Marlene Hemmings was born in Jamaica, where she was raised by her grandmother until her teenage years, when she moved to Montreal to join her mother.
Marlene attended Mount Royal High School and then Vanier College, where she took a secretarial studies course. Upon graduation, she got a job at Jewish General Hospital, where she spent some time in admittance before moving onto the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research.
After some time there, the program she was working in closed, leaving Marlene with some tough decisions. After much thought, she decided she wanted to go into nursing, so she took at gerontology course at Dawson College. This led her to getting a job as a nursing aide at Jewish General Hospital.
Over the next several years, Marlene got married and had three kids, all of whom were born at the hospital in which she worked. It was also in that same hospital that her husband tragically passed away from cancer in January 1991.
With the memories of her husband’s battle with cancer fresh in her mind, her workplace became somewhere she had trouble spending time. This led her to transfer to Vigi Santé Hospital, ending her 17 years at Jewish General Hospital.
In 2002, Marlene’s youngest daughter, who was already in Ontario attending high school, decided she wanted to attend university there as well. Marlene agreed to this request and decided to join her daughter in Ontario.
It didn’t take long for Marlene to have two different job offers at long-term care homes in her new province. She decided to take the offer from Sherwood Court in Vaughn, where 15 years later, she not only continues to work, but also serves as the chief steward.
As a passionate member of SEIU Healthcare, Marlene strives to make an impact for her coworkers and her community.
“I have a passion for justice. If I see something is wrong, I’m not going to sit back and let it happen. When I became active in my union, it gave me the drive to be the way I am, both in my workplace and in my community. Being a union member and a steward gives me the platform to speak out for those who do not have a voice.”
In addition to her union work, Marleen has also been very active in her community. She has worked on federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s campaign twice and has participated in several political actions in Brampton. She uses her own experiences as motivation to make a difference for others.
“As a Black Canadian growing up in Quebec, I encountered a lot of racism, whether it was at school, at work or just out in public. The way I was treated gave me the motivation to achieve fairness and justice, which everyone deserves. Some people might have more education or money than others, but nobody has the right to talk down to anyone or take away someone’s justice.”