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Raj Chouhan honored for long service on farmworker rights

More than 300 trade union and human rights activists gathered in Toronto on November 2 for the presentation of the Canadian Food and Commercial Workers' annual Cesar Chavez Black Eagle Awards, designed to recognize "long time activists who have carried on the legacy of César Chávez by advancing the cause of justice for agriculture workers.” The awards recognized eight honourees, including Raj Chouhan, a veteran BC union organizer and New Democratic Party MLA, a founding officer of the Canadian Farmworkers Union in 1980, and himself a former agricultural worker.

"César Chávez once said that the role of the activist was to educate, inspire and empower," said UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley, who hosted the event held at the Ontario Federation of Labour building. "Since the inception of these awards 12 years ago, we have been honoured to recognize individuals who have met and exceeded this call of duty.”

Chouhan currently sits for the NDP representing the riding of Burnaby Edmonds in the Legislative Assembly. He was first elected in 2005 and is the party’s labour critic. He was a staff member for the Hospital Employees Union for 18 years, and has served on the BC Labour Relations Board and Arbitration Bureau. Chouhan was a founding member of the BC Organization to Fight Racism and currently serves as the vice president of the BC Human Rights Defenders.

"Cesar Chavez understood that La Causa—the Cause—would be a long and difficult struggle, but he never lost faith that the struggle would bring a better future," said UFCW’s Henley to the award winners. "Thank you all for your continued support to create a future of justice and human rights for all agriculture workers in Canada."

Others honoured with Chouhan were former Manitoba premiere Gary Doer, who spearheaded legislation to extend Employment Standards coverage to agricultural workers, Father Hernán Astudillo of Toronto, union leader Pierre Gingras, artists Carol Condé and Karl Beveridge, and Mindy Leng and Thomas Dunmore, workers who played key roles in defending the rights of Ontario farm workers.

Tom Sandborn covers labour and health policy for The Tyee. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at tos@infinet.net.

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