OSSTF/FEESO is an organization that celebrates our diversity along with our unity. A recent Facebook post by member Pawel Mazurek (District 35—Administrative Support Personnel, Saint Paul University in Ottawa) got me thinking about just how united we truly are, and how important that unity is. You see, Pawel posted a picture of himself becoming a Canadian Citizen. I’ve known Pawel for just over a year now as a member of our Provincial Communications and Political Action Committee (CPAC), and he has proven to be one of our most astute political activists. So I sat down with Pawel at our last CPAC meeting to learn a little more about one of Canada’s newest citizens and his thoughts on politics, Canada, and the Federation.
Pawel came to Canada from Poland about 10 years ago as an exchange student and quickly found Canada had much he found appealing. He has been waiting 10 years to acquire his Canadian Citizenship. He proudly notes that he regularly voted in Poland, and that he’s spent the last 10 years becoming engaged in the politics of his new home. This includes encouraging those around him who could vote to always exercise that right. Coming from a unionist family meant that becoming part of OSSTF/FEESO was an easy fit for him and Pawel became his Bargaining Unit’s first Chief Negotiator when District 35 Saint Paul’s joined the Federation in early 2016. He celebrates OSSTF/FEESO’s ability to create and support ethical citizenship, saying that it’s quite remarkable that “with so many different job classes, we can still find common language.” His transition to the role was quick as he moved through the learning curve thanks to the support and training of the Federation. He says of his desire to get immediately and deeply involved with OSSTF/FEESO that, “I thought I could contribute but I had to learn a lot. I have a family history of unionism, but my mother in Poland was worried I would be kicked out of Canada for getting involved in the union. My colleagues and I were suffering under our administration without representation from a union. I felt I could help. Alone we can’t do anything but together we can be an agent of social change. I didn’t want to be a bystander. Then I found out about all the benefits of being in OSSTF/FEESO and I was happy to bring them back to my Bargaining Unit.”
When Pawel and I spoke about the Ontario election, which was still two weeks away, Pawel was unwavering in his answers; his passion for social justice is clear. Coming from Poland with its strong social system, issues like health care, housing, caring for the elderly, education, and immigration are important to him. He sees it as the responsibility of a society to take care of others, and it is this conviction that will inform his vote. Pawel sees his first chance to vote in an election in Canada as a reminder to all of the importance of taking part in the political process, noting that “It is always important to vote, it’s an obligation. The election will affect you whether you want it to or not. If you don’t vote, someone else is making decisions for you. In Canada we celebrate the right to vote and OSSTF/FEESO helps us understand how our voices can affect change.”
The right to vote is enshrined in the Canadian Constitution, and for Pawel this right is a precious one, not to be ignored or thrown away. We are both united by this right and, as Pawel reminded me, strongest when we work together to make the lives of all Canadians better.