Tuesday, March 23, 2021

UFAWU's Joy Thorkelson prepares for transition to retirement

Joy Thorkelson speaking last October during the BC election campaign
UFAWU-Unifor has noted that the long serving Labour leader
is preparing to transition to retirement in the months ahead

It may seem somewhat hard to believe such has long been her presence among labours top leadership, but John Thorkelson is making plans to step back from a passion she has embraced for decades of service in the labour movement; that  of representing working men and women of the fishery on the British Columbia waterfront and water.

After many years of representing the workers of the fish industry along the British Columbia coast and in particular on the North Coast, Joy Thorkelson appears poised to step back from her work for UFAWU-Unifor and make her transition to retirement.

The process of turning over some of her duties began last month with the election of a new membership for the UFAWU membership which saw the membership select James Lawson and Helen-Anne Beans to the top spots of their leasership. 

As the changing of the guard took place, Ms. Thorkelson took note of the need to turn towards the future

“I am leaving because I think it’s time for young people to take control of their future. I think [James Lawson and Helen-Anne Beans] will make the changes that will benefit active fishermen.” -- Joy Thorkelson last month following the election of new leadership for UFAWU

In the information statement from UFAWU-Unifor making note of the transition of leadership and Ms. Thorkelson's moves towards the changes ahead the union observed:  

While Joy Thorkelson, UFAWU-Unifor’s outgoing president, will begin transitioning into retirement, she plans on supporting the incoming president during the move to new leadership.

The long time Prince Rupert Labour leader took on the national duties in 2017 and immediately had an impact in raising the voice of labour from the fishery on a provincial and national scale.

During some of her many years on the North Coast, Ms. Thorkelson also served in a prominent role on Prince Rupert City Council stepping aside in the fall of 2018

The tributes from her fellow Council members at the time reflecting the thirteen years of service to the community in elected office and a much longer time of advocacy for those in the most need in the region and for those that had been hit the hardest by economic forces well beyond their control.

While on Council she was often the lead on seeking to have the City become more involved in delivering a message to Ottawa and DFO In particular as to the impact of their fishery decisions on the community, a theme she once again addressed one year after she had stepped down.

In particular through the years on City Council it was her passion for the homeless and those seeking affordable housing that framed many a council discussion. The topic one that  remains an issue of note for the council membership to this day, as they continue to seek some progress on the need for affordable and supportive housing in the community.

Her long run as a Labour leader propelled her to national notice more than a few times as she expressed concern for the fate of the fishery and the people who work it, a theme that carried through to her most recent work in organizing the Future of the Commercial Salmon Fishery conference of January.

And while she may be stepping back from the spotlight in the months ahead, one suspects that she'll be at the ready to lend guidance to those at the helm of UFAWU-Unifor and in many other forums if the call comes in for advice.

You can review much of her work on the North Coast through two of our archive streams.

The first from our notes on the North Coast Fishery, the second from our Council Discussion pages from 2018 and before.

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