On October 11, 2012 ETFO filed a court challenge against the Ontario government’s Bill 115 on grounds that the law, which strips the education sector of its right to bargain collectively, violates rights set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Queen's Park Rally for Education
Thousands of ETFO and other union members, concerned citizens, and students converged on Queen’s Park on August 28 for the Rally for Education. Eighty-nine busloads of ETFO members arrived, some of whom travelled for seven hours to attend the rally. People crowded the lawns of the legislature and overflowed onto surrounding sidewalks, demonstrating incredible support for teachers, collective bargaining rights, and democracy in Ontario.
“McGuinty, this is the answer to your legislation!” is how President Sam Hammond began his address, gesturing to the large crowd gathered before him. “You have betrayed educators and now the government wants to deny fundamental rights for your own political purposes. This government has manufactured a crisis to mislead parents, the media, and the public and we will not stand for it!” President Hammond emphasized that the legislation, if passed, would be challenged by ETFO because “no government in Canada is above the law or the Charter of Rights. Stop lying to people and saying that this is about money. This is about democracy and this is about democratic rights.”
Hammond asked the people gathered to stand strong and stand together. “From this day forward, forget about your title, forget differentiating whether you are a teacher, an EA, a custodian, forget about the position you hold. Look around you. There are no titles on people here. We are in this together! “ “Mister McGuinty,” Hammond concluded, “we will never, ever, forget this betrayal. And to those people who have said that this is the conclusion to this battle, this is just the beginning.”
Thunder Bay’s “Mini Queen’s Park Park Rally” — A Resounding Success
Over 300 teachers, educational assistants, designated early childhood educators, custodians and office administrators rallied in Thunder Bay on August 28 to stand together against the punitive Bill 115 introduced by the McGuinty government. The rally – dubbed the “Mini-Queen’s Park Rally” – included participants from ETFO, OSSTF, COPE, CUPE, CAW and OPSEU.
The organizer of the Mini-Queen’s Park Rally, ETFO Lakehead President Ellen Chambers, summarized the purpose of the event: “Our message is clear – workers will not be bullied.”
“Whether you belong to a union or not, this bill sends a message that workers don’t count and that the process doesn’t count,” Chambers said. “That’s the way I look at it and I think it’s a very scary thing.”
We Are The Front Lines of Education
We ARE the Front Lines was formed by Kathreen Hansen (Peel Teacher local) and Susan Goode (associate member), two teachers who wanted to unite educators and encourage everyone to have a voice.
Speaking at the Rally for Education, Hansen said, “I’ve been putting students first for years now and consider myself somewhat of an expert on the subject. I want you to know, Mr. McGuinty, that if this legislation is how you put students first, you are doing it wrong because you cannot put students first by putting their educators last.”
“We are teachers and we have a voice that cannot be legislated away,” concluded Susan Goode. “We are the experts at putting student’s first.”
Canada’s Teachers Stand in Solidarity with Ontario Colleagues
In a press release issued by the Canadian Teachers Federation, President Paul Taillefer stated that “the 200,000 teachers of Canada raise their voices in support of their Ontario colleagues.” Presidents of the teacher organizations from Newfoundland, Nunavut, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Manitoba were at Queen’s Park to stand in solidarity with Ontario teachers and education professionals, and to tell this government that imposing legislation is an affront to the rights of every teacher in Canada.
ETFO has done a great deal in the past couple of years to fight for our collective bargaining rights and the democratic rights of all Ontarians. I have been inspired and awed as I’ve watched ETFO members respond to unfair and undemocratic government initiatives with strength, commitment, and dedication.