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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
  Nov. 3

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
  Nov. 3 (Saskatoon, SK)

Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds
  Nov. 5 (Mississauga, ON)

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear
  Nov. 6 (Cape Breton, NS)

The healing power of hockey
  Nov. 7 (The Pas, MB)

Norma Rae of the Okanagan
  Nov. 8 (Westbank, BC)

Comic genius or 'niggers in red face'?
  Nov. 9 (Regina, SK)

Praying for a miracle
  Nov. 10 (Lac Ste. Anne, AB)

To have and to have not
  Nov. 12 (Moosonee, ON)

Trouble in paradise
  Nov. 19 (Tofino, BC)

A cut of the action
  Nov. 26 (Wabigoon, ON)

The young and the restless
  Dec. 3 (Ashern, MB)

The wireless warrior's digital dream
  Dec. 10 (Ottawa,ON)

'Everyone thought we were stupid'
  Dec. 14 (Salluit, QC)

First step: End the segregation
  Dec. 15 (Last in the series)


Norma Rae of the Okanagan

Story by John Stackhouse. Photos by John Lehmann.
The Globe and Mail, November 8, 2001

Part 6 of 8: 'We are the cash cow'

West Bank locator This right-wing response made Derrickson a hero to Westbank's new white majority -- people such as Nick Carter who make the Okanagan Valley safe ground for the Canadian Alliance. Party leader Stockwell Day holds the seat next door to Westbank.

Many of the residents are fiercely anti-union, anti-government and (in private conversation) anti-native. "We are their cash cow," says Carter, a retired Kelowna entrepreneur who moved to Westbank eight years ago. His spacious home -- a mansion next to most native homes -- has a million-dollar view of Lake Okanagan, but his 80-year lease on the property cost him only $56,000.

Yet Carter says few people want to move to Westbank because there is so much uncertainty over native politics, the band's supply of municipal services has been erratic and now the union drive is slowing things down again.

For the $4-million in taxes he and his neighbours paid the band last year, they received only $1.8-million back in services. "They have a pretty good deal," he says. "They don't pay five cents worth of tax."

The leaseholders have been lobbying for a greater voice in reserve affairs, and Carter was part of a citizens advisory group created to give them an outlet. But last spring he quit over the band's refusal to include non-natives in its proposed system of self-government.

Since then, the council has pushed through a 47-per-cent increase in water charges, without consulting the ratepayers. Carter fears that the union will only entrench what he considers the band's bloated work force, jack up wages and, in turn, push up his own taxes. "I told them, 'You can't keep shaking the money tree.' "

Such fears are given little credence on the other side of the Westbank mountain, in a canyon that seems very far away from the largely white lakeside communities. Here, nestled in the woods where most of the native minority lives in modest bungalows and two-storey homes, the Pine Acres nursing home is held up as a native-labour success.

The home is part of a social infrastructure the federal government built on the reserve and left for the local people to manage. Next door is a big school and youth centre, with a floodlit ball diamond, the idea being that children and elders should never be far apart.

Eight years ago, the Government and Service Employees Union launched a organizing drive at Pine Acres, facing the same fears Evelyn Lube would bring to it five years later. The band, which owns and operates the home, could do little to stop the union effort, seeing as the provincial Health Ministry funds most of the 80 beds. But it tried, launching a lawsuit and claiming that a provincial union could not represent workers on federal land.

The case was dismissed, and the band then warned employees that their work environment would change for the worse. Residents might even suffer, should service be cut to cover higher wages.

Instead, the average wage went from $12.50 an hour to $20, in line with other provincially financed nursing homes, with no cuts to service. The province covered the difference.
THIS STORY AT A GLANCE (Parts 1 to 8 plus a related film review):

Photo Essay
Westbank and the union

1. Inviting big labour
'Every other Canadian citizen is guaranteed the right to belong to a union'

2. Westbank's emerging class system
Rapid development transforms the secluded reserve to an affluent suburb

3. 'It was a very turbulent time to be an employee'
The struggle for solidarity on the reserve

4. Playing tough
Put your money where your mouth is, chief tells union reps

5. Colonial parallels
'Just another form of non-native people trying to shape their destiny'

6. 'We are the cash cow'
Leaseholders lobby for a greater voice in reserve affairs
7. 'Sometimes they're a vehicle' for change
Union successes in one workplace

8. Election fever and the union
'All of the employees are afraid of losing their jobs at the next election'

Related story: Globe review of the 1979 film Norma Rae - A primer on the original Norma Rae. Contains relaed Web links.



photo essays
Two worlds - photo essay

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