CAW Women Leaders Remember Nancy Riche

October 4, 2011, 12:45 PM EST

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CAW members, activists and leaders remember Nancy Riche as an outspoken feminist with a keen sense of justice, a tireless fighter and a trailblazer for women in the labour movement.  Nancy passed away on October 1, 2011 at age 66. 

Those who knew her best, described Nancy as generous, formidable, fearless, feisty and funny.  

Her list of accomplishments is long and impressive. Nancy began her professional life as a community college instructor and a member of the Newfoundland Association of Public Employees (NAPE). She went on to become Director of Education, Research and Communications at NAPE and then Secretary-Treasurer of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

She was elected CLC Executive Vice-President, a post she held for 13 years, before going on to become the Secretary Treasurer of the CLC in 1999. She retired in 2002. As one of Canada's leading female labour leaders, Nancy also served as Vice-President of the Brussels-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and Chair of its Women's Committee from 1993-2002.

Nancy served as Associate President (Labour) of the federal NDP and later President of the Newfoundland and Labrador NDP from 2003-2008 and most recently as President of the NDP St. John's East District Riding Association.

Nancy received the Order of Canada, a Dr. of Letters Honoris Causa from Memorial University, the AFL-CIO Meary-Lane Human Rights Award and the Elijah Barayi Award from Congress of South African Trade Unions for her contribution to the struggle against apartheid.
Here CAW women leaders reflect on the contributions Nancy made to the trade union movement and to their own lives and the lives of others:

Julie White, Women's Department Director
 "Nancy Riche's forward in her book to trade union women "Dear Sisters, Dear Sisters" starts out with "I had an idea .to write a book as a gift to all the women in the movement who supported me, cried with me, laughed with me and inspired me. You are my friends. You are my sisters."
We should now take a moment to reflect on Sister Riche - a feminist, a trade unionist and a social democrat whose shoulders we stand upon. Nancy was a feminist who blazed a path for us to follow; a trade unionist who empowered us to lead; and a social democrat who taught us change is possible. Our parting gift to Sister Riche must be our commitment to continue her legacy and create new "ideas" through organizing, protesting and pushing back."

Deb Tveit, Assistant to the President
 "Nancy was a mentor to many CAW women over the years encouraging and developing their self esteem and instilling in them the ability to be leaders and be elected in leadership roles. I for one have benefitted from her encouragement and the confidence she gave me to hold many leadership positions over the years. She will be greatly missed and lovingly remembered by myself and many others."

Peggy Nash, former Assistant to the president, current NDP MP
 "Nancy was a fearless fighter for the underdog and the marginalized.  She was a passionate trailblazer for women's rights and bristled immediately in the face of sexism or some other form of discrimination.  Never afraid to say what many only thought, Nancy would disarm negative reaction with one of those mischievous smiles.  And you just knew she'd get away with it.  

A tireless advocate for the New Democratic Party, Nancy led the party as president for several years, but she always rolled up her sleeves and pitched in to help local campaigns.  How sad that she won't see the tremendous success next week of her good friend Newfoundland NDP Leader Lorraine Michaels. What a celebration she would have had."

Carol Phillips, former Assistant to the President, Women's Department Director 
 "I was blessed to work closely with Nancy over the years both at the CAW and CLC and some of my most treasured memories come from times spent with Sister Riche. Nancy was an extraordinary and complex feminist and trade unionist who never forgot how tough it was to grow up poor and she fought for the disadvantaged all her life. She was funny and warm and could also be a royal pain sometimes! She never shied away from speaking truth to power and looking them straight in the eye when she did it. She was an inspiration to many of us women and men alike. She was much loved and Nancy will be sorely missed."

Cheryl Kryzaniwsky, former Women's Department Director, CAW Council President 
 "I became active in my union in 1976 and was elected to attend my first CLC convention in 1978. I was nervous and so unsure of myself not knowing much about convention protocol or procedure. Nancy Riche to the rescue!  Nancy held a pre meeting awareness session for "women" regaling those in attendance with a humourous look at what to expect. How to line up and speak at the microphone (which she insisted we do at least once); how to vote for or against the committee's recommendation on a particular resolution; how to participate fully making sure our voices were heard but not taking ourselves or others so seriously that we forgot to have a little fun. She became a mentor and friend and the loss of her voice on issues of importance to working women around the world will be deeply missed."
You can sign the memorial book here:

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