Kamloops, British Columbia, Local 993 has been working for years to be more inclusive, and its efforts were recently recognized by the B.C. government with a Breaking Barriers award.
"It kind of came as a surprise," said Local 993 Business Manager Glen Hilton in a local radio interview. "We're just trying to do the right thing.''
The B.C. Breaking Barriers award is given to an organization or individual for work tackling systemic or institutional racism and reducing barriers for communities that experience marginalization. Local 993, one of two recipients of the award, was lauded for its work to recruit and retain women, Indigenous people and other historically underrepresented groups.
"It is very rewarding to be recognized for all the effort we've put forth," said Local 993 Indigenous Coordinator Angie Camille. "To go to a jobsite and go from being the only woman or the only First Nation person on-site to being one of the First Nations or one of the women is totally amazing to see."
The award was given as part of the province's Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Awards, held via Zoom on March 21. Premier John Horgan and Rachna Singh, parliamentary secretary for anti-racism initiatives, hosted the event.
"All of the nominees, all of the people that are here this evening have one common purpose and that is to realize the best potential of everyone who has the blessing of living in this great place," Horgan said.
Hilton credits much of Local 993's efforts to Camille and Assistant Business Manager Mollie Routledge. The two Red Seal electricians work on membership development, outreach and engagement, as well as mentoring. Camille is also a member of the Secwepemc Nation. Between them, they bring almost 50 years of experience in the trades.
"We can share our personal stories of the harassment we've endured and how we overcame it," Routledge said. "It gives new and prospective members someone to ask questions to, someone who's walked that path before."
Nationally, approximately 5% of tradespeople are women. In B.C., it's around 6%, according to the B.C. Construction Association. Currently, about 23% of Local 993's apprentices are women, more than any other organization of similar size in the province. It's also the third-largest sponsor of Indigenous apprentices in the province, at 18%.
"I could not be prouder of the accomplishments of Local 993 and the gains they've made in the area of diversity. Being chosen to receive this award solidifies and recognizes their efforts and accomplishments," said First District International Vice President Thomas Reid. "Although well intentioned, it is not enough to just have glossy posters and hardhat stickers and simply talk the talk. Clearly Business Manager Hilton and sisters Camille and Routledge walk the walk."
Having two women electricians who are also officers be the face of the local when doing things like outreach and mentoring is an essential component to achieving true inclusivity, Hilton said.
"It's a huge part. In any program, the early success stories inspire the next until it becomes normal. It's not normal yet though. That will come when a woman is doing my job and female company owners are putting in calls that get filled with a natural representation of the community."
Camille and Routledge's outreach duties involve building relationships with area colleges and attending Indigenous job fairs as well as working with groups that aim to increase accessibility to the electrical trade for youth, women, Indigenous people and newcomers to Canada.
"We can share what it used to be like and how it is now, and how the policies that Local 993 has set are eliminating barriers," Routledge said.
Local 993's women's committee is also assisting with electrical upgrades to the Kamloops Women's Shelter, with some of the work being done by the local's mentees.
"I am so grateful for being part of a team that works very hard every day to break down barriers for the women and people of colour in our trade industry," said Camille during the virtual award ceremony. "I look forward to our future endeavors in the IBEW."