December 3 marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which aims to promote awareness and mobilize support for disability rights issues.
On this day, the Canadian Labour Congress recognizes a union member with an award for their disability rights activism. The award is named in honour of Carol McGregor, an outstanding disability rights activist, member of BCGEU/NUPGE and the CLC Disability Rights Working Group, who was much loved by all those who worked with her. Carol passed away in 2006.
On the tenth anniversary of this award, the Canadian Labour Congress is pleased to announce Sheryl Burns as the 2021 recipient of the Carol McGregor CLC Disability Rights Award.
Sheryl became a union activist and CUPE member in 2005, working in Vancouver’s women’s shelters and as a legal advocate supporting survivors of abuse, including women with disabilities. She is now the President of CUPE Local 1936, representing social service workers throughout British Columbia’s Lower Mainland. In this role, she provides fierce advocacy to ensure the duty to accommodate is enforced for members who are permanently or temporarily disabled.
She is recognized for her outstanding leadership for persons with disabilities in Canada’s labour movement and tireless advocacy in the community. This includes fighting for and winning accommodations for workers, crucially preventing job loss, ensuring job gain, and significantly improving working conditions for workers with disabilities. Most recently, Sheryl led important work to ensure accommodations for workers struggling with mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sheryl has spoken on various panels and delivered numerous workshops on disability rights and decent work for people with disabilities and has pushed for important changes within CUPE and the broader labour movement, including improved accessibility provisions and increased representation of members with disabilities in leadership positions.
In the community, Sheryl holds a position on the Executive Board for Disability Alliance British Columbia and was previously a member of the City of Vancouver Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee. In these roles she worked on campaigns for improvements to emergency preparedness for persons with disabilities, a strengthened Guide and Assistance Dog Act, a push for more accessible transportation, and improvements to income assistance and housing for persons with disabilities, among other issues.
Sheryl is a General Vice-President on the CUPE BC Executive Board, has been the co-chair of the CUPE BC Persons with Disabilities Committee, and currently sits on the Executive Council of the BC Federation of Labour as the Persons with Disabilities Representative, a position she has held since 2014.
“Sheryl has been a powerful advocate for disability rights throughout her life, bringing her lived experience as a woman with a hearing disability to a multitude of spaces,” said nominators, Mark Hancock (National President, CUPE) and Charles Fleury (National Secretary-Treasurer, CUPE). “She has displayed incredible strength and courage in negotiating ableist barriers to achieve significant change and improvements for persons with disabilities in Canada.”