UMFA members and supporters gathered at the Assiniboine Park gates on the corner of Corydon Avenue and Park Boulevard to protest the ongoing silence from Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson.
Strikers and their families brought kitchenware, horns and other noisemakers to make their presence known as the march wound through the quiet suburb. After an hour, the march circled back to the park gates.
English, theater, film and media professor Mark Libin was among the chief organizers of the march. Libin emphasized the lack of communication the union has had with premier.
“We’ve tried everything, we’ve sent her emails, we’ve reached out to her in all kinds of different ways,” he said.
“Our pickets on the legislature have seen her many times and tried to talk to her about this. She ignores us, so we’re trying to get her to stop ignoring us.”
Brianna Kaldor-Mair, an undergraduate biology student at the U of M, joined the march to support UMFA’s efforts.
“I was here for the 2016 strike, too. I’m a relatively senior student and I wanted to show support for my professors,” she said.
“Ido not agree with the provincial government interfering with negotiations with unions and I think that my professors deserve a better deal than they’re currently getting.”
Despite her frustration with the frequency of strikes at the U of M, Kaldor-Mair hopes labour relations will improve as a result.
“I think the fact that there’s been two strikes in my undergrad degree is a really good indication of the state of conflict between the admin and the professors and, let me make it very clear, I do think the admin is in the wrong in this conflict,” she said.
“But I’d like to see things improve and I hope that things do improve from this. I hope that this is a wake-up call.”
However, the march was not without controversy. The promotional material for the march was widely criticized for parallels between it and imagery associated with the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. The event was initially called a “Heather Stefanson search party” and the poster featured a red background with black block text, a picture of a bass drum and a small picture of Stefanson with the word “missing” overtop.
UMFA changed the poster in response to the criticism. The revised poster changed the background colour, inverted Stefanson’s picture and replaced the word “missing”with “hello???” The wording on the poster, including calling the event a search party, remained unchanged.
On the day of the march, UMFA issued a further-revised poster which instead featured an image evocative of Carmen Sandiego and the phrase “Where in the world is Premier Heather Stefanson.”
Union president Orvie Dingwall issued an apology to CBC that evening regarding the promotion of the event. The apology acknowledged the community response and promised changes to its internal processes.