Marie Clarke Walker
Marie Clarke Walker was born to be a union activist.
Coming from a family where both her mother and father have deep roots in the labour movement, Marie is the first woman of colour to be elected as an Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress as well as the youngest-ever elected CLC officer. Marie was re-elected as Executive Vice-President in May 2014.
Her mother is a retired trade union activist and feminist originally from Jamaica who remains involved in the struggle for equality and social justice for all workers. Marie’s father is a lawyer in Barbados who has represented workers all his life.
During her childhood in the Caribbean and Canada, Marie participated in many community activities. She learned as much about the issues of social justice by being at demonstrations and picket lines as she learned in the classroom. Marie’s passion for social justice was further developed when she spent time in Grenada working with the Ministry of Education on a number of programs including youth reconstruction programs during her summers.
Those early experiences informed her working life, starting her career working in a home for the aged, later with adults and children with developmental disabilities and then as a counsellor and family-support worker in Toronto.
Marie faced workplace racism, experiences that led to her developing a peer mediation anti-racism program for use in elementary schools and a renewed union activism.
Marie rose rapidly through the ranks of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, eventually becoming CUPE Ontario’s Equity Vice-President and her union’s first-ever national Diversity Vice-President, before being first elected as a CLC Executive Vice-President in 2002.
At the CLC, Marie is heading up a unique pilot project in Toronto by connecting the labour movement in Canada’s largest and most diverse city with the community.
Working with the Ontario Federation of Labour and Metro Toronto area labour councils, Marie is helping to build labour’s profile, increase public support and improve links with community groups and social allies.
Marie’s past duties at the CLC make her a perfect choice for the role – she has previously been responsible for the poverty, housing, health, safety and environment and peace files. In addition she has also had responsibility for the Women’s and Human Rights Department, transportation, aviation and security issues. She has been deeply involved at both the national and community levels with the struggle for women’s rights and equality.
As the Canadian Labour Congress representative on the broadly-based Pay Equity Task Force, she was part of ongoing efforts to have the federal government appreciate both the social and economic issues implicit in equal pay for work of equal value.
Marie strongly believes that unions cannot and should not be divorced from the greater community and is determined to promote the good that labour can do for all segments of the community.
Marie remains very much involved in family and community as the mother of two sons. She has served as a Board member on a number of organizations, including the Canadian Peace Alliance, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Adventure Place, the Scarborough Malvern National Soccer Club and Scarborough Basketball Association. Marie is currently a Governor on the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, and is an executive member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Juliette’s Place, a shelter for abused women, and the Malvern Community Coalition.
Marie also acts as a “femtor” – a female mentor- for many young people.