Once the Dilico Strike is Settled – Then What?

Dilico offices on Fort William First Nation
Dilico on Fort William First Nation
Dilico Headquarters on Fort William First Nation

Families have been the Losers in the Dilico Strike

THUNDER BAY – Dilico and striking CEP workers reached a tentative agreement at 01:30AM this morning. The contract will be voted on and if the agreement is ratified workers will eventually go back to work by August 6th. If management and the workers do resolve the issues, it remains for Dilico to set things right with the families, and the children.

The issues that face the agency and its workers are one thing. The bigger issue should be the focus on families. Since the strike began, families have been, unless court ordered, unable to visit their children who are in Dilico care.

Family Visits Only With Court Orders?

Today many parents were calling the Dilico Intake Workers seeking to set up visitation. That has remained an unresolved issue. Workers and management have, throughout the labour difficulties appeared unable to grasp the impact on families. 

Workers have expressed concerns over the stress of their jobs and they are seeking lower case levels, and increased sick days. Management has spoken of how the organization can’t run in deficit and that there isn’t any money.

Grandparents left out in the cold

Families rally at the Dilico Child Care offices

Left on the sideline through all of this dispute have been Grandparents, Mothers, Fathers, and the children. One mother relayed how defeated she has felt being unable to see her son for over a month. The visitations have been withheld by the labour dispute, and the last chance the young mom had to see her child was two weeks before the strike action. Dilico management, if the levels are as large as the workers claimed seemed incapable of the needed empathy to organize visit.

Even if the strike is resolved, workers are unlikely to return to work for ten days, August 6th is the suggested start date at this point in the discussion. Bluntly put, that is way too long! It is going to put added stresses onto the parents and the children. It is almost as if negotiators are looking for an extra holiday for the stress of the strike. 

Perhaps what is needed to fully bring this issue together is for Dilico to set up a council of child advocates, First Nation leaders, and parents. The idea of walking in each others footsteps toward bringing a solid resolution to some of the problems.

Child and parent advocates, as well as grandparents have shared some of the background issues that they have with Dilico in some in-camera discussions with NetNewsLedger. While there certainly are two sides to every story, the fact remains that there are serious concerns that have been raised, and many of the people who have children in care appear to not be getting the best possible support to get their children back and make their families whole again.

The same holds true in cases where Grandparents have not been able to visit their Grandchildren. Simply put it appears from one side that Dilico management needs to be far more hands on in some cases. In others, having workloads that prevent families from getting the needed attention and support to become whole, all that is happening is a repeat to the residential school syndrome. 

The situation should start improving, and likely once the strike is over, it should, but it certainly appears that Dilico is going to have a long road ahead, and will need some serious oversight from First Nations leadership, and the general public.

Likely the strike should never have happened, both sides seemed willing to let it go on far longer than it should have gone on. But to end it and then take twelve more days to return to full service is to demonstrate that the families still are not at the head of the line, where they should be. Clients are the reason Dilico exists, servicing those Moms, Dads, Grandparents, and children has to be moved far higher up the process.

That of course is just my opinion, your mileage may vary.

James Murray

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