During Women’s History Month this year, the IAM is highlighting current trailblazers in the union. Are you an IAM Sister interested in taking a more active role in your union? Reach out to your District leadership about the IAM Leadership Assembly of Dedicated Sisters (LEADS) Program.
Tania Canniff joined IAM Canadian Airways Local 764 in 1988 after being hired in line maintenance at Canadian Airlines in Vancouver, British Columbia. She became a member of the same Local Lodge that her grandfather, Lawrence Pretty, had been a member of, and was a proud moment.
Growing up in a union household with union activists, she knew the importance of the labour movement and the importance of union activism. Not long after becoming a member, Canniff settled into the role of activist and advocate.
“After becoming a shop steward, I was hooked,” said Canniff.
She was subsequently elected to a variety of positions at the local lodge level, including chief shop steward, negotiations committee, woman’s committee, and local lodge president. All of these roles, in their unique scope, allowed her to assist the membership, serve her union and give back to my community, all of which are her passions.
Canniff’s path of activism and development led to taking on leadership roles at the district level. In 2000, she was elected to Transportation District 140’s executive board and served as the first woman vice president of the board until December 2007, when she was first elected as a general chairperson, servicing members in the western region of Canada employed within the air transport service industry.
It’s a role Canniff continues to enjoy today, and one that she says is an honor to hold, as it allows her help and represent members and make a difference in people’s lives.
Most recently, Canniff was elected on behalf of the Canadian Territory to serve on the IAM Law Committee for the upcoming Grand Lodge Convention. She sees this role as another opportunity to serve the membership, and as another facet of development through the union.
“While I have faced gender and other discriminatory barriers in each of the roles I have held in our union, my continued involvement and development is a result of access to quality training, opportunities to challenge myself in various roles and assignments, and the great fortune of having many mentors and allies that have supported me along the way, or made my journey easier by paving the way,” said Canniff. “I like to think that people cross our paths for a reason, a season or a lifetime, and I am truly blessed by their guidance and friendship.”
“Tania is one of the brightest lights in our union. Her wide experience and knowledge of the IAM, her deep involvement in her local and district, and her participation in women’s issues, human rights and the rights of all workers has propelled her to the leadership position she is in,” said IAM Canadian General Vice President David Chartrand. “The crowning glory is that Tania is passionate and compassionate. This is a winning combination – for here, as well as the IAM. I couldn’t be prouder of what she has accomplished.”
Caniff feels that it is an important moment to celebrate the many contributions that women make to our organization. It is also time to acknowledge that despite the progress that has been made, gender inequality persists in our society and barriers remains within our union.
The pandemic starkly revealed the ways in which women still get left behind. Women were disproportionately impacted economically and carried much of the responsibility for parenting, when school and daycare services were disrupted. And far too many women experienced gender-based violence in our communities, and in our workplaces.
“We need to work together to eliminate gender-based barriers, discrimination, and violence for all members,” said Canniff. “Any form of discrimination and division weakens our solidarity.”
“Throughout my years of service, I have been a constant and vocal advocate of mentorship and am excited that I have been asked to take part in the LEADS Program as a mentor and an ally through shared experiences,” said Canniff. “The LEADS Program was developed by members for members, and will make our union stronger and more inclusive, creating a path for Sisters in our union to become successful leaders and activists. LEADS is an opportunity to open doors to so many female activists that often get overlooked, whose involvement can help our organization thrive, grow and become stronger. This is a groundbreaking moment for our union, and I’m honored to be a part of it.”