President Given working to protect Canadian Seafarers and labour rights

Since our last update, SIU of Canada President James Given has been busy at home in Canada, advocating for the issues that matter most to our brothers and sisters across the country.


At the end of 2017, President Given participated in Canadian Marine Advocacy Council meetings with the Department of Transport. These meetings ensure our voice is heard by decision makers on a variety of issues. Our presence on the Council also helps us establish a consistent communications channel with authorities in the maritime sector, ensuring our positions are not only heard, but respected and acted upon.


As an important stakeholder in Canada’s maritime sector, President Given makes a point to speak with government officials and decision makers as frequently as possible. In early January, the SIU participated in a round table with Minister of Labour Patty Hajdu on changes to Canada’s labour code. In February, President Given participated in another Roundtable with Employment and Social Development Canada on enforcement of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program. Thanks to our efforts and the efforts of others involved in Maritime Labour, major changes to program delivery for the TFW have been published.


In January, Transport Minister Marc Garneau held a roundtable with stakeholders on NAFTA and the transportation sector. Unfortunately, we were not invited. In fact, only one voice representing the maritime industry was present – The Shipping Federation of Canada – which only represents international shipping in Canada and does not speak in favour of domestic shipping. The government suggested that we did not need to be present because the discussion would not focus on labour-related issues. We fought back and made sure the government heard us. While we were unable to participate in this meeting, we will be meeting with officials on trade deals and related-issues in the near future.


Outside of government-related activities, we recently participated in an anti-racism rally in St. Catharines Ontario. Our priority first and foremost is the wellbeing of our members and the health of Canada’s maritime industry. A close second, however, is advocating for fairness for all. We were able to rally several members and SIU staff to attend a counter-protest when we heard that white supremacists would be mobilizing outside of local MP Chris Bittle’s office. We could not stand for this type of hateful sentiment in our backyard and made sure our message was heard loud and clear.


Early on in 2018, our sister Union SEATU learned that employees of a local Tim Hortons had been intimidated and retaliated against when they attempted to unionize. Franchise management directly infringed upon employees’ labour rights. We took action to ensure the relevant authorities knew of the ongoing issues so they were equipped to take action.


As you may be aware, Unifor recently left the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). As a member of the CLC we oppose this move. Since its departure from the CLC, Unifor has gone on to raid members of the union Unite Here 75. In early February the remaining 55 members of the CLC (including the SIU) met to condemn in the strongest terms Unifor’s actions following its disaffiliation. We see their moves as an attempt at empire building, and harmful to solidarity among workers and labour advocacy more generally.


Most recently, President Given has been in talks with many of the shipping companies regarding recruitment efforts. Our industry is growing at a very rapid pace, perhaps even faster than we can keep up with. This is a great problem to have, but it means we need to double down on our efforts to recruit the next generation of seafarers. We know that adding to our already stellar group of brothers and sisters can only make us stronger!  More on that to come…. Stay tuned!



Final Voyages: Winter 2018

This winter, we have seen two of our members embark on their final voyage. We send them our thoughts and prayers.




Brother Romeo Hamelin who joined the S.I.U. on July 2, 1954, passed away on November 24, 2017 at the age of 87. He worked on the Birchton and his last vessel was the Ferbec.








Brother William Airhardt who joined the S.I.U. on June 30, 2008, passed away on December 28, 2017 at the age of 30. He worked on the Tim S. Dool and his last vessel was the Atlantic Huron.







Member Announcement: New Online Members’ Portal

The Seafarers’ International Union of Canada is making it easier for members to have up to date documents on file for job calls! Rather than scanning and sending or even mailing in your required documents, you can now upload them yourself through the new SIU member portal on our website. This can be done on your computer or on your Smartphone. All members should go online and create their profile in the portal.


To sign up for an account, you must have an email address and your SIU Probationary or Book number. Full instructions on how to create a profile and upload documents can be found here. Documents include things like training certificates, police background check, passport, work visa, safety certificates and licenses all in one easy-to-access place.


When the Union dispatches you to a job, we can digitally access your documentation to pass it on to the employer and confirm the job. Going forward, this is how the union will be collecting member documents.


If you have any questions please contact your local union hall.

Sacrifice at Sea: The Canadian Merchant Navy and the First World War

During the First World War, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Canadian Merchant Navy played a pivotal role in the Allied victory. Had it not been for thousands of Canadian sailors and their vessels, the War could have taken a turn for the worse.


At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the United Kingdom boasted one of the most powerful Naval fleets in the word– the Royal Navy. In Canada, on the other hand, the Royal Canadian Navy was just four years old, with only two ships in operation and fewer than 350 personnel.  By the end of the war in 1918, the Royal Canadian Navy would grow to nearly 9,500 sailors, with over 130 commissioned vessels, and countless other merchant marine vessels and sailors.


Lacking in supply vessels, troop carriers, and trained sailors, thousands of Canadian merchant sailors and mariners uprooted their lives to serve for crown and country. Selflessly, these men and women left behind the comforts of home and familiar waters, to fight for freedom around the world. Mariners who once sailed cargo from port to port in North America, were now tasked with making the dangerous trans-Atlantic trip to a land engulfed in war.


The Challenge


Surrounded by ocean, the United Kingdom had for centuries held its strategic advantage as an isolated island. However, starting in the early 20th century, the isolation nearly led to the demise of the entire British Commonwealth. For one of the first times in modern history, Allied Navy personal were up against a new enemy, one that was able to silently lurk beneath the surface and strike at will – the German U-Boat.


The First World War saw German submarines take a great toll on the Canadian Merchant Navy, which was tasked with carrying troops and desperately-needed supplies from North America to Europe. These vessels acted as a lifeline for the troops fighting overseas. At the time, the United Kingdom was operating and producing at capacity. In order to survive, food, munitions, oil, and various other goods had to be imported to feed the war machine.


With a vital flow of resources nearly cut off, the Allies moved to a convoy system, placing merchant ships into large groups and escorting them across the ocean with warships for protection. These trans-Atlantic convoys would sometimes consist of upwards of 60 ships, and would routinely make the haul from Eastern Canada, to ports in Europe. The challenge was great, but Allied efforts at sea helped turn the tide and allowed enough war materials to make it through for the Allies to eventually win the war in late 1918.


We will never forget


As a union that represents Canadian seafarers working in the Canadian maritime industry, every day we fight to protect Canadian sailors and honour the history of the Canadian maritime industry. It is with great pride that we recognize and remember the sacrifices of those who served without hesitation during Canada’s, and the world’s time of great need.


Our union roots are deep, and it is for this reason we pause year after year to remember and honour the Canadian men and women who have served our country and fought for freedom around the world.  Time may fade, but our memories cannot, we are the Seafarers International Union of Canada, and together, we are stronger!


NAFTA roundtable needs more maritime representation, says SIU of Canada


January 17, 2018


Montreal, QC- Today, federal Transport Minister Garneau will be hearing from transportation stakeholders at a North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) roundtable consultation in Montreal.  The Shipping Federation of Canada will be the sole voice representing the maritime industry. The SIU is disappointed that other maritime voices, including our own, will not be present to communicate concerns and insights regarding the modernization of NAFTA.  The members of the SIU work aboard vessels on Canadian waters, to transport globally traded goods and are directly impacted by trade agreements like NAFTA.  This is a missed opportunity for the Canadian government to better understand challenges facing the shipping industry as they relate to NAFTA.


“As an important stakeholder in the maritime transportation sector, we are disappointed to not have been included in tomorrow’s NAFTA round table with Transport Minister Marc Garneau. Nevertheless, we will be making our voices heard on critical issues within the industry,” says SIU Executive Vice President, Patrice Caron.


About the SIU of Canada

The Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIU) is affiliated with the Seafarers’ International Union of North America serving unlicensed sailors since 1938. The most important sailors’ union in Canada, the SIU represents the majority of unlicensed sailors working aboard vessels on the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, on the East and West Coasts. In addition to vessels operated in Canadian waters, SIU members also have the opportunity to work aboard vessels delivering cargoes in the United States, Europe and South America.