of, especially as we celebrate Aboriginal day,” says SGEU President Bob Bymoen.

Donna Shannon grew up on the Cowessess First Nation and later left because of uncertainty in the workplace. She looks forward to the strength and stability a union presence will provide not only for band workers but their families and the entire community.

“The Aboriginal workforce needs to be recognized as a group of professionals that deserves fair treatment and security just as any other professionals do,” says Shannon who worked as an addictions counselor in the band’s mental health and addictions department.

“We have professionals like myself with the same degrees and certifications our counterparts have in private industry and yet we have not had any job security or equivalent wages. In any organization, employees are the most valuable asset and what union representation does is recognize the importance of that asset. It also goes a long way toward standardizing the services we can offer to the whole community, and all our band communities need to count on those services now more than ever.”

SGEU has also garnered representation for Northern Teacher Education Program (NORTEP), an Aboriginal training centre based in La Ronge. NORTEP provides educational and professional training and job placement while promoting Aboriginal culture and languages at the same time.

“We welcome both organizations to our union and look forward to helping them negotiate for improved workplace rights and protections,” says Bymoen.

SGEU stands by its long commitment to the province’s Aboriginal community with initiatives all year long designed to foster a celebration of the culture at the heart of Saskatchewan’s heritage, eliminate archaic stereotypes and racism, and do its part to build strength in First Nations communities across the province.

“We believe a common denominator of all strong and healthy communities is strong labour,” says Bymoen. “It’s time to shine the spotlight on all our Aboriginal professionals in this province and make sure they are treated with dignity and fairness. These two new certifications are a major step in the right direction.”


For additional information, contact:

Kathryn Engel
Communications officer
1 (306) 550.1146

or Bob Bymoen
1 (306) 539.0030

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