For the fifth year, CUPE 1281 will be giving out the Mary-Jo Nadeau Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) award. This award is a monetary award of $500 for an organization fighting to end support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and to pressure Israel to comply with international law. Anyone may nominate an organization for this award.

Selection criteria that will be taken into consideration include the following:

  • Local to where CUPE 1281 members work/live
  • Raises the voices of Palestinians in their struggle for self-determination

Nominations for the 2024 award will open in the new year.

Previous Mary-Jo Nadeau BDS Award Winners

2019 – CUPE 3902 BDS Political Action Committee

2020 – Independent Jewish Voices – Canada

2021 – Palestinian Youth Movement

2022 – Association of Palestinian Students at UTM 

2023 – Palestinian Youth Movement – Ottawa Chapter

Mary-Jo Nadeau Tribute

On Saturday, January 9, 2021, the world lost an inspiring woman named Mary-Jo Nadeau.

Mary-Jo Nadeau (MJ) was an activist, professor, leader, mentor and comrade. 

She was also a former CUPE 1281 Staff Representative, who for many years worked tirelessly to defend the rights of workers, organize new workplaces, and educate and mentor everyone around her. She uplifted and inspired CUPE 1281 to grow as a local and we would not be where we are now, if it weren’t for MJ. Even after MJ stopped working at CUPE 1281 due to health concerns, she remained present in our local, and still provided us with guidance and support.

MJ was also well known as a fierce defender of human rights which included Palestine solidarity organizing and the BDS movement. In 2018, her passion was recognized by the CUPE 1281 membership with the creation of an annual award in her name, the Mary-Jo Nadeau Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Award. This is an award dedicated to an organization fighting to end support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, and pressuring Israel to comply with international law.

MJ never shied away from speaking truth to power and holding bad bosses accountable. As unapologetic as she was in standing up to injustice, MJ was equally as committed to building meaningful and lasting relationships with our members. She radiated genuine warmth, humour, and laughter as she supported our confidence and capacity to collectively make our workplaces and communities better places. 

CUPE 1281 will miss and love you always MJ. 

Memorial statements

“What I remember most about Mary-Jo was her warmth, her kindness, her quiet strength and determination. Her presence was truly inspiring. She will be greatly missed.” – Linda Barnett

“We lost a fierce unionist, intellectual and social justice organizer on Saturday, January 9, 2021,  Mary-Jo Nadeau. I’m shattered by her passing,  as many are, but want to put words to all the images in my mind.

I first met MJ when I came back to Toronto in the mid-90s. She was speaking at a rally she had co-organized, naturally. My next memory of her is in the 2000-2001 CUPE 3903 strike, which I was tangentially involved in supporting. Both memories bring forward her lively, engaging and fierce efforts for and with people.
While we often crossed paths in activist circles, it wasn’t until she became staff of my former union local, mighty CUPE 1281, that we started to work closely.  My memories are mostly grievance meetings,  arbitration prep meetings, mediations, bargaining sessions and rallies. Such is the stuff of day to day union life! She was always uber prepared,  tireless, focused, funny, and fearless. Together with other members we were a force to reckon with for employers on more than one occasion. I am proud to be able to say I worked with and learned from Mary-Jo. Rest in Power.” – Sheila Wilmot
“It is with great sadness that I read of Mary-Jo’s passing. I knew Mary-Jo at one of the lower points in my life, when I, along with my close friends and colleagues were faced with a problematic work environment that needed significant remedy. We were fortunate enough to have worked with Mary-Jo, whose strength, intelect, skill and grace guided us through. May her memory, like her life, be a blessing. Rest in Power.” – Alyssa B
“My heart is broken. There are reps and then there are Reps; the tenacious type who stand in the gap, call things like they are, empathize, and work tirelessly to advocate for what is right. That’s the type of Rep Mary-Jo was and I’m grateful that she represented me, supported me, and consoled me when she did. I learned from her, laughed with her, and confided in her. I will do my utmost to be the type of defender that Mary-Jo was for me. Rest beloved.” – Tamara Williams