December 06, 2018 — On the afternoon of December 6, 1989, a man claiming to be “fighting feminism” carried a rifle into École Polytechnique in Montreal, where he targeted and murdered 14 women simply because they were women. Another 10 women were wounded in that attack, which has come to be known as the Montreal Massacre.
Every year now, December 6 is observed as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. We honour the lives of the Montreal Massacre victims, and we remember all the women whose lives have been lost or impacted because of gender-based violence. It is also a day on which we renew our commitment to taking action.
“Twenty-nine years after the Montreal Massacre, gender based-violence, sexual harassment, and sexual assault still plague women in their workplaces, in their homes, and even in public spaces,” said OSSTF/FEESO President Harvey Bischof. “That is why we must continue working to keep the conversation going and to constantly condemn all unacceptable behaviour on the part of men toward women. OSSTF/FEESO members have always taken an active role, both inside and outside of the classroom, in creating and promoting dialogue about gender-based violence.”
“Today, OSSTF/FEESO members across Ontario will be participating in events to honour the victims of the Montreal Massacre and all victims of gender-based violence. They will continue to work with students throughout the school year to promote gender equality, to confront sexism and misogyny, and to prevent violence against women and girls,” concluded Bischof.
November 21, 2018 — Today the Doug Ford government ignored both the best interests and the vocal objections of working people all over Ontario and passed Bill 47, effectively gutting the hard-won reforms to labour laws and employment standards that came into effect last year under Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act.
Bill 47 is based on the false premise that improved employment standards and an increase in the minimum wage have killed jobs – a notion that flies in the face of virtually all available evidence and data, not just from Ontario but from many other jurisdictions. As a result of this government’s now-familiar pattern of ignoring evidence in favour of ideology, the clock has been turned back and major improvements in areas such as sick leave, vacation time, fair scheduling practices and equal pay for casual and part-time employees have now been pulled out from under some of the most vulnerable workers in Ontario.
That this legislation was pushed through in spite of a massive public outcry serves only to confirm that this is not a government “for the people” at all, but rather a government that is receptive almost exclusively to the powerful lobby of business interests.
This is a very sad day for workers in Ontario, but we in the labour movement will not be discouraged from continuing to fight for the rights of workers, unionized or not. OSSTF/FEESO will continue to support the grassroots efforts of the Fight for $15 and Fairness, and we will oppose any action on the part of the government that attacks the rights of working people in Ontario.
November 19, 2018 — The Ford government’s Fall Economic Statement was delivered at Queen’s Park last week, and was accompanied by a number of disconcerting announcements that point to a reckless agenda of cuts to important services that Ontarians rely upon for fair representation and adequate public oversight.
The elimination of the Office of the Ontario Child Advocate is an irresponsible move that will create heightened risks for children who are in foster care in Ontario, or under the care of a children’s aid society. The Child Advocate plays a crucial role in guarding against abuse on behalf of some of the most vulnerable children in the province, including Indigenous children and children with special needs, and the government’s plan to eliminate this service is short-sighted in the extreme. As educators whose primary concern is the well-being of our students, we must condemn this decision and call on the government to prioritize the protection of children.
By eliminating the Office of the Environmental Commissioner, the Ford government continues to demonstrate a crass indifference to environmental concerns. Government decisions and initiatives affecting climate change and the environment will no longer be subject to formal independent scrutiny on behalf of the people of Ontario. This represents a major step backward on the part of the government.
Additionally, the abolition of the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner is an insult to every one of the 600,000 Franco-Ontarians in communities across the province – an insult that is only amplified by the further decisions to scrap plans for Ontario’s first French-language university. A community that has made countless contributions to the cultural, economic and political life of Ontario is losing an important advocate, and it’s frankly bewildering that the Ford government thinks this is an appropriate way to cut costs.
Every OSSTF/FEESO member should be deeply concerned about these announcements and about the overall tone of the economic statement. We call on the Ford government to reconsider this direction and to move forward instead with an economic plan that does not place private sector interests ahead of the needs of the people of Ontario.
October 23, 2018 — Today the Ford government announced legislation that will repeal or diminish almost all of the long-overdue reforms to employment standards and labour legislation that were achieved last year when Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, was passed by the previous government.
This announcement constitutes a colossal step backward for the rights of working people in Ontario. The entire labour movement, along with grass-roots movements like the Fight for $15 and Fairness, worked tirelessly for almost four years in support of the first significant reforms to labour and employment standards legislation in decades. Bill 148 contained major improvements for workers in areas like sick leave, vacation time, fair scheduling practices and equal pay for casual and part-time workers. It also would have increased the minimum wage to $15 per hour in January 2019.
It’s clear from today’s announcement, however, that the Ford government is determined to revert to a regulatory framework that is woefully inadequate when it comes to protecting the rights and working conditions of working people, particularly the hundreds of thousands of Ontarians who are trapped in low-wage, precarious jobs.
This action will negatively affect some OSSTF/FEESO members and many, many more of our students, through the impact on their own working conditions or those of their parents. It is a shame that the Ford government put the interests of a powerful business lobby ahead of the real needs of working people and their children.
OSSTF/FEESO calls on the Ford government to reverse this decision immediately, and keep its hands off the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act.
September 12, 2018 — As many of you know, Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday that he intends to invoke the constitution’s “notwithstanding clause” to override a court ruling that struck down Bill 5, the Better Local Government Act. A Superior Court Justice ruled earlier in the day that the Act infringes on the freedom of expression provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ford said that he will reintroduce the legislation this week, and will invoke the notwithstanding clause so that the constitutionality of the legislation cannot be challenged in court.
Ford’s decision to invoke the notwithstanding clause is unprecedented in Ontario, and is disturbing in the extreme. Even more disturbing was Ford’s statement to reporters that he would not hesitate to use the notwithstanding clause whenever he felt it necessary in the future. This is an astounding proclamation by the Premier of Ontario that his own legislative agenda takes priority over the constitutional rights of Ontarians.
The implications of this are serious for everyone in the province, including members of OSSTF/FEESO and all unions, whose rights to meaningful collective bargaining are guaranteed by the constitution.
I urge all OSSTF/FEESO members, especially those who live in ridings represented by government MPPs, to contact their local representatives by phone or by email and insist that they vote against this Bill when it is reintroduced in the legislature. Doug Ford is attempting to establish a very dangerous precedent, and we must make every effort to let him and his government know that this is simply not acceptable.
Harvey Bischof, President