Ford government’s survival more important than Ontarians’ Charter rights

TORONTO, ON—The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), and Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) respond to reports that the Ford government plans to invoke the notwithstanding clause and annul Justice Edward M. Morgan’s recent decision, striking down restrictions on third-party advertising during elections:

“The Ford government’s decision to inappropriately use the notwithstanding clause to override the Charter to silence Ontarians’ voices and legitimate criticism is outrageous. Their willingness to trample on Ontarians’ Charter rights to ensure their own survival is an attack on democracy that should concern everyone.

The courts have clearly said that sections of Bill 254 violate freedom of expression and association, guaranteed by the Charter. Justice Morgan’s decision validates our positions and sends a strong message to the Ford government that laws that silence dissenting voices and give undue advantage to the government have no place in a democracy.

By invoking this rarely used clause to bolster their position, it is clear the Progressive Conservatives of Ontario are gravely concerned that their critics’ voices will be heard, and that voters will be reminded of their repeated failures leading up to the June 2022 election.

They are right to be concerned about their political futures. We will not be muted.

We will continue to hold this and future governments to account as we advocate for a publicly funded education system that is student-centred, equitable and adequately funded.”

Harvey Bischof, President, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation
Sam Hammond, President, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario
Liz Stuart, Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association

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Premier Ford continues to fail Ontario’s students, families

TORONTO, ON – After spending more than a year refusing to adequately invest in the protections and safety measures needed to keep public schools open safely, the Ford government has announced continued closures, despite consensus from healthcare stakeholders that students return to in-person learning.

“For over a year, the Ford government has consistently failed to manage the pandemic by ignoring input from stakeholders, including recommendations from their own science table. This advice included repeated calls for smaller class sizes, improved ventilation, and adequate personal protective equipment for educators,” says Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) President Sam Hammond. “They also, negligently, refused to acknowledge schools as primary drivers of COVID-19 transmission. Under false pretenses, Minister Lecce spent nine months insisting schools were safe, without any evidence to confirm this. This government’s utter disregard for the safety of students, educators and other education workers cannot be ignored.”

It’s clear that Ontario’s lengthy closures could have been prevented with proper investment in public education. “The Ford government consistently made students and families an afterthought. They must stop undermining public education and make it a priority. Moving forward, every minute must be spent preparing for a safe and healthy return to in-person learning in the fall, and consultations with stakeholders on updated protocols should begin immediately.

“This past year has been incredibly challenging, but it was made even more difficult by Ford’s refusal to listen. Once again, we urge the Ford government to immediately convene an advisory table of all education stakeholders to address the health and safety needs of schools, and the learning and mental health challenges faced by students as a result of the pandemic,” adds Hammond.

ETFO represents 83,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province. Its Building Better Schools education agenda can be viewed at BuildingBetterSchools.ca.

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Media Release: ETFO recognizes extraordinary efforts of educators during Education Week

TORONTO, ON – The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) celebrates Education Week, May 3 to 7, 2021, by recognizing the extraordinary efforts of Ontario educators throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The work elementary educators do makes an incredible difference in the lives of children and their families. Despite the endless challenges they faced this year, which were in large part created by the province’s mismanagement of the pandemic, educators stepped up once again and proved that they always have students’ best interests at heart,” says ETFO President Sam Hammond. “Saying thanks doesn’t seem like enough, but we want them to know that we are grateful for their inspiring and dedicated contributions. It is because of teachers, occasional teachers, early childhood educators, educational and professional support personnel, and other education workers that we are able to celebrate our public education system as one of the best in the world.”

Throughout the pandemic, we have not seen the Ford government genuinely acknowledge and thank education workers for all they have done to keep students learning. Notes Hammond, “Unfortunately, educators have been recklessly abandoned by Premier Ford and Minister Lecce repeatedly. They have repeatedly refused to adequately invest in Ontario’s public schools, neglecting their responsibility to keep students and educators safe. In this difficult context, I want to recognize educators’ incredible work in the classroom, whether in person or virtual. Their professionalism and commitment to students is what continues to sustain our public schools.”

Families are also appreciative of the efforts of all education workers. “I hear from families often who are so very grateful to their children’s educators for being steadfast in their care of students. At a time of unprecedented change, children benefit from having adults in their lives who provide consistent support and a sense of belonging,” adds Hammond. “This has been particularly challenging year, given the constant disruption to in-person learning and mental health impacts, but educators have demonstrated their dedication despite every hardship.”

ETFO represents 83,000 elementary public school teachers and education professionals across the province. For more information on the union’s position to build better schools please visit BuildingBetterSchools.ca.

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Media Release: Ford government’s plan to make virtual learning permanent an attack on public education

TORONTO, ON—At a time when the top education priority for the Ford government should be to ensure schools across Ontario remain open safely for in-person learning, they are instead planning to make virtual learning permanent while undermining Ontario’s public education system.

“The move to virtual learning was never intended to be permanent; it was a temporary measure intended to deliver emergency instruction during a global health crisis. But this was never the Ford government’s plan. It’s now clear that, throughout the pandemic, they’ve been working on a virtual learning plan that will divert funds from publicly funded education to private companies,” says Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario President Sam Hammond. “To be clear, this plan will negatively affect students, increase inequities, lower standards in publicly funded education, and put us one step closer to the privatization of public education.”

Throughout the pandemic, we have seen that virtual learning can have detrimental impacts on student health and well-being. Notes Hammond, “The Ford government agrees that in-person learning is critical to the social and emotional health of students. This is what they say drove their decision to keep schools open during the height of the pandemic when they failed to provide the appropriate safety protocols to protect students and educators. In fact, Minister Lecce has stated that there is nothing more important than returning students to school safely because it’s crucial for their development, mental health and future success.”

Students thrive in an in-person environment where they learn collaboratively, and where their learning is assessed daily through formal and informal observations and assessments. This is true of all students, but especially imperative to those in elementary.

Medical experts agree that in-person learning is the best option for children of all ages from an overall health and learning perspective. In SickKids’ COVID-19: Guidance for School Operation during the Pandemic document, they state that “full-time remote learning is insufficient to meet the needs of the majority of Ontario children and youth, leads to increased screen time and is likely detrimental to overall health.” They go on to say that the “daily in-person school model is best for the educational and developmental needs of children as it allows for consistency, stability and equity, regardless of the region in which children and youth live.”

Adds Hammond, “Much like the province’s response to school safety during the pandemic, the Conservative government’s primary motivation with virtual learning is to save money. Their intention is not about giving students and families more choice; it’s about monetizing virtual learning.”

“This is not what Ontario students need. We call on families to join us in standing and speaking against this latest proposal of the Ford government. This is not a decision that is in the best interest of your children. Tell Premier Ford and Minister Lecce that you will not support the dismantling of our public education system, and that you will not allow them to prioritize money over your child’s right to high-quality publicly funded education in Ontario,” says Hammond.

ETFO represents 83,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province. Its Building Better Schools education agenda can be viewed at BuildingBetterSchools.ca.

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International Women’s Day 2021

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Significant activity is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women’s achievements or rally for women’s equality.

AOTL celebrates the amazing women in our schools and the incredible impact they have each and every day.

“Bread and Roses”

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Media Release: Postponing March Break not in best interest of students, teachers, education workers, and families, education unions say

TORONTO—The Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), and the
Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) released the following statement today.

AEFO, ETFO, OECTA, and OSSTF/FEESO strongly oppose the government’s plan to postpone March Break. These are unprecedented times, and this is a much-needed break for students, teachers, education workers, and families who have been under tremendous pressure throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The government’s decision to postpone March Break does not take into consideration the mental health and well- being of those involved.

The postponement of March break shows, yet again, the inadequacies of the Progressive Conservative government’s planning. If there are concerns related to travel and gatherings during March Break, these should be addressed by the government through other means. Why did Premier Doug Ford reopen the economy when it is clear risks remain? Is he concerned that his stay-at-home orders are ineffective? If so, he should address the real issue: this government’s ongoing failure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Their decision to postpone, despite unanimous opposition from unions representing educators and other stakeholders in the sector, including all school board associations and the Ontario Principals’ Council, is another example of this government ignoring experts and making decisions that are reckless and baseless. The pattern the government has shown in making decisions while ignoring experts and the front-line workers that are most affected has only served to compound challenges.

This decision demonstrates their lack of understanding about the stress and pressures of learning and working in a pandemic. Teachers and education workers have gone to extraordinary lengths to teach and support students every day since the start of the school year, whether in person or online. Their efforts should be applauded not diminished.

The Ford government must listen to the voices of frontline workers in the education community and immediately reverse their decision to postpone March Break.

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Celebrating Black History Month

Black History Month exists to remind us all of the rich contributions within our society from people of African and Caribbean decent, and of their ongoing struggle for equity and social justice. Teachers have the opportunity to engage their students, not only during this month but throughout the school year, on recognizing the strengths and resiliency of communities that historically have been marginalized, as well examining issues of racism and the impact of discrimination on these communities.​

2021 Black History Month Poster

The 2021 ETFO Black History Month Poster (artist Leone McComas) explores how the commonly used and accepted map of our world is not accurate and rooted in bias and colonialism.

As the Mae Jemison quote captures: “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”

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ETFO Media Release: Ford government’s failure to contain COVID-19 results in need to extend remote learning

Toronto, ON – As a result of the Ford government’s failure to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario, we are at the height of a pandemic that has surged out of control. This has resulted in yet another last-minute decision, one that extends remote learning in many areas of the province, and again leaves families and educators scrambling to plan.

“With COVID-19 numbers at an all-time high and the introduction of a new, more transmissible strain of the virus, our first priority must be to protect the health and safety of students and educators, and by extension, the communities in which we teach. Due to the government’s mishandling of the pandemic, the safety of students and educators can simply not be guaranteed in much of the province,” said Sam Hammond, President of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).

ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. “We firmly believe that in-person instruction in publicly-funded schools provides the best experience for learning, quality delivery, and is the most equitable model for all students. We know that educators are eager to be back with their students in their classrooms,” noted Hammond.

ETFO recognizes that shutting down in-person learning adds extra pressure on families and educators, particularly those who have school-age children. “We will continue to press the government to provide funding to support all families, and to account for the childcare needs of educators and other front-line workers,” added Hammond.

“We also call on the government to take this extra time to immediately implement the necessary measures to ensure a safe return to in-person learning is possible. This includes reducing class sizes to ensure physical distancing can be maintained, improving ventilation, deploying HEPA filters and CO2 monitors to every classroom in the province, making masks mandatory for all students and introducing broad, school based asymptomatic testing.”

ETFO represents 83,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province. Its Building Better Schools education agenda can be viewed at BuildingBetterSchools.ca.

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ETFO Media Release: ETFO filing complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board regarding government’s revocation of Regulation 274

Toronto, ON – The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is filing a complaint today with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) seeking a ruling against the government’s revocation of Regulation 274.

“We believe that the government’s unilateral move to revoke Regulation 274 constitutes an unfair labour practice,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond.

“As long as the 2014-2017 teacher/occasional teacher agreement and 2017-2019 extension agreement, which both include Regulation 274, remain in force, the employer cannot change the terms and conditions of employment. Many of our teacher and occasional teacher locals have yet to negotiate a new local agreement, therefore they are still covered by the terms of their existing agreements. By revoking the Regulation, the government is unilaterally altering the terms of the central agreement in locals who are in the midst of local bargaining.”

Regulation 274 was a strong starting point to introduce fairness and transparency in hiring processes, rather than leaving it up to individual principals with the hope they would make the right choices.

“The government’s claim that it revoked the Regulation in the interest of equity and diversity hiring holds little credibility. By defunding public education and by failing to plan and appropriately fund a safe return to schools, this government has shown a complete disregard for equity. Its actions have deepened already existing gaps in our public education system, particularly among marginalized communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” added Hammond.

“At a time when the government should be focused on the safety of students and staff, they are reverting to this tactic to divert attention away from the crisis they have created with their chaotic and flawed school reopening plan.”

ETFO represents 83,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province. Its Building Better Schools education agenda can be viewed at BuildingBetterSchools.ca.

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OCT Professional Advisory: Professional Boundaries

The Ontario College of Teachers has released a new Professional Advisory: Professional Boundaries – An Advisory for Ontario Certified Teachers.

Released October 1, 2020, the new advisory on professional boundaries highlights parameters that should inform teachers’ judgement and professional practice and defines the professional boundaries teachers must maintain with students.

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