Vanessa Woodacre, Jared Hunt, and Derik Chica are three OSSTF/FEESO members who were invited to attend the first Social Justice Seminar by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF/FCE) in Ottawa last March 2020. Vanessa, Jared, and Derik participate in social justice-related activities within OSSTF/FEESO and in their communities and locals. Given the circumstances during that time, the seminar was broken into three virtual sessions, over the 2020–2021 school year. Vanessa, Jared, and Derik were all very excited to participate in these virtual seminars and wanted to take the opportunity to share their experiences and resources with all OSSTF/FEESO members.
A small fish in a big pond of social justice warriors is the feeling I had the first time we met on Zoom. The CTF/FCE and other important education social justice activists and organizations around a common table. Who was I to be able to contribute to this? I remembered all of the social justice work I have done, how I could help influence and share with others about social justice. This is social justice at work, many feet on the ground. People, working together to make important changes. To reach educators and influence our education system at a human level. Create a vision of a better education system, a better Canada that is equitable and working towards being bias free. The ongoing process of being able to meet with people, digest materials and information has been like a drink of water in a pandemic desert. The work of engaging in various social justice issues and sharing with other educators across Canada has been integral to reinvigorating my passion for education in a time where that has been a challenge.
Organizing for social justice is all about relationships. It’s about the one-to-ones and the core values that underpin our individual public narratives. I could tell right away that the CTF social justice seminar would be about connecting with other like-minded activists across the country. As I worked through the material and participated in discussions, I realized that the seminar was more than enhancing my activist network. From time to time, I’m confronted with opportunities in the staff room and in the classroom to explore conversations about big issues. I’m always interested in learning ways to connect the important values of publicly-funded education, the work we do as educators, with social justice campaigns. But how do you have a good talk about an issue like forced migration as related to precarious work and Canada’s immigration system without things getting too polarized? As a participant in the CTF social justice seminar, I’m learning ways to carefully navigate the big issues, and with the help of fabulous resources!
I was humbled by participating in this national Social Justice Seminar. Upon hearing the invitation, I was so excited. From the beginning, it was amazing to see participants across Canada list their areas of interest and experiences in a shared table. It felt so communal connecting with individuals across Canada with similar interests as my own. As a larger group, we had some great discussions about international human rights issues. I look forward to moving that conversation forward to actions, including political ones, that can be taken to address those issues. We received a wealth of resources and I have been sharing those with our OSSTF/FEESO Human Rights Committee. In reflecting on this experience, I realize social justice is such a broad concept that has so many microcosms in the broader macro movement for a more inclusive and equitable society, serving justice for those who have been marginalized by our systems for so long.
Vanessa Woodacre is a member of District 14, Kawartha Pine Ridge
Jared Hunt is a member of District 4, Near North
Derik Chica is a member of District 12, Toronto