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MAGAZINE of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association


PLUS: Reflections on Fempower Using movies to empower students Standing up for teacher professionalism












By Mark Tagliaferri

Collective bargaining is around the corner – teachers need to stay informed and get prepared By Adam Lemieux

Eliminating independent watchdogs hurts accountability and advocacy

16 THE POLITICS OF PROFESSIONALISM The PC government has stepped up attacks on teacher professionalism,

but to what end? By Mark Tagliaferri

TEACHERS AID 19 LEGAL BRIEF Nurses leading the way on modernizing workers’ rights By Charlene Theodore


20 INSIGHT Daring greatly: lessons from Fempower By Michelle Despault 21 CATHOLIC CONNECTION A profile in courage By Shannon Hogan 22 TEACHER ADVISOR Changes to criminal record checks By Joe Pece 23 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Keeper’n Me and other Indigenous reading resources By Mireille LaPointe 24 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Real cinema: using movies to explore and empower student voice By Anthony Perrotta 25 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Using technology to support students - a one-stop shop By Lauren Doney


PEOPLE WORTH WATCHING 26 BLUE GOLD: WALKING TO PROTECT THE GREAT LAKES Inspired by an Anishinaabe woman’s epic story, students are becoming

custodians for the environment as Junior Water Walkers

By Peter Cameron



Reflections from the Fempower conference

By Diana Corazza

28 MAKING SPACE FOR CHANGE Black History Month reminds us of the hard work still to be done to promote

equity and inclusion

By Adam Lemieux


30 FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH The gift of music By Gian Marcon


PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE It is hard to believe that we are at our half-way point this year. We are now gearing up for the excitement of the Annual General Meeting in March, which marks the 75th anniversary of the Association. For as many years, our members have been coming together to share ideas, debate issues, and reaffirm our shared values as Catholic teachers. Each year, the AGM serves as a powerful reminder of who we are, where we have come from, and the benefits of being a part of a unionized collective. This is a testament to our longstanding commitment as Catholic teachers, to our profession, and to each other. During the course of our 75-year history, OECTA has evolved as the leading force in Ontario’s publicly funded education system, and we continue to grow and reflect the diversity of our membership, and the ongoing progressive value of Catholic education. As the Association continues to move forward, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the waves made at our first Fempower conference. I can still feel the buzz that infiltrated the entire conference from keynote speakers to workshops through to the hallway conversations and social media airways. We set out to create a positive, safe space where female members of our Association could support one another in a collective effort to educate and empower. And we did just that. It is my hope that we can carry the Fempower momentum forward this year as we continue our 75th anniversary celebrations, and embark on new challenges and opportunities as an Association. Some new challenges were presented in December when we received insight into the slew of education programs expected to be cut, and others that will see Ministry funding reduced. In an email to school boards, the Ministry of Education noted the province’s $14.5 billion deficit and that it “requires substantial transformation for the province to return to a balanced budget.” According to the Ministry of Education, “This means that Ontario needs to modernize the way education is funded and make sure that precious tax dollars are having the greatest impact in the classroom.” The idea that public spending is out of control was central to the PC election campaign messaging, and budget cuts began when the election ended. Already in education, we have seen the elimination of curriculum writing projects; cancellation of the cap and trade program, which resulted in the loss of $100-million earmarked for school repairs and retrofits; cancellation of $25m in EPO grant funding; and a significant reduction in funding related to mental health; to name but a few. With the next round of provincial bargaining approaching, our fight to protect publicly funded Catholic education, and the entire publicly funded school system in Ontario has never been more important. In the coming weeks and months, I ask that you stay actively informed through our provincial bargaining updates. We will be relying on you and your understanding of the issues and pressures facing the Association in order to best protect our working conditions, and student learning conditions. Together, we can stand up for the future of education in Ontario. God bless, Liz Stuart President

REGISTER YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS If you have not already done so, please provide OECTA with your personal email address. This will ensure that you receive all bargaining-related communications; it is also a requirement to participate in a provincial strike vote or on any provincial agreement reached with the employer side. Email addresses can be registered online at cvent.com/d/3gq4p2.


Michelle Despault Editor Adam Lemieux Mark Tagliaferri Associate Editors Cynthia Bifolchi Writer/Researcher Fernanda Monteiro Production Anna Anezyris Advertising

EDITORIAL BOARD Liz Stuart President Warren Grafton First Vice-President Marshall Jarvis General Secretary David Church Deputy General Secretary Carley Desjardins Communications Specialist/ Writer Catholic Teacher is published five times during the school year. Opinions and ideas expressed in Catholic Teacher are not necessarily those of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association. Catholic Teacher is a member of the Canadian Educational Press Association, and the Canadian Association of Labour Media. Return undelivered Canadian addresses to: Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, 65 St. Clair Avenue East, Suite 400 Toronto, ON M4T 2Y8 PHONE 416-925-2493 TOLL-FREE 1-800-268-7230 FAX 416-925-7764 catholicteachers.ca Publication Mail Agreement No. 0040062510 Account No. 0001681016

Cover: Photo @Jacob Lund from Shutterstock.com


EVENTS INDIGENOUS EDUCATION PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SURVEY In October, the OECTA First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Work Group conducted a survey that explored Catholic teachers’ thoughts and opinions on delivering Indigenous education content, and catalogued professional development activities that members have completed. In total, 835 Catholic teachers participated. The results produced a number of important findings on topics such as teacher confidence, the challenges teachers face, as well as perceptions on how the Association might tailor future professional development opportunities to improve teaching effectiveness in the area of Indigenous education. The survey data will help to inform the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Work Group in developing recommendations to the Provincial Executive. Thanks to all who participated in this important study!

INTRODUCING THE EQUITY AND DIVERSITY ADVISORY BOARD In August, the Provincial Executive approved the formation of an Equity and Diversity Advisory Board that will discuss and provide input on the needs of their respective communities, as well as barriers to involvement members face. This continues a determined effort by the Provincial Executive and throughout the Association to amplify marginalized voices, foster engagement and solidarity, and ensure that the Association is responsive to the diverse needs of our members. Represented on the board are members who identify as Indigenous, LGBTQ2SI, differently abled, racialized, or female. Applications were invited from the membership, and the Provincial Executive selected Jennifer Bieniek, Walter Chaisson, Karen Ebanks, and Sharon Giroux to serve on the board. Second Vice-President Barb Dobrowolski serves as the Provincial Executive liaison and the women’s representative. They are supported by Deputy General Secretary David Church. As their first task, the board members are currently working with OECTA staff to develop a survey to gauge the perspectives and needs of the broader membership. You can also look out for some of their individual stories and viewpoints to be featured in upcoming issues of Catholic Teacher.

OECTA BENEFITS PLAN AND THE ELHT In 2016, the Association began its transition from employerprovided health care plans, which varied from board to board, to the single OECTA Benefits Plan. This change was approved by the Council of Presidents and provides the following advantages:

• consistency and equity of coverage for all eligible members and their families, regardless of where they live or by which board they are employed

• ease of transferability, with no change to benefits plan

coverage if members move to a different Catholic school board

• more control over plan design; for example, providing

benefits to occasional members who were previously unable to access benefits

• greater privacy, as school boards no longer have access to members’ personal information

To facilitate the transition and create the OECTA Benefits Plan, an Employee Life and Health Trust (ELHT) was established. The ELHT is an independent body, which includes several OECTA members on its Board of Trustees, along with members appointed by the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association and the Government of Ontario.

Ongoing governance of the OECTA Benefits Plan is the responsibility of the ELHT, not the Association. The ELHT is tasked with ensuring the financial viability of the plan so it can meet its goal of providing a sustainable benefits plan for all eligible OECTA members and their families. The ELHT regularly reviews plan operations, including revenues and expenditures, and much like the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, makes decisions regarding plan design to ensure it meets members’ needs over the long term. Changes to plan design are necessary when there are cost pressures that could impact the ability of the plan to meet its obligations to members. Those changes are typically made to premium payments or coverage amounts. If changes are required, the ELHT reviews member usage data to determine what changes might be implemented so as to minimize impact on members, while maintaining a viable plan for all. If you have questions about the design of the plan or its governance, you can send a message to elhtcontact@ catholicteachers.ca The plan is administered by the Ontario Teachers’ Insurance Plan (OTIP). If you have questions about your claims, contact OTIP at 1-866-783-6847.

L to R: David Church; Sharon Giroux; Karen Ebanks; Jennifer Bieniek; Walter Chaisson; and Barb Dobrowolski






Unit deadline for Young Authors Award entries


World Day of Social Justice


Pink Shirt Day


Ash Wednesday



Applications open for provincial committees

21 International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination


22 Provincial level deadline for Young Authors Award entries



Annual General Meeting

18 Spring AQ registration closes


Earth Hour (8:30 - 9:30 p.m.)


Scholarships & Fellowships application deadline


Spring AQ courses begin

4-5 Specialized Leadership Training 10

Day of Pink


Good Friday


Easter Monday


Earth Day


World Day for Safety and Health at Work

1 Bursaries application deadline 1


International Women’s Day

9-11 12


Provincial committee application deadline

The Association’s inaugural women in leadership conference, Fempower, was created as part of our ongoing commitment to amplify female voices and encourage women to step forward and seek leadership roles. The two-day event saw 240 Catholic teachers from across the province come together to connect, learn, celebrate, and empower. Two keynote speakers addressed delegates. Kate Hughes, a lawyer from Cavalluzzo LLP in Toronto, is renowned for her work in human rights, notably her precedent-setting work as counsel in a groundbreaking gender discrimination case that was argued before the Supreme Court of Canada. Kate spoke to delegates about the gains women have made with respect to harassment, discrimination, and gender inequality, and the work still to be done. The second keynote speaker was Farrah Khan, who is Manager of Ryerson University’s Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education, and a member of the Government of Canada’s Federal Strategy Against Gender-Based Violence Advisory Council, and works for gender justice through education, advocacy, and art. Farrah’s keynote served as a powerful call to action: “Why not me?” she asked delegates. “Why not me to take up that space in the community? Why not me to be a leader?” Over the two days, a series of panel discussions fostered much sharing and reflection. Women leaders from the Association offered insight into their journeys, while guests – including Marie Clarke Walker, Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress; Tesa Fiddler, an Indigenous Education Resource Teacher in Thunder Bay; Nicole van Woudenberg, Chair of Council of the Ontario College of Teachers; and Dr. Rev. Cheri DiNovo, a United Church of Canada Minister and former MPP – shared their unique perspectives on women’s empowerment and women in leadership. Delegates also attended workshops focusing on themes like leadership, faith, communication, and mental health and wellness. There was even a 6 a.m. yoga wake-up session held by yogi extraordinaire Yvonne Runstedler, who also serves as Chairperson of the Association’s Status of Women Committee. The conference was a valuable opportunity for women to come together in a safe and respectful space to talk about the issues and concerns that matter to them. Whether it was during a workshop, downtime, or a panel discussion, delegates shared their experiences, spoke of their fears, and cheered each other on. This collaboration served as an empowering springboard, with conference speakers, panellists, and delegates encouraging each other to forge the path forward as change-makers, leaders, and advocates.


HUMAN RIGHTS BELONG TO ALL OF US As Catholic teachers, we are called to strive for more peace, respect, and compassion in our society. Rather than seeing difference and separation, we seek to embrace all that unites us as people. It is incumbent upon each of us to support human rights and stand up against injustice whenever and wherever it arises.



If your local OECTA unit does not already have a human rights committee, inquire about setting one up! Encourage members to join the committee, and consider how your committee can spread awareness about local social justice issues to your members and support local causes. If you do have a committee, inquire about having the committee report out at local meetings and/or think about other ways you can encourage dialogue on issues within your unit.

Based on a survey of local OECTA units, here are some tips from the Association’s Human Rights Committee on actions that can be taken at the individual, school, or unit level to promote the rights and dignity of all peoples.



Find out what the pressing needs or issues are in your local community, and what opportunities exist for support.

Human rights belong to all of us, regardless of age, race, creed, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or mental or physical ability.

From volunteering time, to donating money or goods, to helping to spread the word about an important issue, every act of engagement helps!

Become aware of the barriers faced by various people and groups in your community – such as access to shelter, food security, or mental health and wellness – and how these barriers might be addressed.

Be the leader our faith calls us to be and take an action – even something as small as tweeting out your support for a cause can make an impact larger than what you see. Show others how change starts with each of us having the courage to take a step forward.

Engage others in giving back to your community – set up a school drive or activity involving other teachers and/or students. Leverage community partnerships to increase awareness or involvement on an issue or activity.

Then share and promote awareness among others. Social media can be a great platform to spread information and ideas.

OECTA’s Human Rights Committee meets three times

per year and usually hosts a speaker and a caucus at the Annual General Meeting. The mandate of the committee is to provide information and promote positions of the Association regarding human rights, discrimination, equal opportunity, and the value and contributions of all peoples.



UP FRONT TAKE AN AQ COURSE THIS SPRING Registration for OECTA’s spring AQ session is now open! Register by March 18 for courses that run from April 1 to June 14. Check out the full AQ course menu on the inside cover of this publication, or visit the AQ section under For Your Career at catholicteachers.ca.

FREE DRAMA AND DANCE RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS The Council of Ontario Drama and Dance Educators (CODE) offers free resources for JK to Grade 12 aligned to the Ontario curriculum. Some resources are available in French. Visit www.code.on.ca.

A discount of $200 is now available for anyone who takes an AQ specialist course (excluding Religious Ed).

RECOGNIZE YOUR SCHOOL The Catholic Education Foundation of Ontario (CEFO) recognizes the outstanding work of Ontario’s Catholic elementary and secondary schools through two awards:

DESIGN THE OECTA CHRISTMAS CARD Do you have an artistic side? The Association is looking for season-themed art to use on our 2019 Christmas card. The winning entry could grace the cover of Catholic Teacher next December and be the official card sent out by the Association to stakeholders.

Submit an original, two-dimensional piece of finished art (photograph, sketch, collage, or painting) to OECTA’s Communications department by April 1. Entries can be received in hard copy or digitally (at least 300dpi). Send your submission to OECTA, 65 St. Clair Avenue East, Suite 400, Toronto, M4T 2Y8, attention: Communications Department, or by email to communications@catholicteachers.ca. Please remember to include your unit and contact information. ACKNOWLEDGE A GREAT TEACHER Do you know an outstanding teacher? Why not nominate them for an OTIP/OTF Teaching Award? These awards recognize teachers who inspire students, colleagues, and parents in Ontario’s publicly funded education system. Anyone can nominate a teacher in one of three categories: elementary, secondary, or a beginning teacher in their first five years of teaching. Winners receive $1,000 and a Certificate of Recognition for both themself and their school. Nominations close March 31. Visit teachingawards.ca for more information. GIVE IT UP FOR THE EARTH! 2019 Join Citizens for Public Justice this Lenten season by making changes that will reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. As Christians, God calls us to love and care for the Earth. Use Lent as your opportunity to signal your commitment to our shared home. Visit cpj.ca/fortheearth for more information.


The Michael Monk Award honours a Catholic elementary or secondary school that has led the way by implementing exemplary innovative program(s) to improve the learning of their students. The award is $4,000 and is jointly funded by CEFO and OECTA. The Michael Carty Award provides grants of up to $2,000 to Catholic elementary or secondary schools, to support initiatives that improve, develop, and enhance aspects of Catholic education that contribute to the whole person. Applications for each award are due April 2. Additional information, including application forms, can be found at cefontario.ca. AGM 2019 – RESOLUTIONS & NOMINATIONS BOOKLET NOW AVAILABLE

OECTA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) will take place March 9 to 11 at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa. OECTA members from across the province will assemble for three days to discuss, debate, and vote on changes to the by-laws, policies, and procedures that govern the Association. The AGM will also elect the Provincial Executive for 2019-20 and mark the Association’s 75th anniversary. The Resolutions and Nominations booklet is available in the Members’ Area at catholicteachers.ca. This booklet includes all proposed policy, procedural, and by-law changes to be debated at this year’s AGM, as well as the profiles of declared candidates running for positions on the Provincial Executive. Contact your local unit office to find out how you can provide input regarding the AGM resolutions. News and updates can be found throughout the AGM at catholicteachers.ca, on Twitter @OECTAProv, or on the OECTA Facebook page.

JOIN A PROVINCIAL COMMITTEE OECTA standing committees provide opportunities for teachers to contribute their expertise and creativity, and to develop new interests, while serving the needs of Association members. Applications for the 2019-20 committees will be accepted at catholicteachers.ca from March 12 to May 1. Committee appointments are made by the Provincial Executive and take effect July 1. For a full list of committees, their mandates, and members, visit the Leadership Opportunities section, under For Your Career, at catholicteachers.ca.

RECOGNIZING MEMBER ENGAGEMENT Did your unit engage members in a pre-election campaign last spring, or make a concerted effort to communicate about an important local issue?

OECTA’s Member Engagement Awards program honours achievement among OECTA units for their unique and innovative approach in engaging members, and helping to spread the good news about our amazing teachers and our Catholic education system. The program is an opportunity for units to share their best and most effective member engagement practices. Visit catholicteachers.ca in the For Your Benefit section for more information and to apply.

AGM This is a milestone year for the Association as we celebrate our 75th anniversary. The Annual General Meeting (AGM), which takes place March 9 to 11, 2019 at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa, will be our culminating celebration of the year.

Can’t attend in person? No problem. Select portions of the event will again be livestreamed in the Members’ Area at catholicteachers.ca Follow the action on social media #OECTAAGM2019 @OECTAProv


Review the Resolutions and Nominations booklet, the Agenda, and meeting materials in the Members’ Area in the Member Resources section.

CLASSIFIED ADS Ontario high school in China requires qualified administrators/teachers for September 2019. Competitive compensation ($ CDN), return airfare, private accommodation, local travel and more. Forward resume to: John Holtom, jobs@glctschool.com or Tel.: 416-763-4121. Acceptance of advertisements in @OECTA neither endorses nor warranties any products or services. We welcome ads for teacher resources, travel, and teaching overseas. Personal ads are not accepted. Rate: $50 for the first 25 words and $3 per word thereafter.


Rally for Education

On January 13, 1996, the OECTAorganized rally attracted some 37,000 demonstrators to Queen’s Park in a historic, peaceful display of opposition to government policies and its vision for Ontario.


The signing of the letters patent took place in a drugstore on June 20, 1944. On September 8, 1944, OECTA was officially incorporated. In those early days, the Association was mainly concerned with the welfare of members, including salaries, job security, and pensions.

1990s The financially difficult years


1991 Teachers Now Partners in Pension Plan

O E CtoTpush A for a The Association decided T H R O U G H TH minimum salary of $1,500 per year forE lay teachers, and $800 to $1,000 for YEA RS religious. By comparison, the average wage of a male manufacturing worker that year was $2,176. Balancing the diverse interests of lay and religious, male and female teachers required the skill of OECTA’s first leaders. 1970s

The Ontario Teachers’ Federation reached an agreement with the Ministry of Education on equal partnership in the Teachers’ Pension Plan. Teachers, through OTF, now share the management and financial responsibility of the pension plan.

Social Contract

At the end of the 1992-93 school year, Premier Bob Rae introduced the Social Contract to reduce government debt. OECTA entered into discussions to protect negotiated settlements of local units and the Teachers’ Pension Plan.

July 1975

After a period of unprecedented turmoil marked by mass resignations, Bill 100, the School Boards and Teachers Collective Negotiations Act, became law, providing legislation for the negotiations process and giving teachers the right to strike.

1980s Marching for Social Justice

The focus of much Association activity was on economic restraints, declining enrolment, surplus of teachers, back-tobasics trends, aging teacher population, and teacher stress and burnout.


On June 12, Bill 30 was passed to extend full funding to Grade 13 in separate schools across the province.


50th Anniversary

The Association now boasts 60 units and 88 branch affiliates comprised of some 32,000 statutory members.

1995 Tory Majority

On June 8, Ontarians elected a Conservative majority government led by Mike Harris. The provincial government promised to preserve funding for education in the classroom, while reducing costs by eliminating the so-called “fat” in the system. Teachers feared for the future of the education system and for their jobs.

Days of Protest

The Days of Protest were organized by the Ontario Federation of Labour in the wake of legislation that sought to control every aspect of teacher working conditions and to centralize power over education spending. Protests began in London before moving on to Hamilton, where 100,000 turned out for the largest demonstration in Canadian history. Protests continued in Kitchener and ended in Peterborough.

Bill 160

At the end of the summer of 1997, the Ministry of Education revealed its legislative plans through Bill 160, the Education Quality Improvement Act, which sought to control every aspect of teacher working conditions and to centralize power over education spending at Queen’s Park. A province-wide political protest shutting down all schools would start on Monday, October 27, if last-ditch talks with the minister failed. Talks went nowhere. Picket lines were in place early Monday morning, and with few exceptions, 126,000 teachers in Ontario’s publicly funded schools joined the political protest, which remains one of the largest work stoppages in North American history.


Bargaining Under Bill 160

During the fall of 1998, OECTA faced major bargaining challenges as a result of Bill 160 and the government’s inadequate funding formula for education. Catholic school boards took an aggressive approach to bargaining, unilaterally changing terms and conditions of employment. OECTA refused to work under such changes. Several units went out on strike, while others were locked out for refusing to bend to the will of the employers.

Early 2000s

Premier Mike Harris reaffirmed his election promise to impose a written test of competence on all teachers, starting in June 2000. OECTA vigorously lobbied the Ontario College of Teachers and the Ministry of Education on behalf of an OECTAdeveloped framework for professional learning, which included voluntary professional development and ongoing classroom evaluation of teachers by their boards.

Cuts to Education Funding

In November 2000, a leaked cabinet document revealed how the government planned to cut a further $800 million from the education system.

New Government Formed On October 2, 2003, voters gave an overwhelming majority to the Ontario Liberals. The Speech from the Throne set the tone for the new government.

Carley Desjardins is Communications Specialist/ Writer in the Administration department at the OECTA Provincial Office.

Gay-straight Alliances

PD for Teachers by Teachers

The provision of professional development for teachers, by teachers continued to take on greater importance. New funding from the provincial government allowed the Association to expand our offerings for summer 2006 in the areas of literacy, numeracy, and differentiated instruction, in order to support members’ efforts to help students achieve success.

Unprecedented Four-year Agreements

Extending to August 2008, and negotiated with the assistance of the provincial government’s framework, new agreements provided teachers with significant salary increases, with 200 minutes of preparation and planning time for all elementary school teachers and a 20 per cent reduction in primary grade class sizes. These long-term agreements brought peace and stability to the education sector.

OECTA supported any variety of measures, including student clubs (regardless of name), that have the intended goal of building respect and understanding and making our schools safer for everyone. OECTA supported the implementation of Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, 2012.

Fair-hiring Practices

As part of the 2012 Memorandum of Understanding, OECTA negotiated a fair-hiring policy to the benefit of all teachers in Ontario. New practices ended nepotistic hiring by requiring boards to hire permanent and longterm positions based on qualifications and seniority. Hiring processes are now fully transparent and fair to all those who apply for teaching positions.

Bill 122, School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2014

All collective agreements now contain both a central and local agreement component. OECTA welcomed the certainty that Bill 122 brought to the bargaining process, which had been lacking in previous rounds.

Speak for Children

The Association developed our political action campaign in an effort to elect an education-friendly government in 2011. Under this banner, OECTA brought attention to the issues affecting children in the classroom, such as poverty and the importance of full-day Kindergarten. The campaign challenged each of us to consider how our actions and words affect children, every day.

First Province-wide Strike Vote On April 23 and 24, 2015, OECTA conducted our first ever provincewide strike vote in response to the government’s continued pursuit of an “austerity agenda.”


PHOTO: @Ronnie Chua / Shutterstock.com


Collective bargaining is around the corner – teachers need to stay informed and get prepared By Adam Lemieux


n the last issue of the magazine, we detailed how the Government of Ontario under Premier Doug Ford has been laying the groundwork for possible reforms to Ontario’s public services. We expect this will include taking a hard line with public sector workers, such as teachers, when it comes to negotiating salaries and working conditions. With teachers’ collective agreements set to expire on August 31, and evidence mounting about the government’s approach, teachers should begin preparing in earnest for what will likely be a difficult round of negotiations. The so-called “fiscal hole”

In November, Minister of Finance Victor Fedeli released the 2018 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review, which projected a $14.5 billion deficit for 2018-19. In his foreword to the fiscal update, Minister Fedeli once again made plain how the government intends to proceed. “Above all,” he said, “our government believes that balancing the budget and reducing Ontario’s debt burden is not only a fiscal imperative, it is a moral imperative.” He also talked about plans to “re-invent the way government operates and delivers services to the people,” and he repeated his earlier warning that all Ontarians “will be required to make sacrifices, without exception.” Around the same time, in keeping with the government’s plan to cut four per cent of the budget, the Ministry of Education invited OECTA and other stakeholders to help find “efficiencies” that can be implemented in the education funding formula for next year. The Association argued that 12 CATHOLIC TEACHER | FEBRUARY 2019

the real question the government should be asking is whether teachers and schools have the resources they need to meet students’ diverse needs, but the government clearly did not heed this advice when they turned around and quietly cut $25 million in funding for specialized programs just before the Christmas holidays. This is only the beginning. A four per cent cut to the education budget is about $1 billion, and it is simply not possible to take this amount of money out of the system without significantly affecting teachers’ jobs and working conditions. So it was no surprise that just as this magazine was going to print, the government announced they are considering changes to class sizes and the Kindergarten staffing model. The government is currently drafting the 2019 Ontario budget, which will provide the clearest evidence yet of their austerity approach. In our submission to the budget consultations, the Association pointed out that claims of a fiscal crisis are not entirely accurate. The government says public spending is out of control, but the data show that expenditures relative to the size of the economy are at roughly the same level as in 2008, just before the onset of the recession. Meanwhile, the percentage of government revenue that goes toward debt payments is at half the level it was in 1999. As we have pointed out many times before, the real problem with Ontario’s public finances is that repeated cuts to personal and corporate taxes have dramatically reduced


revenues and limited the government’s ability to fund vital public infrastructure and programs. We have argued that the government should take a balanced approach to deficit reduction, looking at both spending and revenues, while continuing to make the necessary investments in public services, including fair compensation and working conditions for public sector workers. Nevertheless, nothing we have seen over the past few months has done anything to change our belief that the government is looking to build a public case for wide-reaching public sector reform. Undermining workers’ rights

The government’s views on the province’s fiscal situation are certainly cause for concern. Another thing we all need to be aware of is the government’s attitude toward workers’ rights and the collective bargaining process. The government’s very first act upon taking office was to recall the legislature over the summer to pass legislation to end a strike by contract professors, teaching assistants, and graduate assistants at York University. Later in the year, they recalled the legislature from the winter break to pass legislation preventing the Ontario Power Workers’ Union from striking. The government has also quickly passed various pieces of legislation that have, among other things: cancelled a planned increase to the minimum wage; removed many of the ground-breaking employment standards and labour relations improvements that were introduced last year by the previous government; scrapped regulations mandating that only union workers be hired for public sector construction contracts, including at municipalities and school boards; and altered the process and considerations involved when salary negotiations between firefighters and municipalities are turned over to arbitration. Although the Supreme Court of Canada recently affirmed workers’ rights to unionize, to bargain collectively, and to strike, all indications are that this government has little patience for worker’s rights or the collective bargaining process, especially when it comes to the public sector. Moreover, as you will read elsewhere in this issue of the magazine, the government has so far demonstrated total disregard for teacher professionalism. As always, OECTA will approach the collective bargaining process with the goal of reaching a fair agreement. However, we must be cognizant that the government may not be open to our needs or concerns. Never too early to plan

proposal, and the Council of Presidents will have held a special meeting to discuss bargaining objectives and timelines. It is likely that negotiations for the next agreement will begin in the spring or early summer, but at this point it is not possible to say how often the sides will meet, or what the content or tenor of the conversations will be. However, given all we know about the government’s views on public finances, labour relations, and the collective bargaining process, teachers should already be thinking about how to stay informed, and making plans in case of sanctions by the employer or job action by OECTA. Below are some suggestions for how to play your part in the collective bargaining process, including how to prepare for a possible strike or lockout. • Make sure the Association has your personal email address. - OECTA will not send information about collective bargaining or other sensitive issues to your school board email address. - You will also need a personal email address to participate in provincial strike or ratification votes. - If you have not done so already, you can register your personal email address at catholicteachers.ca. • Keep your eye out for bargaining updates from the OECTA Provincial Office. You may need to monitor your spam or promotions folders, in case emails from the Association end up there. • As we enter the spring and summer, look for notices about information meetings or possible strike votes in your local area. • Begin setting aside savings. You will receive pay from the Association in the event of a strike, but it will not be equal to your regular income. • Speak to your financial institution about the possibility of skipping mortgage payments, auto loan payments, or other scheduled payments in the event of a strike or lockout. • Get involved! Contact your local OECTA unit to find out how you can participate in your Association and help engage your fellow members.

Teachers’ collective agreements expire on August 31, 2019. As most of you will know, there are two parts to a collective agreement: Part A, the central terms, which deal with province-wide issues such as salaries and benefits; and Part B, the local terms, which deal with provisions around working conditions in your school board.

No matter what happens in the bargaining process, teachers will need to demonstrate unwavering strength and solidarity to stand up for themselves and publicly funded education.

With regard to the central terms, all OECTA members had the opportunity to participate in a collective bargaining survey last year. By the time you read this article, the Provincial Bargaining Team will have prepared the Association’s initial

Adam Lemieux is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.



THE COST OF CUTTING COSTS Eliminating independent watchdogs hurts accountability and advocacy By Mark Tagliaferri


oughly two thousand years ago, the Roman poet Juvenal posed a question: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (“Who will guard the guards themselves?”) Although it originally pertained to issues of marital fidelity, in the time since, theorists ranging from St. Augustine, to Socrates, to John Stuart Mill have coopted and adapted the phrase to explore a key issue of political philosophy: in a democracy, between elections, how do you hold persons in power to account? One way Western democracies have attempted to deal with this question is through “officers of the legislature.” These individuals, sometimes called parliamentary officers or “watchdogs,” are appointed by the legislature to review government activities. In Ontario, they are selected by an all-party committee and report directly to the legislature through the Speaker, rather than to the Premier or caucus. By and large, watchdogs enjoy free reign to investigate and criticize the government as they please, and they cannot be removed during their appointed term except in cases of illegality. In this respect, their key feature is their independence. They are neither beholden to, nor threatened by the government of the day. And as Auditor


General Bonnie Lysyk proved with the former Liberal government, a watchdog can certainly become a persistent thorn in any government’s side. That said, it would be a mistake to view these legislative officers simply as professional agitators. Arguably, their more important role is to act as advocates for those without access to the corridors of power. If Joe Natale, CEO of Rogers Communications, calls the Premier’s office, there is a good chance someone will answer. However, the same is not true of a foster child who is being abused by their guardian, or an Indigenous youth in crisis. Young people in those situations would likely seek assistance through the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth – that is, if the position still existed. In October, as part of Bill 57, the Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, the PC government cut the number of officers of the legislature by a third, from nine to six. Specifically, the duties of the Environmental Commissioner have been rolled into the Auditor General’s office, while the Child Advocate and the French Language Services Commissioner have become part of the Ontario Ombudsman’s mandate. The government explained that the moves were part of cost-cutting efforts, but they left unexplained why these three watchdogs

were targeted, or how much money the government thought would be saved by folding their activities into other offices. In the aftermath of the announcement, observers pointed out that the three chosen officers had each been particularly critical of Premier Ford’s government. Just days before the Fall Economic Update, Environmental Commissioner Diane Saxe issued a scathing report that implicated both the former and current governments in allowing raw sewage to be dumped into rivers and lakes. Likewise, Irwin Elman, the Child Advocate, highlighted continued inadequacies in youth mental health and child protection services, while French Language Services Commissioner François Boileau vociferously protested reports that Premier Ford would scrap plans to build a French-language university (the rumour proved true, though significant outcry from the Franco-Ontarian community led the government to walk back some of its planned changes). Adding to the cynicism is a clause in Bill 57 that would allow the government to suspend legislative officers based on “the opinion the suspension is warranted.” In essence, this would enable the government to remove all independent oversight on a whim, if it so chose. The Minister of Finance claimed these cuts were


The claim, on its face, is difficult to accept. The Ombudsman’s office is designed to deal with citizen complaints, it is not set up for proactive advocacy; the Auditor General’s office specializes in value-for-money program audits, it is not equipped to monitor environmental progress. It is difficult to see how increasing both offices’ workload will improve oversight, or save money – in fact, the Ombudsman’s office has already requested a budget increase, which would eat into any potential savings. But to focus only on motivation, as most editorials did, misses the broader social consequences of the government’s decision. We live in a world of pollution, both environmentally and in our media landscape. It can be difficult, sometimes impossible, for issues related to vulnerable people or groups to be

brought to light. This was the watchdogs’ role. Climate change is perhaps our century’s greatest policy challenge, and children and youth are arguably the most vulnerable members of society – independent watchdogs were critical in giving a voice to the voiceless, and holding elected officials to account in a non-partisan way. Responding to criticism that Ontario is now one of only thee Canadian jurisdictions without a child advocate, Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services shot back, “I can assure everyone… that the fiercest child advocate in the province will be me!” One hopes this is true; nevertheless, it misses the point of independent oversight. What happens if people and issues slip through the cracks? Who will call out the government? Who will guard the guards themselves?

the perceived inadequacy and inefficiency of the police. However, the group, led by Homer, soon begins to overstep its authority and run roughshod over customs and laws, targeting the very people they promised to protect. As Homer contemplates his abuse of power, his daughter Lisa asks a pointed but familiar question: “If you’re the police, who will police the police?” Homer suggests the Coast Guard. Hopefully Ontarians will give the question more thought.

Mark Tagliaferri is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.

Two millenia after Juvenal penned his now-famous rhetorical question, philosophers of a different type took up the issue. In a 1994 episode of The Simpsons, entitled “Homer the Vigilante,” a collection of Springfield residents form a neighbourhood watch group. At first, the town welcomes them, having become tired with

ILLUSTRATION: @Rafal Olechowski / Shutterstock.com

necessary to find financial efficiencies, and that consolidating supervisory duties would actually improve oversight.



THE POLITICS OF PROFESSIONALISM The PC government has stepped up attacks on teacher professionalism, but to what end? By Mark Tagliaferri


ach morning, across Africa, managers at Bridge International Academies (BIA) start their day by distributing Electronic Teacher Guides. The guides come pre-loaded with scripts, and provide step-by-step instructions explaining what teachers should do and say at any given moment. As part of its sales pitch to prospective clients, BIA highlights how the electronic guides remove the “burden” of lesson planning. They also outline major problems in African public education. For example, “governments have no means of monitoring and tracking [teacher] performance,” and “teacher absenteeism is also extremely high.” Public teachers have different competency levels, and “sadly, many teachers struggle.” Taken together, these arguments justify BIA’s deprofessionalization of teaching, and underscore a key selling point: “Our models hold us accountable to families.” Sound familiar? Since their election last June, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government led by Premier Doug Ford has increasingly trained their sights on teacher professionalism, and used this to frame their arguments for education reform. Some of the government’s statements might as well have been taken directly from the BIA website. “Teacher absenteeism is something that we’re monitoring because it does need to be addressed,” Minister of Education Lisa Thompson has said. “Make no mistake, if we find [a teacher] failing to do their job, we will act,” said Premier Ford. “We promised to deliver an education system that put the rights of parents first!” The emphasis on teacher professionalism is a tactical choice that reveals the government’s motivation and the dangers posed to publicly funded education. Although the concept 16 CATHOLIC TEACHER | FEBRUARY 2019

can be difficult to define, debate on teacher professionalism often coheres around three broader themes: autonomy; policy development; and regulation and discipline. The government has been active on all fronts. The salvos against teacher autonomy came swiftly. In the aftermath of repealing the 2015 health and physical education curriculum, and in the face of vocal opposition from teacher affiliates and other stakeholders, Minister Thompson announced the launch of a dedicated platform that encouraged parents to report any concerns they have about their child’s teacher. The accompanying news release was blunt, if grammatically incorrect: “For any parent who believes that their child’s teacher is jeopardizing their child’s education by deliberately ignoring Ontario’s curriculum should call the Ontario College of Teachers’ [OCT] Investigations and Hearing’s Department.” The implication was clear: if a teacher dared to teach certain aspects of the 2015 curriculum – those dealing with LGBTQ issues, gender identity, and the like – they would be reprimanded. And although the government later walked back this position when challenged in court, the “resource for parents” directing them to the OCT remains online. As professionals, teachers have the right to exercise their professional judgement and to make decisions based on their understanding of the curriculum and the needs of their students. By imposing heavy-handed accountability measures, coupled with the threat of punishment, the government was publicly challenging teachers’ autonomy in an attempt to control their work. Just as the government sought to constrain teachers’ classroom activities, it also worked to diminish the voice of education

FEATURE many, the OCT had commissioned a company called Governance Solutions Inc. (GSI) to conduct a governance review. The report recommended the OCT: eliminate teachers’ majority on the Governing Council; reduce the authority of the Governing Council and place it in the hands of the Registrar; and do away with democratic elections in favour of striking a new committee to hand-select councillors, which would be controlled by persons outside of the teaching profession. The recommendations are extremely worrying. Since its founding, the principle of self-regulation has ensured the College’s regulatory functions are guided by those with the specialized knowledge necessary to do the job. However, if Bill 48 passes and the government chooses to implement GSI’s recommendations, teaching would cease to be a self-regulated profession. As a consequence, teachers would no longer be able to direct their own professional learning; they also would be responsible for funding a body over which they have no control, and whose design is to regulate their activities and make disciplinary determinations.

experts and stakeholders. The province-wide education consultation, which ran from September to December, was framed as allowing parents to “finally have… their voices heard on the kind of curriculum their children are taught in school.” Parental opinion is valuable, but several observers wondered if the government also hoped to relegate the perspectives of professional educators and subject matter experts, who had voiced their collective displeasure at actions such as cancelling the planned Indigenous education curriculum resource writing sessions. Further, by using the consultation process to develop a Parents’ Bill of Rights, the government threatened to drive a wedge between parents and teachers, ignoring the many ways teachers and parents work closely together every day. Finally, on regulation and discipline, the government has laid the foundation to eliminate teaching as a self-regulated profession. In October, the government introduced Bill 48, the Safe and Supportive Classrooms Act. Media attention focused on introducing a math proficiency test for teacher-candidates, and new language about the revocation of teachers’ licenses following findings of professional misconduct for acts of a sexual nature. Less discussed, but no less important, were proposed changes to the OCT. If passed, Bill 48 would give the government authority to alter the composition of the OCT Council and committees, and to appoint the Chair of the Council and define their duties. More importantly, Bill 48 would empower the government to make these changes via regulation rather than legislation, giving them carte blanche to enforce changes without transparency. At the time, the Association questioned why the government needed more latitude to change the OCT, if there were no changes to make. An answer soon emerged. Unbeknownst to

Stepping back and looking at these attacks on teacher professionalism, it is difficult to say whether Premier Ford has an endgame in mind: does the government have a particular vision for how they want Ontario’s public education system to look, or are they simply lurching from one squabble to the next, settling scores as they arise? It is tempting to see these moves as sporadic – random entries in a growing catalogue of chaos. But the consistent emphasis on teacher professionalism as a point of attack reveals a sense of co-ordination and motivation. Many in the current government view teachers as public servants rather than professionals. Playing on this tension, the government is attempting to instill a top-down approach, undercutting teachers and centralizing control over the education system. Viewed this way, attacking teacher professionalism is not really about any one issue, such as the number of OCT councillors; instead, it is about determining who gets to make decisions regarding the delivery of public education. When the government promises to increase accountability, they are actually attempting to restrict teachers’ autonomy. By strictly prescribing what and how teachers teach, in reality the government is trying to control what and how students learn. All of this is done not to achieve some wellconceived vision of education, but rather to de-professionalize teaching, reducing teachers to technicians rather than educators. As the primary providers of public education, there is no group more essential to the functioning of education than teachers. With post-secondary training, specialized knowledge, practical expertise, and ongoing professional development, teachers are deserving of their full status as professionals. It is essential that teachers’ defend their professionalism and their right to exert power within the publicly funded education system. While attacks from this government are likely to continue, we can be confident that teachers will know how to respond... even without Electronic Teacher Guides. Mark Tagliaferri is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.



Child care services will be available to delegates during AGM and the annual dinner. Care for children aged six months to 12-years-old will be provided by Improv Care (improvcare.ca) at no cost to delegates. For inquiries contact: events@catholicteachers.ca

CHILD CARE HOURS Saturday, March 9 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 10 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Banquet 6:00 to 10:00 p.m.

Monday, March 11 8:00 a.m. to adjournment




If you are reading this magazine, you probably know and appreciate the benefits of unions. You know that unions have fought for safer working conditions, better wages, and better benefits. You also know that when those battles are won, everyone is better off. Like a rising tide raises all ships, non-unionized workers share in the benefits of gains made by unions. In recognition of our shared victories, I would like to discuss another union. Before I had the privilege of serving teachers, I worked on behalf of Ontario’s nurses, as legal counsel with the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA). Many of the enhanced worker protections that we see today, especially protections for women at work, can be traced in a straight line back to the work of ONA legal counsel. In this article, we will discuss a couple of examples of major progress, as well as a recent example illustrating the work still left to be done. Bill 168

Bill 168, which made amendments to Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, came into effect in June 2010. It was the first law in Canada to include domestic violence as a workplace safety issue. The story of the legislation began with a nurse named Lori Dupont. Lori was murdered by her former partner, Dr. Marc Daniel, in front of their co-workers at the Windsor hospital where they all worked. The employer had ignored Lori’s complaints about Dr. Daniel’s ongoing harassment at work, and after her death, their internal investigative report described the murder as an unpredictable event. A 10-week coroner’s inquest followed, with participation by ONA lawyers and others from Cavalluzo LLP, the same employment- and labour relations-law experts used by OECTA.

assess risks and develop policies to protect workers, and established penalties for employers’ failure to comply with the law.

reported their overall denial rate for physical injuries in that year was 22 per cent.

Chronic mental stress claims

WSIAT Decision 2157/09 was the definitive analysis of mental stress injuries versus physical injuries. The decision was not taken lightly – it was supported by expert and scientific evidence, along with case law. There is no longer a legal justification for unreasonable limitations on access to benefits based on the type of workplace injury.

Almost a decade later, ONA lawyer Sandy Thomas won another victory for all workers before the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT). His Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge on behalf of ONA resulted in WSIAT Decision 2157/09, striking down Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) provisions that restricted benefits for workers with psychological injuries. That led to a new WSIB compensable benefit, introduced on January 1, 2018, for chronic mental stress. This should have been another union victory. However, in December, Sara Mojtehedzadeh, the work and wealth reporter for the Toronto Star, revealed that the WSIB was not following their own investigation standards when dealing with this new benefit category. The reporter obtained an internal WSIB audit proving that the WSIB denied 94 per cent of claims by workers for chronic mental stress. The news stunned the labour community. On its face, the number just feels too high. When put in context, it is even worse. These changes were meant to bring the investigation, adjudication, and compensation of mental health injuries closer to the standards for physical workplace injuries. However, in their 2017 annual report, the WSIB

Bill 168 was one of the products of that inquest. The legislation enshrined definitions of workplace violence and harassment, mandated employers to

With a 94 per cent denial rate, I find it hard to comprehend how each chronic mental stress claim was investigated and adjudicated on its own unique merits. Indeed, a closer look at the audit – which can be found at iavgo.org, the website for the Industrial Accident Victims Group (IAVGO) – shows the WSIB is doing insufficient investigation of mental stress claims, if an investigation is undertaken at all. This is surprising given the complex nature of chronic mental stress claims that must involve repeated exposure to workplace stressors over time. Perhaps the most distressing aspect of this revelation is the impact on workers who have yet to make claims. Will this have a chilling effect on workers who are already vulnerable and trying to navigate a new system? Are we missing out on opportunities for systemic improvements in workplaces that could result in improved wellness and safety for all workers? Maryth Yachnin, legal counsel at IAVGO, notes in the Star article that WSIB adjudicators also have an obligation to identify and investigate events alleged to have caused the chronic mental stress. Said Yachnin, “The system is designed to point out the canary in the coal mine and show where there are health and safety risks factors. But you can’t do that if at the front door you’re basically auto-denying them. I don’t know what else to call this.” Charlene Theodore is In-house Legal Counsel at the OECTA Provincial Office.

PHOTO: @Supawadee56 / Shutterstock.com




DARING GREATLY LESSONS FROM Fempower By Michelle Despault

As I reflect on the experience, I find that the conference really crystalized a few particular ideas for me. We need connection

In our globalized, digitized, online, cloud-based world, our need for human connection is greater than ever. Just like air, water, and food, it is essential to our existence. The conference provided a space for women to come together, connect with one another, and share our various experiences and perspectives with interest and without judgement. Opportunities for meaningful connection can be rare. We often mistake communication as connection, but they are not the same. The idle chit chat we have with colleagues in the staff room, or updates from friends via text messages, cannot fulfil our deep-seated need as human beings to be truly seen and heard. Vulnerability is bravery An old adage says, “You can’t put icing on a mudpie and call it a cake.” Likewise, we cannot gloss over the real sources and impact of the deeply rooted societal issues we grapple with, like discrimination (in all its forms). It takes people being brave, getting vulnerable, and sharing their stories and understandings to help us see what may not be obvious. It also takes all of us being brave and vulnerable enough to search within, and consider how we might be perpetuating a problem, or to think about how we could do more to help. The conference offered a number of opportunities for participants to hear perspectives and realities that may be very different from their own, and to reflect on how to be a better friend or ally. There is more that unites us than divides us The room was full of women, but there was no uniformity in terms of opinion, expectations, or lived experiences. Every participant brought something unique to the conference. At the same time, despite our differences, there was tremendous


unity of purpose. When we are able to set aside our judgment, relinquish our need for perfection, and transcend our scarcity mindset (that it is either you or me, but not both), then we can begin to embrace the fact that there really is more that unites us than divides us. It is from this space that we can begin to move the bar forward. Leadership takes courage

It takes courage to stand up and do what you believe is the right thing, especially in the face of negativity, disagreement, and doubt. Leadership is not about doing what is popular, appeasing as many people as possible, or watering down what you believe is right in order to be accepted or liked. It is not a title or a job. It is about inspiring and empowering others to action. It is about sharing authentically with people, from a place of genuine contribution to others, and without fear of whatever judgment or criticism lies in wait. It is about taking a stand and having faith even if you are uncertain of the outcome. This is the leadership I witnessed throughout the conference – from the Provincial Executive members who approved the conference, through to those who presented, to the participants who showed up and embraced the experience. As I conclude this thought, I am reminded of a quote by Theodore Roosevelt, which was the inspiration for the title of Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

I am extremely proud of the professional, respectful, engaging, and inspiring conference we delivered, and of the Association for having dared greatly.

Michelle Despault is Director of Communications at the OECTA Provincial Office.

ILLUSTRATION: @MJgraphics / Shutterstock.com

Last year, I had the privilege of being part of the team of staff who helped organize and deliver Fempower, the Association’s inaugural women in leadership conference. I have worked in various capacities in education over the past 17 years and contributed to many major, transformative initiatives, but being part of this conference stands out as one of the highlights of my career. It was one of the rare instances in my professional life when I was left feeling that I had both provided and received contribution in equal measure.




Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime Therefore, we are saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense In any immediate context of history Therefore, we are saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone Therefore, we are saved by love. REINHOLD NIEBUHR

As we celebrate OECTA’s 75th anniversary, we have occasion to reflect on the tremendous courage, passion, and dedication that led to the formation of our Association, and to consider how we can continue to display these virtues going forward.

Ours is a story of hope – the kind of hope born of knowing that the will of God can do all things, even those things that seem impossible to us. Ours is a story of love – love of Christ, of our students, and of each other, on the long slow march toward justice and peace. As we begin 2019, and in light of OECTA’s 75th anniversary, I am reminded of an experience I had a few years ago in an emergency ward of a large hospital in downtown Toronto. The experience left an indelible mark on me. I was sitting in the waiting room as a family member was receiving care. As it was 2 a.m. and the hospital was at the epicentre of the downtown core, there were many issues presented at the emergency unit that may not be common in all hospitals in the province. As I waited and watched with much interest, the police services brought in a man who was covered in blood. He was clearly living on the street, and it looked like he had fallen on his face and suffered a serious facial wound due to the ice and concrete all around. As part of hospital procedure, the attendants attempted to remove this man’s suit jacket, and to park his grocery cart filled with his most precious things out of the way. Failing to remove the jacket, and moving the cart just a bit, the attendants began to examine this man’s face and hands, as both had been badly scraped. The attendants were able to unclench one of the man’s fists, but they could not open the fingers of the other hand. It was explained that this hand also needed to be open for safety reasons. This did not move the man at all. In order to open this hand, two police officers wrestled the man’s hand into an upright position, and then pried open the fingers to see

what they were hiding. What was gingerly, carefully removed from the man’s hand was one, dirty, sweaty penny. He was risking his life for this one penny – his treasure, his greatest prize. Onlookers mostly rolled their eyes, as it seemed so worthless for such a fight. It had no value in the eyes of the world, but it was precious in the eyes of that man. I learned a powerful lesson in terms of what we treasure. As I look back today, my question to myself and to the broader Catholic education community is, “What is it that we hold precious? What is it that we fight for? What is it that is great enough to die for, and therefore precious enough to live for?” We are part of a long history of those who have lived and died for their faith – figuratively and literally. And we are the inheritors of the hard-fought victories of all Catholic teachers who have come before us. What will be said of us 75 years hence, when they get to open our collectively tightened fingers, to reveal that which we, in this moment, hold most dear?

Happy Anniversary OECTA Shannon Hogan is a member of the Counselling and Member Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office.


PHOTO: @Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock.com

Ours is a story of faith – a faith that has survived centuries of opposition from without, as well as some seemingly insurmountable challenges from within.




Bill 133, the Police Record Checks Reform Act, became law on November 1, 2018, and it comes into effect for school boards in Ontario on November 1, 2019. It fundamentally changes the rules around what police can tell prospective employers, volunteer agencies, and foreign governments about Ontarians. Currently, all teachers are to submit an Annual Offence Declaration to their school board. The Act does not change the current Education Act regulations pertaining to Annual Offence Declarations for existing teachers. The legislation will primarily affect new teachers applying for certification to the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) and new teachers applying for employment with a school board. In addition to the criminal record check currently required, new applicants will also be required to undertake a vulnerable sector record check, which pertains to people working with children under the age of 18. How might this affect you?

Current teachers could be impacted by this change if they were to apply for employment with another school board in Ontario – there is a strong likelihood that the new employer could require a new criminal record check.

Given that all new teachers will be required to submit a vulnerable sector check, school boards will likely require it for any new employee. This could also affect occasional teachers who apply to work for more than one employer. In fact, occasional teachers who neglect to provide an Annual Offence Declaration could be dismissed from the Occasional Teacher List. If that were to happen, the school board would likely require a new criminal record check, most likely including the vulnerable sector check. Lastly, teachers who go on leaves of absence are reminded that it is their responsibility to make sure they submit their Annual Offence Declaration form to their employer while on the leave of absence. In most instances, school boards require this submission at the end of August or in September. What is contained in a vulnerable sector check?

The following outlines the scope of information provided through a vulnerable sector check: • court orders made against an individual • findings of guilt under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (Canada) • criminal offences resulting in a conviction, for which a pardon has not been issued or granted • criminal offences whereby an individual has been found guilty and received an absolute discharge

• criminal offences whereby an individual has been charged and found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder • criminal offences whereby an individual has been found guilty and received a conditional discharge on conditions set out in a probation order • criminal offences for which there is an outstanding charge or warrant in respect of the individual Also note that non-conviction information contained in the police database may be disclosed if the information relates to a child or a vulnerable person, and if there are reasonable grounds to believe the individual has engaged in a pattern of predation indicating that they present a risk of harm to a child or a vulnerable person. Teachers, as well as any other applicants for a criminal record check, must give their consent twice before a school board/employer may receive that information. First, consent must be given to the school board to request information from the police. Second, consent must be given to the police (after reviewing the information) to provide the information to the school board. As always, contact your local OECTA unit if you have questions or concerns.

Joe Pece is Department Head in the Counselling and Member Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office.







eaching an Indigenous Issues in a Global Context course has always been a joy for me, as I am able to engage my students in understanding the world through a different lens. Or perhaps I should say, it has been a joyous challenge. I often used to think to myself, “How can I encourage the students to see and understand world issues affecting Indigenous communities when they have little, if any understanding of our cultures, histories, and languages, or of their own relationships with us?” Then I read Keeper’n Me, by Richard Wagamese. I realized this could be a guide for my students. Partly autobiographical, the

story centers on Garnet Raven, his abduction during the time of the Sixties Scoop, and his reconnection with his family, his community, and ultimately himself. Narrated mostly by Garnet, who takes the reader on his adventure of discovery and learning, the story is also told by Keeper, a Helper who guides Garnet on his quest. I give this book to each student as their first book to read in our course. They learn some painful realities about, and with, Garnet, and by “listening” to Keeper’s stories and teachings. We discuss each section, and the students also share their thoughts through journal entries. Below are a few other books I have read and can confidently recommend to others. Check them out, and if they seem interesting to you, feel free to read and share. Anne Bishop, Becoming an Ally: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression in People (3rd Edition) Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants Thomas King, The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native people in North America Melissa Nelson (Editor), Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future Tanya Talaga, Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City Mireille LaPointe is Anishinaabe, her clan is Deer, and she is a Catholic teacher.

LOOKING FOR ADDITIONAL RESOURCES? Check out GoodMinds.com, a First Nations-owned family business based on the Six Nations of the Grand River (Brantford) in southwestern Ontario, offering online books for teaching educational resources related to Native American, First Nations, Indigenous, and Aboriginal studies.





Within the context of cinema and popular culture studies lies an opportunity to cultivate culturally responsive teaching and learning. Recognizing that popular film rises from the political, teachers can engage in the politics of the past and present, while creating a safe space where students can discover and share their social identities and sense of self. The idea of multiple social identities is at the core of the Ministry of Education’s Culturally Responsive Pedagogy Building Capacity Series. As is noted in the document, “Culture goes much deeper than typical understandings of ethnicity, race and/or faith. It encompasses broad notions of similarity and difference and it is reflected in our students’ multiple social identities and their ways of knowing and of being in the world.” In other words, being culturally responsive goes beyond a conventional understanding of culture. Through consumption and production, film can empower students’ sense of knowing and being in the world, providing them with the opportunity to engage in a shared learning discourse that speaks to their identities. Specifically, by exploring cinema through a faith, political, and cultural discourse, the inclusion of movies with intention can be transformative. Movies can provide a window into unique perspectives, speak to who students are, and allow them to express their distinct perspectives on the world. The realness of cinema in a classroom speaks directly to the realness of students’ personal narratives. As a member of OECTA’s Professional Development Network, I recently presented the “Real Cinema” workshop to Catholic teacher candidates at Brock University, with the goal of providing them an opportunity to embrace media literacy as cultural literacy. Their big question was how to put it into practice. Establishing this thinking with students begins with an understanding that popular film is heavily politicized and 24 CATHOLIC TEACHER | FEBRUARY 2019

traditionally responds to, or reaffirms, a shared sense of time and place. For example, the science-fiction and horror films of the 1950s spoke directly to fears of atomic warfare and technological evolution. Some contemporary superhero movies, like 2002’s “Spider-Man,” rose from a post-9/11 need for heroism. More recent examples, like “The Dark Knight,” grapple with questions about the legitimacy of violence and the consequences of colonialism and imperialism. We can also think about Canadian films funded with public monies, which have a requirement to speak to Canadian sensibilities, in contrast to Hollywood films, which generally create or respond to dominant thinking. To reaffirm these ideas with the teacher-candidates, we explored Jordan Peele’s 2017 Academy Award-winning film, “Get Out.” In the opening scene, a young African-American man is abducted by an unknown person in a white Porsche, while walking through a suburban neighbourhood. The candidates were challenged to look at the scene through a real lens, which resulted in rich conversation. The scene provided a framework to explore colonial history, issues of race in America, and Canada’s own history with “taking.” As with my own students in the classroom, a connection to the Sixties Scoop was made. Through this context, the film is so much more than entertainment but rather real horror: a film that rises from a real world context that speaks to past and present. Once the cultural thinking around issues like race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class have been established, students can readily begin to tell their own stories. Like Jordan Peele, who explored his sensibilities as an African-American man, students can create their own real cinema. When students understand the power of movies as a critical and creative art form, they can leverage the medium to share their own voices. Anthony Perrotta is a teacher with the Toronto Secondary Unit. He uses popular film as a powerful tool to further classroom dialogue on Catholic values and conscious media consumption. Visit his website www.aperrotta.com for more resources.

ILLUSTRATION: @thenatchdl / Shutterstock.com

Popular film is so much more than entertainment.




As a modern educator, choosing effective and appropriate technologies to use in the classroom can be overwhelming. To help, the Ministry of Education has licensed a comprehensive tool for every publicly funded school board in Ontario called the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE.) The VLE combines a blended and online learning platform with Ministry content. Features include a digital portfolio, an optional parent communication tool, and a content area where teachers can create their own lessons and adapt Ministry materials for students. The VLE has Ontario curriculum expectations baked into the system and provides the ability to track student learning. It was designed to be a central place for content and resources, with the ability to integrate with other tools such as Google Drive – in a safe and secure environment. How to I access the VLE

Visit www.d2l.com/k-12/ontario/ to find and reach out to your Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching (TELT) Contact to gain access to the VLE. For many school boards, your board ID is all you need, but check with your TELT Contact to learn more.

Portfolio tool designed to support pedagogical documentation

The Portfolio tool provides an online artifact space for Kindergarten through Grade 12. It was designed so that students can maintain their portfolio evidence from previous years as they progress through their education journey. Evidence can be aligned to curriculum expectations, helping to clearly communicate what is expected of students. The Portfolio tool works on computers and mobile devices, and the Portfolio app was designed for students of all ages to make it easy to share progress, reflections, and learning experiences. Teachers can easily review, approve, and provide feedback on portfolio items, and share them with parents in one click. For example, Lauren Prisniak teaches history at Christ the King Secondary School in Halton Catholic District School Board. During the 2017-18 school year, Lauren used the Portfolio tool with her students during a field trip to the Royal Ontario Museum and found it gave her students confidence. The assignment was simple: experiment documenting historical evidence through video, audio, and pictures. They

were also tasked with practicing writing about the historical evidence and saying why it was important. Students were given freedom to explore the museum and document their findings through the Portfolio tool. The conversations were authentic since students felt they were not being overheard. Brightspace parent communication tool (optional)

Brightspace for Parents is a parent communication tool available through the VLE. Parents can keep track of their child’s classwork and school news. The easy-to-use dashboard displays a summary of activity for all their children on one page, even if those students attend different schools within the district. An announcement feed shares updates, while carefully ensuring that student information is kept secure and private. An optional weekly email summary helps parents keep on top of classroom activities without becoming overwhelmed with notifications. Parents will always know what is happening in the classroom and at their child’s school, while helping teachers to manage communication workloads. Lauren Doney is a Client Marketing Manager with Desire2Learn.




WALKING TO PROTECT THE GREAT LAKES Inspired by an Anishinaabe woman’s epic story, students are becoming custodians for the environment as Junior Water Walkers By Peter Cameron

For Nokomis. This is the story of an incredible woman, five teachers, thousands of students, and how water connects us all. In the year 2000, a 60-year old Anishinaabe woman sat across from an ogima – a chief or traditional tribal leader – and listened carefully as he shared a prophecy. He told her that by the year 2030, water would be worth as much as gold. Then he asked her, “What are you going to do about it?” After almost three years of contemplation, she answered the ogima’s question. She walked. By the year 2008, and more than 25,000 kilometers later, this incredible woman had circumnavigated all five Great Lakes to bring awareness of the need to protect water. Fast forward to the spring of 2017. Five educators, myself included, met at Google headquarters in Seattle with an incredible opportunity to leverage the power of technology to make a difference. Our team proposed to use Google Earth to take students on a voyage down the Great Lakes. The story would help our students understand that while the Great Lakes are indeed great, they are also at risk. One year later, “Blue Gold” became the first ever teacher-author Voyageur story to be launched on Google Earth. In early May 2018, my son and I were walking along a small lake that empties directly into Lake Superior, when we passed an elderly Anishinaabe woman who carried a copper bucket and an eagle head staff. As she passed, Kai and I wondered who the lady was, why she was walking with a copper bucket, and what its contents might be. The moment passed and the opportunity to ask her was lost. A few weeks later, amazingly, we got our answer. Through sheer coincidence, or perhaps fate, we learned Nokomis Josephine Mandamin’s story when we found her on the cover of a children’s book titled The Water Walker, written 26 CATHOLIC TEACHER | FEBRUARY 2019

and illustrated by Joanne Robertson. This incredible woman had walked the same journey our Google Earth story aspired to take students on. Ironically, we shared the same community, at the head of Lake Superior in Thunder Bay, and I had known nothing about her. I was not going to let her pass me by again. I invited Nokomis to my classroom. Nokomis and my students launched into the Blue Gold Voyageur story. Together they journeyed down the Great Lakes, around our Sleeping Giant, through canals and locks, and over Niagara Falls. I am not sure who was more in awe, Nokomis or my students, but I can tell you for certain, when Josephine shared her personal experiences of walking around the five Great Lakes, my students were awestruck. And then they spoke. They knew Nokomis would no longer be able to carry on her walks due to her recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and her failing health. My wonderful students, my difference makers, told Nokomis that they had a plan to become Junior Water Walkers. They were going to learn about, adopt, protect, and walk for a body of water, and they were also going to invite other classes from around the world to do the same. To date, 143 classes from around the world have joined the Junior Water Walkers, all committed to walking in honour of Josephine Mandamin and to raise awareness about protecting nibi, or water. They will begin the journey on May 24. If you would like more information, or if you would like to join us, visit mrcssharesease.wordpress.com/junior-water-walkers/ Peter Cameron is a teacher with the Thunder Bay Elementary Unit. He is a proud OECTA member, Chair of the OECTA Teacher Development Committee, a National Geographic Certified Educator and Mentor, and a Google Earth Education Expert. He can be found on Twitter @cherandpete. For more, follow #JuniorWaterWalkers.


#WOMENOFOECTA Reflections from the Fempower conference By Diana Corazza

“I won’t let them break me down to dust I know that there’s a place for us For we are glorious” (Kesha, This Is Me) Yes, there is a place for each and every one of us, and on November 22 and 23, more than 200 women from across the province each took their place at OECTA’s inaugural women in leadership conference, Fempower.

There is still much work to be done to change the culture of our workplaces and particularly in the political realm of our Association. Although our profession is 80 per cent women, this is not reflected in our Association’s leadership. Women are reluctant to put their name forward for a variety of reasons, including child care and family responsibilities, as well as lack of encouragement to apply for positions usually dominated by men.

I had the privilege to be one of 13 women to represent York Unit. The energy of being surrounded by so many strong women leaders from our Association and the broader labour movement was palpable. The conference was especially timely given that our Association is celebrating its 75th anniversary; throughout the years, women have made great strides that have helped shape our local units and the provincial organization we have today.

This conference opened up discussion on the barriers to women pursuing leadership roles, and how to overcome them. What was clear was that we should be one another’s “femtors.” By encouraging one another, we can break the glass ceiling of leadership. Although it is encouraging to know that women represent 53 per cent of our unit presidents, we must continue to build upon this, both locally and provincially, with the support of our union brothers.

The Thursday evening began with an empowering video showcasing the activism and greatness of our Association’s women leaders – past, present, and future – set to the song, “This is Me.” In my view, this song is our anthem. Every single woman in that room was meant to be there, and each brought with them skills, talents, and stories to share.

Throughout the conference, it became evident that women in our labour movement have made inroads that make it possible for me, and the many other women present, to be here; it is incumbent upon us to take up the torch and continue to move forward. What most resonated with me was when Nicole van Woudenberg, executive member of the Simcoe Muskoka Elementary Unit and the Chair of Council

of the Ontario College of Teachers, summed up the purpose of leadership by saying, “You serve knowing that it will make it better for someone else.” When we work together and build each other up, we all rise and improve not only our situation but those of our other equityseeking groups. “Look out ‘cause here I come And I’m marching on to the beat I drum I’m not scared to be seen I make no apologies, this is me” (Kesha, This Is Me) I feel empowered after participating in this conference and I encourage all women to take their place in whatever leadership role they choose to pursue, be it in the classroom, on local committees, or in executive positions, locally and/or provincially in our Association. We must not make apologies or be scared to be seen; we all have a place, and our gifts and talents can effect change. In the words of Justin Trudeau in his video greeting to conference attendees, “When women lead, they change the game.” Diana Corazza is an ESL teacher at Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy in Markham, the acting SHSM liaison for non-profit, and the Recording Secretary on the York Unit executive.

The fireside chat that followed tackled the topic of sexual misconduct in the workplace, a harsh reality for women, and the spark that ignited the #MeToo movement. Each woman on the panel, including OECTA President, Liz Stuart, spoke about the challenges they have faced in their path toward leadership, and the barriers – both cultural and selfimposed – that women encounter. The resounding message was that as much as we have made progress in the promotion of women into leadership positions, we remain underrepresented. FEBRUARY 2019 | CATHOLIC TEACHER 27

MAKING SPACE FOR CHANGE Black History Month reminds us of the hard work still to be done to promote equity and inclusion By Adam Lemieux


s I write this article, Americans are enjoying a federal holiday to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Newspapers, television, and social media are awash with his quotes about civil rights and non-violent protest. But this year, more than ever, I am attuned to the irony of some of the people and organizations who would never have supported his ideas now looking to attach themselves to his words, and the way his real message is often glossed over. There is a tendency to forget that Dr. King was incredibly unpopular with the general public and the government during his lifetime. And although politicians and corporations now latch onto his words to signal racial sensitivity or sell automobiles, they usually ignore the fact that he was not talking about unity or colour-blindness – he was advocating for much more radical shifts in social and economic attitudes and policies, most of which have never been implemented. These misuses of Dr. King’s sentiments are illustrative of a pervasive problem with contemporary discussions of racism, as well as other forms of discrimination and inequality: the idea that these issues are largely behind us. Black history in Canada

Black History Month provides an opportunity to think more deeply about how this phenomenon plays out in our own communities. Although the treatment of Black people in Canada is not considered as central to our national story as in the United States, there is still a shameful history to be reckoned with. Thousands of Africans were brought to Canada as slaves in the 17th and 18th centuries. Slavery was abolished in Upper Canada in 1793, after which more than 30,000 slaves came to Canada from the United States via the Underground Railroad, but they faced a great deal of prejudice from European settlers who viewed them as ignorant and immoral, and treated them primarily as a source of cheap labour. Throughout the 19th and early-20th centuries, Black Canadians faced discrimination in housing, employment, and access to public services, and some were even forced into segregated schools. While social attitudes have evolved, prejudice and marginalization persist. Even for second-generation Black


Canadians, average incomes are 28 per cent lower than for White Canadians in the same age category. Thirty-three per cent of Black children in Toronto live in poverty, and Black children are more likely to be in foster care or enrolled in lower academic streams. We also see Black Canadians significantly overrepresented in the criminal justice system. As the authors of Ontario’s Anti-Black Racism Strategy put it in 2017, “The stigma and stereotypes Black Ontarians and communities face have impacted public policies, decisionmaking and services. As a result, in nearly every measure of opportunity, security and fairness in our society, antiBlack racism is felt.” Fortunately for all of us, these obstacles have not entirely prevented Black Canadians from making remarkable contributions to our society. We can think of Lincoln Alexander, who after quitting the Royal Canadian Air Force in protest of racial discrimination, went on to serve his fellow citizens as a lawyer, legislator, Chair of Ontario’s Workers’ Compensation Board, and Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. Or Viola Desmond Davis, who was arrested in 1946 for insisting that she be allowed to sit in the floor seats at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. She was not able to overturn the injustice and clear her name during her lifetime, but her courage inspired subsequent generations of activists and advocates, and she is now being honoured on a new $10 bill. There are many other achievements and


offerings we could mention, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of everyday examples of lives well lived. But there is clearly still a long way to go, both in understanding and appreciating the history of Black Canadians, and in redressing the biases and stereotypes that continue to result in unequal opportunities and outcomes. This is not just about using the right language, or treating everyone the same. We need to continue to give space for our neighbours and colleagues to share their experiences, and to think seriously about how we can reshape our institutions and policies to enable everyone to reach their full potential. Equity is more than a word

This year’s Black History Month comes at a pivotal time. While struggles for racial justice are once again rising to the forefront, we are also going through a societal reckoning about gender-based discrimination and violence, and being reminded that we still have a long way to go to achieve reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, or to fully appreciate and integrate the LGBTQ community or people who are differently abled. Without minimizing the unique challenges faced by any one person or group, and with recognition of the ways various identities can intersect, we all have a pressing obligation to think more generally about how we can continue to value diversity and fight for equity. In just the past few months, we have seen several examples of blatant bigotry or disregard for equityseeking groups. In August, highprofile Quebecois politician Maxime Bernier left the federal Conservative Party to start a party of his own, in large part because he wants to take an even harder line on immigration.

White supremacist Faith Goldy used Toronto’s mayoral race as a publicity stunt and ended up receiving more than 20,000 votes. Among the first moves for Premier Doug Ford’s provincial government were to cancel planned Truth and Reconciliation curriculum resource writing sessions, eliminate certain subcommittees of Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate, and pick a fight with the federal government over funding for refugees. The government has since cut millions of dollars from education programs targeted mainly toward marginalized and vulnerable students. Our society has made great progress on human rights over the past few decades, but what we are seeing now is a reminder of what equity-seeking groups have been saying the whole time: discrimination and violence are still ever-present. The outbursts that have been condoned by right-wing populism can be shocking, but they also reveal the privilege that has allowed some to believe these prejudices were relics of the past. It can be uncomfortable for some who have enjoyed the benefits of privilege to step aside. We do not want to be blamed for actions or attitudes we have not taken or do not hold; we feel that if we have not been personally responsible for the violence or marginalization others have experienced, we should be entitled to carry on without having to constantly confront these uncomfortable issues. There is also an idea that stepping aside to create safe spaces for others violates our own rights and freedoms, that somehow acknowledging rights and opportunities for others means less for ourselves. We are capable of recognizing overt racism, sexism, or other largescale injustices, but we fail to acknowledge the more basic structures of which we are a part. Promoting equity is not about shaming those who benefit from privilege, or downplaying individual agency and responsibility. It is about understanding that progress is slow, halting, and uneven. It is about realizing that we can only celebrate our diversity when nobody feels unsafe or unwelcome, and everyone has a legitimate opportunity to participate in society and the economy. The solutions may not always be easy or comfortable, but for those of us who enjoy the privilege of never having to think about our identities, the most important message to absorb is that it is not about us. We need to step back, make room for other voices, and take heed of their recommendations. As Dr. King would have told us, equity can only be achieved if we move beyond empty platitudes, appreciate the urgency for change, and prioritize justice over order.

Adam Lemieux is Communications Specialist in the Communications department at the OECTA Provincial Office.

ILLUSTRATION: @Designsoul / Shutterstock.com



THE GIFT OF By Gian Marcon

As educators, we often come up against the tension between the advantages and utility of technological innovation, and the understanding of the process that goes into its development and evolution. Recently, while going through some pre-Christmas preparations, I had occasion to think about how tradition and technology have intersected with our family rituals. Every Christmas, I put together a playlist that ends up being the ambient music for our family get-together on Christmas Eve. Once assembled, the only creative variable I exercise regarding the playlist over the course of the afternoon and evening is the occasional volume adjustment. Otherwise, the songs play in order, as they are meant to reflect the ebbs and flows of the gathering. The music complements the vibe of the various stages of the evening, commencing with the excited bustle of guests arriving, through to the post-meal lulls of contented smiles and drowsy conversation. This year, while I was incorporating some newly discovered additions and creatively reordering the accumulated catalogue of songs I have included in the past, I reflected on how much easier the task has become since my first attempts at assembling desired music into a single cohesive format. I soon drifted back to a nostalgic reminiscence of the days when mixtapes walked the earth.


As a teenager, I, like many of my friends, would make mixtapes that included my favourite songs and reflected how I was feeling when I transferred the songs from my LPs onto tape cassettes. The genres of music I selected varied widely, and the catalogue of songs that made the cut was highly personal. Before long, my friends and I entered into reciprocal arrangements wherein we would exchange cassettes of our preferred cuts arranged by theme, mood, genre, or artist. I distinctly remember receiving a “driving in my car” tape from my best friend, in recognition of my having successfully obtained my driver’s license. (For the record, it was 1976, and the first song was “China Grove” by the Doobie Brothers.) Our mixtapes were like self-portraits that often revealed what we were unable to express directly. The raw emotions that were so prevalent, yet supressed by our teenage psyches, found an outlet in the song selection in the tapes we made for ourselves, and especially in ones we shared with others. Every tape I exchanged with a friend held an inherent risk, as the selections allowed for insight into who I was and what I was feeling. The mixtapes were often made with one particular person in mind, and the implied message was, “I am willing to allow you to know me better, because I believe that you will understand why I chose to share this tape with you.” And when I received such a tape from someone else, I listened intently for clues that might indicate what the creator was trying to communicate to me. The receiver of such a tape accepted that what they were receiving was a personally curated, individually crafted radio program intended for a very limited audience. Moreover, those of us who participated in what now appears to be a primitive and terribly inefficient form of music sharing fully appreciated the effort that compiling such an anthology entailed. It took hours to produce a single coherent mixtape, fitting all the desired tracks on each respective side



while avoiding an excessive amount of “dead air.” The creation and gifting of these compilations was viewed as a labour of love and as such was usually much appreciated. The act and art of assembling a mosaic of other people’s music in a selective and creative manner became its own outlet for expression and communication. To be clear, I fully appreciate and prefer the ability to produce virtually limitless musical compilations with great expediency. I recall, not so fondly, the calculator-versus-mental math debate of the late 1970s, and I am certainly not advocating a return to a simpler time. But we should acknowledge that earlier technologies also had their own inherent merits. Nowadays, the process of compiling a musical playlist has become so simple that sharing it with someone has lost much of its impact. Still, I suppose that no matter the medium, we are enriched by the acts of choosing and sharing, and our experiences are invariably enhanced by the gift that is music. Happy listening!

Gian Marcon is a member of the Bargaining and Contract Services department at the OECTA Provincial Office.

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Catholic Teacher Magazine  

February 2019 Issue.

Catholic Teacher Magazine  

February 2019 Issue.

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