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CELEBR A TING E TFO’S 20TH ANNI V ER S AR Y


Promoting Equity and Defending Democracy


BY VALERIE DUGALE


I


This article is part of a series reflecting on the his- tory of ETFO on our 20th anniversary. Look for the follow-up article in the summer issue of Voice. .........................................................


n the first half of ETFO’s second de- cade, the Federation stepped up its equity and social justice programs and professional learning to support members. Following focus groups with


members identifying as LGBT2Q, the pro- vincial Executive approved a Strategy for Challenging Homophobia and Champion- ing Safe Workplaces. An LGBT2Q Rights in Your Workplace brochure and a video featur- ing the lived experiences of LGBT2Q educa- tors were circulated. In 2012, ETFO held its first ever Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Sym- posium for members wanting to start a GSA in their own schools. The same year, the Federation introduced


a workshop entitled Addressing Islamopho- bia, later updated as Islamophobia Affects Our Children, and a year later launched Everyone Is Able, a video and workshop designed to increase awareness and sensitivity to issues around ability/disability. In 2014, ETFO pushed the boundaries of equity training with an educa- tor resource entitled Re-Think, Re-Connect, Re- Imagine: Thinking about ourselves, our schools, our communities. Reflecting on White Privilege. With programs like Possibilities: Address-


ing Poverty in Elementary Schools, Teaching for Deep Understanding and the ETFO Additional Qualifications (AQ) courses, ETFO’s reputa- tion for quality professional learning in Can- ada continued to grow. With the 2011 provincial election, ETFO


introduced Building Better Schools: An Educa- tion Agenda, a vision for building high-quality, publicly-funded education in Ontario. Revised for the elections in 2014 and 2018, the agenda formed the basis for BuildingBetterSchools.ca, now a key public advocacy site for improving teaching and learning conditions in schools. In 2012, the government moved into a pe-


riod of austerity that was to have consequences for central bargaining. Its negotiators took a ‘take it or leave it’ approach to bargaining with ETFO, offering a zero percent salary increase and a freeze on the salary grid. ETFO coun- tered with a member mobilization campaign – “Respect Teachers, Respect Bargaining” – and a public advertising campaign called “Teachers Change Lives.” In August of that year, the government


tabled Bill 115, which imposed many conces- sions that OECTA had agreed to a month ear- lier. Most importantly, Bill 115 took away the democratic right of ETFO members to free collective bargaining. Eighty-nine busloads of ETFO members arrived at Queen’s Park to


protest. “No government in Canada is above the law or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” ETFO President Sam Hammond said. ETFO members took a ‘pause’ on volun-


tary extra-curricular activities, staged rallies at MPP local offices and engaged in work-to-rule and one-day rotating strikes. ETFO’s Bill 115 Charter challenge, which was subsequently won in 2015, commenced in court. When Bill 115 was passed in January 2013, ETFO mem- bers protested outside the Liberal leadership convention, sending a clear message that the government could not ignore the democratic rights of educators and others. “A lot of the challenges that we met head on


were done with the support and solidarity of our members who stood up, day in and day out, for the qualities and values that we believe in for public education,” said President Hammond. To learn more about ETFO’s history, see


the Federation’s newly revised publication It’s Elementary and its 20th anniversary videos at etfo.ca/aboutetfo/20th/pages/etfo20.aspx n Valerie Dugale is an executive staff member of ETFO.


ELEMENTARY TEACHERS’ FEDERATION OF ONTARIO 41


PHOTO BY KATHRYN GAITENS


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