International Longshore and Warehouse Union stops operations to support racial equality and social justice in honour of Juneteenth. Shipping cargo containers stacked up at the Port of Prince Rupert on June 19, 2020. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Prince Rupert cargo operations halt in honour Juneteenth

Port authority issues statement supporting the temporary work stoppage

Prince Rupert joined ports along the West Coast of Canada and the United States as workers with International Longshore and Warehouse Union stop operations to support racial equality and social justice.

A statement from the union says the eight-hour action honours Juneteenth, the celebration of the liberation of slaves in the United States on June 19, 1865.

The union has 60,000 members who work in ports in Alaska, B.C., south to California and Hawaii.

A statement posted by the Canadian union, which is autonomous from its U.S. counterpart, says the organizations have “a proud history of defending the rights and dignity of people.”

The work stoppage affects B.C. operations within the Port of Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Stewart and Chemainus.

In a statement the Prince Rupert Port Authority lent its support to ILWU Canada and the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association, saying the port is committed to diversity, inclusion and acceptance, and stands behind the demonstration.

“Now more than ever, it is important to take time to learn from the past, recognize that discrimination and hate has no place in our communities or workplaces, and declare that we are strongest when we work together to build a better future,” the statement reads. “As we commemorate Juneteenth, and celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, it is an opportunity for each of us to educate ourselves on the history of Indigenous, Black and other minorities in our communities, celebrate their contributions and cultures, and recognize that there is strength in diversity.”

JUNETEENTH: A day of joy and pain – and now national action

Rob Ashton, president of Canadian union, says in a statement that systemic racism is built into all levels of life in the United States, but this country shares the blame, in the past and the present.

“We also had slavery, there was the internment of Japanese Canadians, the incident of the Komagata Maru and the residential schools,” writes Ashton.

“In present day, we have the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and we see systemic racism in Canadian society.”

Work in the ports would resume with the start of the afternoon shift, the union says.

-with files from the Canadian Press

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