The year 2020 delivered hard-hitting blows to our membership, which challenged and changed how we view our organization. In a time of racial unrest and political strife situated in a global pandemic, we are provided with an opportunity for change that we must embrace.
In November 2020, The Black Persons and Persons of Colour Advisory Work Group was created to help the Federation reduce barriers to member participation and foster equity and inclusion within OSSTF/FEESO. Conversations about race and how internal policies and practices disadvantage and exclude members who identify as Black, Indigenous, and racialized continue to lead us forward in our anti-racism and anti-oppression initiatives. (See OSSTF/FEESO—Racism, Oppression, Equity).
OSSTF/FEESO accepts its organizational responsibility to respond to racial discrimination and recognizes its history of reinforcing white privilege within its structure. An acknowledgment of individual experiences coupled with finding strength in our differences drives us towards a common goal. With a united voice, we stand against anti-Black racism and all forms of discrimination. With a united voice, we stand up to toxic provincial politics that affect us in our communities.
Ontario’s public education system has fallen victim to the Ford government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Education workers and teachers have been ignored and left out of meaningful, collaborative conversations about safely re-opening schools in Ontario. Establishing a clear, consistent, and transparent return to school plan was not a priority for this Conservative government.
On January 8, 2020, the Association des enseignantes et 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 a joint statement (www.bit.ly/3aanJYh) calling on the Ford government to establish a comprehensive and transparent plan to keep students, educators, and communities safe. True to form, Premier Ford and Education Minister Lecce ignored the request to convene an advisory table of education stakeholders, continuing to leave communities in the dark.
OSSTF/FEESO continues to advocate for a plan that includes:
- asymptomatic testing measures for all students and staff;
- a vaccination plan that prioritizes education workers and teachers;
- increased access to and funding for community supports, including respite support for families in need;
- immediate investments and supports to make current online learning more accessible and more functional for learners;
- access to paid sick leave for workers;
- standard regulations for reduced class sizes and other health protocols to protect school communities.
Electing an education-friendly government has never been more critical as we move towards the 2022 election. Our collective experiences as education workers and teachers will counter the narratives that attempt to cause division within our organization. Publicly-funded education is under attack, and our roles as protectors of the system remain vital.