Page 1

In this issue... I AGM highlights

april 2014

I Are smaller class sizes worth it? I Bridging divide between

unions and the public I Frivolous charges at the OCT

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Will you be ready to vote on your next collective agreement? See page 3

inbox @OECTA


Our 2014 Annual General Meeting has come and gone but the energy and solidarity generated there will continue to underpin OECTA’s activities in the months ahead. Delegates engaged in wide-ranging debate, and passed motions on a variety of matters important to the Association and to the Catholic education system. The drive created at the annual meeting will serve us well as we enter a James Ryan period of great uncertainty. Because uncertainty is indeed what we face. Bill 122 has just passed, creating a two-tier bargaining system, with key issues such as funding and salaries determined at the provincial level while others will be negotiated locally. How those negotiations will proceed remains a question mark. At the same time, we are anticipating a provincial budget in the next few weeks. Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals are signalling they will not negotiate with the New Democrats in order to acquire the votes needed for the budget to pass. If the budget fails, Ontarians will face a spring election. Whether OECTA ends up bargaining with the current Liberal government or another, we anticipate an extremely difficult round. Our starting point will be “status quo plus,” however, this will require all our resources to defend. The current government has hinted there will be no new money. The majority of our Catholic boards have spent the years since the 2012 agreement fighting its implementation. If there is no province-wide push to protect even the basics, nothing will prevent boards from trying to claw back as much as they can. OECTA has a long and proud history of successful collective bargaining. Our local and provincial negotiators are knowledgeable and skilled. We have not hesitated to undertake job actions, even full strikes, when this seemed the only way to fight unjust demands. You can be assured that 2014 will be no different. We will spare no effort – and we will engage you too – in protecting members’ interests, wherever these are under attack.

OUR SUMMER INSTITUTES ARE BACK! OECTA is offering summer institutes for math and technology in July and August. Institutes are led by OECTA members, for OECTA members, in collaboration with leading experts. Institutes are offered over three or four days on a range of math and technology topics and for various grade levels from K-12. Course dates and location information will be posted at by April 30, 2014. Plan to attend an institute this summer, and talk to your local unit president about having an institute offered in your area.

Trade places and teach in Australia OECTA members are invited to trade places for a year with a teacher in an Australian Catholic school as part of an exchange program organized by the Canadian Education Exchange Foundation (CEEF), a non-profit charitable organization that provides national and international exchange programs and services for students and educators. Visit in the Teaching Opportunities section under Career Development of the Members’ Centre for more information, including testimonials and current opportunities. To register, contact Carol Wilkins, Teacher Exchange Coordinator via email: or phone: 705-739-7596.

Editorial Board Michelle Despault Communications Director Diana Thomson Associate Editor Delia Tavares Production and Advertising Adam Lemieux Writer/Researcher Elizabeth Price Website Administrator

James Ryan President Ann Hawkins First Vice-President Marshall Jarvis General Secretary David Church Deputy General Secretary Pat McKeown Executive Resource Assistant

@OECTA is published five times during the school year. Opinions and ideas expressed in @OECTA are not necessarily those of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association.

Follow me @OECTAPrez


@OECTA 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, Toronto, ON M4T 2Y8 | PHONE 416-925-2493 TOLL-FREE 1-800-268-7230 | FAX 416-925-7764 | Publication Mail | Agreement No. 0040062510 | Account No. 0001681016

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Collective Bargaining – Be sure you’re ready to vote



Earth Day | April 22 Day of Mourning: Remembering Lives Lost or Injured at Work | April 28

may May Day - International Workers’ Day

May 1 Canadian Labour Congress convention Montreal | May 5-9

Visit OECTA’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates and photos from the convention. Catholic Education Week | May 4-9 Mental Health Week | May 5-11


World Day Against Child Labour | June 12 30th Anniversary of the Announcement of Full Funding for Catholic Education in Ontario | June 12

Register your personal email with your unit president Planning is underway for provincial level collective bargaining between OECTA, which is the bargaining agent for teachers in Catholic schools in Ontario, and the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA), now designated an Employer Bargaining Agent. In order for OECTA to provide members with up-to-date information on collective bargaining, including voting on any proposed agreement, possible strike action and strike pay, members must have provided a personal email address. Your unit president will be asking for your

personal email address (not the email address provided by your school board) so that you can be registered to receive collective bargaining information and be able to vote online on any new agreement. OECTA members are also encouraged to sign in to the Members’ Centre section of using a personal email address to access Collective Bargaining Updates for members only, and to sign up to receive @OECTA, an email newsletter of OECTA news, legislation updates, and professional development opportunities.

Congratulations to all the winners of the 2014

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Are smaller class sizes worth the investment? By Adam Lemieux

The reduction of primary grade class sizes stands as one of the hallmark achievements of the education reforms undertaken in Ontario since 2003. What began as a specific campaign promise by Dalton McGuinty was quickly translated into policy, and by the 2008-09 school year, 90 per cent of primary classes had 20 or fewer students. Recently, a handful of economists, journalists and politicians have begun questioning whether smaller class sizes are a wise investment. Critics of small class size, including prominent writer Malcolm Gladwell, say class size has no lasting bearing on test scores and student achievement. Reports from the C.D. Howe Institute, which informed the deficit-reduction policy recommendations in the 2012 Drummond report, stated that teachers and teacher unions want smaller class sizes mainly to improve their own working conditions. These arguments have been seized upon by Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak as part of his attack on teachers and public services. Teachers, principals and parents, support smaller class sizes for the positive impact on pedagogy, community building, student engagement and learning outcomes that they provide. In smaller classes teachers can employ precisely the types of teaching methods that are shown to be most effective, such as scaffolding and differentiated instruction. The benefits of smaller classes are especially pronounced for special needs and disadvantaged students, which makes it essential to the strategy of inclusion. These merits will become ever more crucial as we look to move toward creative and collaborative 21st century learning, where the focus is on higher order thinking and problem solving abilities. Research 4 @ OECTA | april 2014

demonstrates that it is important for students’ learning to have analytical skills and communicate effectively about what they’re learning, and to make connections between what they learn in one subject and other areas of study. When class sizes are limited, teachers are able to give sufficient time to implementing innovative, novel and impactful teaching methods that parents, the public and the Ministry of Education have said they want teachers to use. Teachers say that within smaller groups of students they can use individualized, hands-on assignments that are not possible when there are 30 or more students to be managed. They can take risks, explore complex ideas, and give students more individual attention and the opportunity to undertake meaningful collaborative projects. By improving learning conditions for children and aiding the development of important knowledge and skills, smaller class sizes can lead to better behaviour and school participation, result in higher grades, and improve choices for higher education and employment. It is well known that one of the top reasons for successful recruiting by private schools in Ontario is a promise to parents of class size limits with lower teacher-student ratios. What some parents are willing to pay top dollar for is being provided in Ontario’s publicly funded education system. What it really boils down to is that smaller classes offer a quality experience in the classroom for teachers and students. Who wants to argue with that? Adam Lemieux is a writer/researcher in the Communications and Government Relations departments at OECTA Provincial Office.

How your OECTA dues are spent With a fee of $950 for full-time members teaching in a regular day school program, the Association’s revenue for 2012-13* was $37,115,562.**

UNITS – 45% ($16.9 million)

The Association’s Handbook requires that 20% of all fees collected, plus $20 per member be returned to units. $8.1 of this amount pays for the release of local unit officers.

STAFF – 22% ($8.4 million) OTHER AFFILIATES – 9% ($3.4 million)

OECTA pays membership fees to: the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF), the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF), the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), the Institute for Catholic Education (ICE), and the Qualifications Evaluation Council of Ontario (QECO). Reserve FUND – 5% ($1.9 million)


As dictated by the Association’s Handbook, a minimum of 5% of the fee is directed to the reserve fund, which covers costs associated with action taken under the Ontario Labour Relations Act, particularly strikes and lockouts. The reserve fund also provides grants to members in extreme need. Committees & Projects – 4% ($1.5 million) OFFICE OPERATIONS – 4% ($1.4 million) ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING & COUNCIL OF PRESIDENTS MEETINGS – 4% ($1.5 million) PROVINCIAL Executive – 2% ($0.9 million) Political action & catholic EDUCATION DEFENCE FUNDS – 2% ($0.7 million)

As outlined in the Association’s Handbook, $10 per member is directed to each of these funds. member protection fund

In addition to the basic membership fee, 0.12 per cent of a member’s grid salary is directed to the Member Protection Fund, which covers the cost of defending members who encounter legal issues in the course of their professional duties. For 2012-13 the Member Protection Fund received $3,864,693 and OECTA’s legal expenses that year were $3,662,351.

* **

2012-13 is the most recent audited financial statement of the Association Numbers broken out have been rounded

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Publications – 1% ($0.3 million) Contingency – 1% ($0.2 million) LEADERSHIP TRAINING PROGRAM – 1% ($0.2 million) CAPITAL – < 1% ($0.1 million)



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AGM 2014


New provincial executive

Meet the OECTA Provincial Executive for 2014-15, elected at AGM and taking office July 1, 2014. Pictured from L to R: Deputy General Secretary David Church; General Secretary Marshall Jarvis; Councillor-elect Sonia DiPetta; Treasurer Chris Karuhanga (re-elected); Councillor Andrew Donihee (re-elected); 3rd Vice-President Marcie Tombari (re-elected); President James Ryan; 1st Vice-President Ann Hawkins (reelected); 2nd Vice-President-elect Liz Stuart; and OTF Table Officer Julie Pauletig. Delegates approved the use of electronic voting for AGM elections. The move brings the Association into compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, by accommodating delegates with disabilities and removing any barriers that may have prevented their full participation in voting. As Sonia DiPetta, incoming Provincial Executive councillor tweeted at AGM, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Electronic voting paves the way for all delegates to vote with dignity.â&#x20AC;? 7 @ OECTA | april 2014



OECTA past presidents, the current Provincial Executive and approximately 600 delegates and guests were in attendance at the AGM dinner to honour seven award recipients for their contribution to Catholic education, the teaching profession, social justice and OECTA. Read the complete tributes in the Awards section, at

Donna Lacavera

Life Membership in OECTA, for her outstanding contributions to teacher professionalism, curriculum resources development, and performance-based learning

Carolyn Stevens

Life Membership in OECTA, for her dedication to teaching and to children with learning difficulties, for her contributions to developing special needs teaching resources, and for her leadership as OECTA’s first female Deputy General Secretary

anthony Bellissimo

Pearse Shannon Memorial Association Award, as past president of an OECTA unit, for his leadership and unreserved determination to improve the working lives of his members in the Toronto Elementary Unit

Gary Tomcko

Life Membership in OECTA in recognition of more than 20 years of union activism and service with OECTA at the local and provincial levels

Al Cornes

Honorary Membership in OECTA for his devotion to furthering the goals of OECTA in his role as Deputy General Secretary

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Marion Tyrrell Memorial Award of Merit, for exemplifying what it means to be a teacher in Catholic schools, for making the Gospel relevant and alive for students and teachers alike, and his inspirational leadership

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Bill Heffernan

Fintan Kilbride Memorial Social Justice Recognition Award, in recognition of his significant personal commitment to social justice, Gospel values, and his many years as an advocate for publicly funded education

8 @ OECTA | april 2014

This program is offered to OTIP and Teachers Life members as part of their LTD benefits plan.

Everything is connected – Defending our right to be cold By Diana Thomson

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a global leader on climate change and human rights, and a Nobel Prize nominee, spoke to OECTA AGM delegates about the effect that climate change in the Arctic is having on all of us. “I’ve been working to put a human face on the connections we all share,” she told delegates. “We all need to understand that climate changes are quite dire. Where the consequences are very visible is in the north, where people assign significant value to the ice and snow, there is no price we would pay to lose that ice. Snow and cold – it’s the air conditioner of the planet. Sadly, the threat of climate change has put much of our world at risk.” Watt-Cloutier’s book The Right to Be Cold explores the parallels between safeguarding the Arctic and the survival of Inuit culture. When we see what’s happening in the Arctic, we must not think only in terms of its effect on the polar bears. Consideration must also be given to the people and their children who are trying to maintain a life there, she told delegates. Watt-Cloutier said that OECTA’s Speak for Children slogan resonates with what she’s saying – we’re all here for our children, whether you’re from the Arctic or Ontario. We all want to protect the next generation – we’re all connected through human rights. It’s critical that our shared human component is foremost in the minds of those with power to deal with these issues. However, governments are not in agreement on the deep cuts that need to be made to greenhouse emissions, she said. Watt-Cloutier added that Canada can lead by example. We are a privileged country and we must strive to partner with other countries on global climate treaties. The wisdom of the north and elsewhere must be part of the rethinking of the approach on climate change on a global scale. Diana Thomson is the associate editor in the Communications Department at OECTA Provincial Office.

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Here’s what some AGM delegates tweeted using #oectagm kris barron @ecokrisb - Dianne Woloshuk: “Those who can, TEACH, those who can’t, make up laws about teaching” David Ross @DCRoss – next round of bargaining is going to be tough be prepared and you have been warned. Won’t give again Chris Cowley @oectagovernor - Hearing from candidates 4 office for provincial executive. Unions are democratic and accountable to members KylaK @kylaalyk: @andreahorwath “teachers need to be respected.” Agreed! Him?! @greg_j_c - Thanks Liz Papadopoulos for uniting #OECTA delegates in a common cause...against the #OCT and its anti-teacher policies William Höch @MacBerry On #HumanRights speaker Sheila WattCloutier: how corporate action affects the North



Go Green or Go Greed By Angela Elliott

2014 was my second AGM, but my first time at the mic. What a memorable experience. I knew I was in good company, but my heart was racing. In my classroom I’m as cool as a cucumber, but in front of 700 of my colleagues, it’s a different story. I chose to speak to AGM delegates about the Westin Hotel chain’s “Make a Green Choice” program. If your stay is longer than one night, the hotel recommends that you decline housekeeping service and reuse your sheets and towels. It seemed like a positive, environmentally friendly program. However, when I did more research I learned that the program results in reduced shifts and more work for housekeeping staff. According to Michelle Travis of Unite Here Local 40, “The program is just a costcutting measure on the part of the hotel employer.” Says Mae Burrows, a social justice and environmental activist, “Westin’s Green Card program shows that hotel management might be failing to understand some basic principles of environmental sustainability. You do cut down on use of harsh chemicals, but skipping regular room cleaning isn’t the best way to go. It’s a sham to say that you’re saving the planet by skipping on a room clean up,” she says. “True sustainability would also include looking at social issues like a living wage, fair benefits and occupational health.” As I was leaving my hotel room with my research notes, I stopped a housekeeper and asked for her

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opinion. She told me that for every 15 cards placed on room doors, one housekeeper loses a shift and she lost two days work the week prior. The majority of housekeepers are immigrant women. When I explained my plans to speak about this at the meeting, she hugged me and said, “thank you” over and over. I returned to the AGM meeting room, ready for my presentation, door hanger in hand. “Angela Elliott, London District, first time at the mic,” I said. “I’d like to request the delegates not use this door hanger which is located in all of our rooms here at the Westin. Guests are offered a $5 voucher for food and drinks in exchange for no housekeeping service. What Westin is not telling us is that for every 15 door hangers used, one housekeeper is told not to report to work. Let’s help save the female immigrant housekeepers’ jobs and not use the Go Green door hanger, which should read Go Greed.” Wow, I did it, my heart still racing. So many delegates came up to me and said thanks. They thought they were saving our environment because our human nature is to believe what we are told. But when it comes to big business, hotel chains, multinational corporations, profit is their number one concern. Angela Elliott is a member of the London District Unit, and was a “first time at the mic” speaker at AGM 2014.


AG 20 M 14

Resolutions passed Resolutions that received a majority vote provide direction and actions for the Association to undertake in the coming year. Here are a few of the 46 resolutions that were approved: • Delegates voted to have the OECTA membership fee remain the same as 2013-14. For full-time teachers in permanent positions, the fee will be $950. • As stakeholders in the Ontario Teachers’ 11 @ OECTA | april 2014the Pension Plan (OTPP) through

Ontario Teachers’ Federation, delegates are calling on the OTPP to improve its corporate practices and only make investments in companies that support human rights and engage in good faith bargaining practices with all of their employees. Delegates do not want investments made in any company in violation of human rights, or in privatized education and childcare. • In celebration of OECTA’s 75th anniversary, the AGM will be held in Ottawa in 1919. • To show support for Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) and LGBTQ students and members, the Association approved registering for, and marching in the WorldPride Parade in Toronto on June 29, 2014.

•T  he Association will have two new provincial standing committees next year: the Long-Term Disability committee (LTD), which will address all aspects of the LTD plan, and the Continuing Education committee, which will address needs and concerns of continuing education teachers. •A  member survey will be conducted during 2014-15 to identify stressors in the workplace and their impact on members. •A  Discipline Work Group will review OECTA’s processes and procedures for investigating, mediating and hearing complaints, and provide a report to the fall 2014 Council of Presidents. Read all the AGM 2014 Resolutions in the Members’ Centre at

Teachers aid

OECTA advisor Real life situations and solutions By Joe Pece

Are you retiring this year? Planning to retire is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your career. To ensure that you understand the process, OECTA offers Retirement Planning and Pension Seminars to members across the province. If you haven’t been able to attend a seminar, here are some of the basic steps you need to undertake to get started on your transition to retirement. 1. Contact the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) by telephone (1-800-668-0105) or online through iAccess Web, a secure, members-only section of the OTPP website ( • Setting up a personal online account is easy, if you don’t already have one. • I t is advisable to give OTPP three months notice of your resignation to avoid delays in your pension, however, the online application process can be completed in half the normal time. • OTPP will send you either through mail or iAccess the relevant forms and direction. • Provide OTPP with any updates to personal and contact information. 2. Provide a letter of resignation/retirement to your employer once you are certain of your retirement date. • Inquire with your local unit office exactly who at your board your letter should be addressed to (i.e., Superintendant of Human Resources or Director of Education). •W  e advise members to put the last day of the month as their retirement date. OTPP will use this date as the start date for your retirement and your pension payments will begin the following month. If you put the 1st of the next month you will miss that month’s pension payment. •C  heck your local collective agreement to see if there is a timeframe for giving notice stipulated in your contract. • OTPP will require confirmation from your employer of your retirement date in order to proceed with your pension application. • If you are entitled to a retirement gratuity payout, reference the relevant article in your collective agreement and state your expectation of payout.

3. You will be required to send the following documents to OTPP (photocopies are acceptable) along with the completed pension application they sent you: • Birth certificate • Birth certificate of spouse (if applicable) • Marriage certificate (if applicable) • Divorce or separation papers (if applicable) • TD1/TD1ON form – Income tax deductions (will come from OTPP) • Void cheque for direct deposit of pension to your bank 4. You may also want to: a. Use the pension calculator to confirm your estimated pension and review your survivor pension options (if applicable) – to help set your budget for retirement. b. Speak with a financial planner/tax accountant about tax planning in retirement. 5. Consider health care plans that are offered to retired teachers by Retired Teachers of Ontario (RTO), and Retired Teachers Insurance Plan (RTIP) Your local board may also offer a retiree health benefit plan. • If you want to have payments for your health plan deducted from your pension, ensure that the health care application indicates this option and is returned to the insurance company in a timely fashion to avoid a gap in coverage. 6. Your first pension cheque will arrive by the last business day of the month following the month in which you retire. For example, if you retired effective June 30, your first pension cheque is July 31. If you retire on March 17, your first pension cheque is April 30. The Pension Board will send you a summary of deductions with your first pension cheque. After that, a new summary will only be sent when the amounts change – that is, each January when your pension increases due to the inflation adjustment provisions. 7. Relax and enjoy your pension. Inform the OTPP of any changes such as in address, bank account or tax deductions, whenever necessary. Learn more about your pension and retirement planning at in the Contracts & Rights section of the Members’ Centre. Joe Pece is the department head for the Counselling and Member Services department at OECTA Provincial Office.

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Professional insight Dealing with those everyday issues By Doug McCarthy

Beginning teachers Surviving and thriving in the first five years By Claire Laughlin

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is the title of a great book by Dr. Seuss. I love the story and have used it in so many different contexts! It came to mind on the second day of this year’s Beginning Teachers Conference. As the whole room stepped up to end bullying, I was convinced of the power teachers have to lead, in their own determined ways, the youth of today and this Association! You’re off to great places, Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So…get on your way. Being a beginning teacher is the first step in your incredible journey. A journey where you can lead in many ways, including within OECTA and within your school. Consider joining your local OECTA unit or a provincial committee. Act today by contacting your local unit office, or going to the OECTA website and completing the application form for a provincial committee prior to the May 1 deadline! Say you will, out loud, right now! Other considerations could include: • a ssisting the current OECTA representative in your school, or taking on the role yourself • p articipating in local unit social and professional development opportunities

• participating in unit elections, asking questions, being an AGM delegate, and more. However, there is one thing we all need to do now, and that is to use our political voice! Elections (provincial, municipal, etc.) will be underway shortly. One of the strongest leadership qualities we can display is commitment and that means exercising our right to vote. Discuss this with your students, so they can learn and emulate the example you set and encourage their parent(s) to do the same. Communication is another leadership quality that needs to be exercised regularly. Catholic education needs your voice of support. Don’t let negative comments by family or friends at dinner, or comments by staff in the lunchroom, go without a challenge. We need courageous conversations to keep Catholic education in Ontario’s publicly funded schools. Dr. Seuss offers this reminder: This moment right now is the youngest you’ll be. For the rest of your life. Just wait and see! So, there is no time like the present to step up, because you never know the wonderful places you will go until you do!

Claire Laughlin is a secretariat member in Professional Development at OECTA Provincial Office and liaison to the Beginning Teachers Committee.

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After 20 years of being a member of OECTA’s Speakers’ Bureau, I have come to the conclusion that people coming together to make decisions and solve problems is a very complex human endeavour. Sometimes, even two people will have difficulty becoming of “one mind.” Imagine the challenge for 10 people, 100 people, 600 people. One of the significant highlights of AGM 2014 for the Speakers was the willingness and patience of delegates to allow the democratic process to happen. Often delegates become weary when it appears that procedure is being abused and time is being wasted. At those times when the process is wearisome, we need to remember Winston Churchill’s proclamation, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government – except all the others that have been tried.” A reflection of this frustration can be the premature loss of quorum on the last day. At this year’s AGM, however, quorum was maintained until 3:15 p.m., only 45 minutes ahead of the meeting’s scheduled adjournment. Another highlight was the quality of debate and the willingness of delegates to resolve opposing points of view by speaking to the merits of the question and avoiding the injection of a personal note into the debate. A courteous tone was maintained throughout the meeting, especially when there was divergence of opinion. Again this year, there were a number of delegates who were first time at the microphone and whose comments were thoughtful and prepared in advance. Winston Churchill also said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” What was most impressive, however, was the patience demonstrated by the delegates when electronic voting was being explained and tested on the meeting floor. This required a major paradigm shift for the delegates and the Speakers as well. Some parliamentary terms were established in the 17th and 18th centuries and no longer have meaning in the digital age. Even the newly introduced 11th edition of Robert’s Rules of Order has sections on electronic meetings and electronic voting. In their opening comments the Speakers shared an observation with the delegates: that more gets done when trust is placed in the process. So, it seems appropriate to call upon a quote that captures Churchill’s fighting spirit: Keep calm and carry on. Doug McCarthy is a retired OECTA member and principal, and currently a member of OECTA’s Speakers’ Bureau.


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14 @ OECTA | april 2014

Legal brief Teachers and the law

By Charlene Theodore

As Legal Counsel to OECTA, part of my work is representing members who have been wrongfully denied LTD and WSIB benefits. I’m proud to say that OECTA has a very successful track record of negotiating favourable monetary settlements for our members. Those who have been on the receiving end of those settlements have had to sign mutual confidentiality agreements in exchange for receiving settlement funds. While this has become standard practice when settling cases, the importance of maintaining the confidentiality cannot be understated. Over the past year, we have seen cautionary tales of people who have inadvertently violated confidentiality agreements and faced the consequences. A worker in Cornwall, Ontario filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal against her employer, which included an agreement to keep the proceedings and settlement details confidential. After the mediation concluded, the employer discovered the following posts made by the worker on Facebook: “Well court is done didn’t get what I wanted but I still walked away with some…” “Well my mother always said something is better than nothing…” Her employer took the position that, even though they had agreed on financial terms, they were not required to pay the worker because of her breach of confidentiality. The Tribunal reduced the amount of the settlement to the worker. After The Globe & Mail terminated staff writer Jan Wong, Ms. Wong filed a grievance with her union. The grievance was settled in the fall of 2008 and included a clause barring either party from disclosing the terms to anyone other than a specified group of advisors and family members. It also included a provision that stipulated the entire amount of the settlement be repaid if confidentiality was breached. In 2012, Ms. Wong wrote Out of the Blue, a book describing her attempts to deal with a mental illness during the time she was working at the newspaper. The following passages were found to have violated the confidentiality agreement:

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“… I can’t disclose the amount of money I received.” “I had just been paid a pile of money to go away…” “Two weeks later a big fat cheque landed in my account.” “Even with a vastly swollen bank account…” Ms. Wong’s lawyers argued that merely disclosing that she had received a settlement was not enough to violate confidentiality, absent any other details of the amount. Sadly for Ms. Wong, the arbitrator disagreed and she had to repay the full amount of the “big fat cheque.” Most recently in Florida, teacher Patrick Snay filed an age discrimination lawsuit against his former employer Gulliver Preparatory School. The parties settled the case, and Mr. Snay received a payment of $80,000 upon signing a confidentiality clause. The clause required that he not disclose “directly or indirectly” any information with respect to the settlement. Following the settlement Mr. Snay’s daughter posted the following on Facebook: “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver…” “Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.” After discovering the posts (likely from one of her 1,200 friends, or friends of their friends), the employer refused to pay the settlement, and the Florida Court agreed. If you are involved in a legal proceeding you likely have friends and family supporting you throughout the process. When the proceedings end, you will inevitably be faced with many questions. “How did it go?” “Did everything work out ok with that case?” The wrong response to any of those questions could have grave financial consequences. I always advise members to have a response prepared, such as, “My lawyer/union has advised that I have a legal obligation not to disclose details.” Sticking to the script could save you thousands of dollars. Charlene Theodore is in-house legal counsel at OECTA Provincial Office.


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Changing the Conversation How can we bridge the divide between unions and the public? By Adam Lemieux

Despite Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak’s ‘about face’ on rightto-work policies, the negative chatter about unions persists, and it is evident that many people believe unions do more harm than good. Those of us active in the labour movement know that unions have a significant role to play in protecting workers’ interests and providing a counterbalance to the neo-liberal* agenda. However, it is clear that the old messages and tactics touting the relevance of unions are not working today. It is imperative that we find a new way to reach the public. Simply dismissing or ignoring the stereotypes of unions – unaccountable, outdated and unaffordable – is not effective. Being aware of where the antiunion discourse originates may just be the key to our success. For the most part, the reason why people hold dim views of unions is that they have so little experience with them. Union density is low, particularly in the private sector. Where unions were once an integral part of the daily lives and communities of many Canadians, nowadays most people only encounter unions in the news, usually when they are involved in contentious negotiations or on strike. The situation is especially sensitive in the case of public sector unions. As growing numbers of people are forced to work in low-paid, precarious jobs, there is some envy of the decent wages, pensions and working conditions that public employees have been able to negotiate at the bargaining table.

*Neoliberalism – a political philosophy whose advocates support free trade and open markets, privatization, deregulation, and enhancing the role of the private sector in @ OECTAsociety. 17 modern | april 2014

While we might hear the vitriolic language coming out of Queen’s Park and be tempted to prepare ourselves for battle, snarling, negative responses are not what the general public wants to hear. Putting ourselves on the defensive and talking about fighting back only reinforces the image of unions as impediments to change. Instead, we need to position ourselves as a voice for democracy, human rights, and shared prosperity. We can start by highlighting the workplace benefits, initially won by unions, which are now enjoyed by many Canadians, such as weekends, paid vacations, parental leave, and health and safety standards. We can also talk about the things we continue to work toward, such as fair taxation and livable incomes for all citizens. This is the strategy of the “Fairness Works” campaign, recently launched by the Canadian Labour Congress. It is also the idea behind OECTA’s “When you Speak for Children…” initiatives. Our goal must be to encourage understanding among our friends, neighbours and family members that we share their values and want to advance their concerns. It is not about maintaining the status quo, but about working together to build the best possible future, for everyone.

Everyday conversations are a crucial form of engagement and the message often carries a good deal more weight than when union members speak about their personal experiences.

If we are going to change the public perception about unions, it is going to take the effort of every member, changing the dialogue one conversation at a time.

Adam Lemieux is a writer/researcher in the Communications and Government Relations departments at OECTA Provincial Office.

The next time someone challenges you with a negative stereotype about unions, take that opportunity to change the conversation and set the record straight:

My union is about equality and justice, and we are here for you, too. april 2014 | @ OECTA



Canada’s broken winged birds must fly By Mary Jo Leddy

For the last 24 years I have lived in a culture of poverty at Romero House for Refugees in Toronto, a place of welcome that I helped found. I have lived there side by side, daily, with people who are now poor. Many of these refugees had once been rich, or at least comfortable, in their own countries until they were forced to leave them behind. Every day I see them try to negotiate the few options that are left to them. This is especially true the last week of every month, when the food runs out before income arrives. I sometimes realize how gradually, almost easily, I have come to accept this as normal. However, my moral numbness can be disturbed by a phone call in the middle of the night. A summons. A mother called me after midnight, crying because her daughter had a temperature and terrible stomach pains. I drove them to the emergency department at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Hours later and after a battery of tests, the doctor informed us that the little girl had food poisoning. Through a process of elimination we were able to identify that

the peanut butter from the local food bank had been rancid. The peanut butter was the main course that week – the last week of the month. Driving home I realized that I had accepted the mother’s dependence on food banks as normal and the fact that some of the food is bad as inevitable. The little girl was beautiful and bright. She had more dreams than memories. Because she had very good marks in French she dreamed of going to France for the summer on an exchange program with a family there. Her mother knew that even if she won the scholarship they would never have the space or the food to host a little French girl in return. When a dream dies, wrote the poet Langston Hughes, “life is a brokenwinged bird that cannot fly.” We have too many poor children in Canada, one in seven children are broken winged birds.

• 1 in 4 First Nations children live in poverty. • Immigrants and newcomers face child poverty rates more than 2.5 times higher than the general population. • More children live in poverty today than in 1989. • Children now represent 38% of food bank users in Canada. • Canada’s child poverty rate puts it 24th out of 35 OECD nations.

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Too many have accepted this situation as normal, acceptable, inevitable. Teachers know, better than most, how many of their students’ dreams will be deferred as long as child poverty is accepted as the new normal. What we need is to reawaken real moral outrage at this waste of our greatest natural resource, our young people. There are several well-researched, practical, possible programs about HOW to end child poverty in this country. All that is needed is the moral imagination to see WHY this must be possible. Thus we have the beginnings of Keep the Promise, a movement of children for children, to remind politicians that they promised 25 years ago, in an all-party resolution, to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. We need moral imagination to envision a country where all children can stand up, walk, fly. No to rancid peanut butter. Yes to the promise. For more information about the schools program of Keep the Promise, contact Patrick Flanagan at

Mary Jo Leddy is the national co-chair of Keep the Promise.

College of absurdity: the rise of frivolous charges of misconduct By Robert Smol

There is probably nothing more precious to a teacher’s career than his or her good name and the public trust that comes with that. Knowing this, I cannot think of anything more professionally damaging to a teacher’s reputation, short of criminal charges, than facing allegations of professional misconduct before the Ontario College of Teachers. Now imagine how much worse this already tortuous process might be if the allegations you are facing before the courtroom-like hearing include “drinking coffee in class” or telling a student that his or her work is “illegible.” For all the concerns that I have about the Ontario College of Teachers, including the ballooning fees, nothing raises my indignation more than the absurdly frivolous and tepidly substantiated charges many teachers are currently facing before the college.

“watching YouTube” and “cooked waffles and bacon in class” (actual allegations) as potentially serious matters worthy of both publication and an expensive, member-financed disciplinary process. Furthermore, what concerns me about the more serious accusations faced by teachers today, such as sexual misconduct, is the fact that most are often several years old, and are worded in a manner that indicate a serious lack of recall on the part of the accuser(s) as to when the alleged misconduct happened, the context, and what exactly was said or done. In many cases, the teacher has long retired, yet time and money is spent revoking their licence. I have often heard it said that the nature of our profession demands “the bar be set at a high level.” There may be an element of truth here, but at what point does a “higher

Over the last year I have reviewed many cases that have come before the college. To my disgust, I see teachers, many of whom have spouses and children to support and mortgages to pay, having to face serious allegations such as “talked on a cell phone during class,” or “drank pop,” “ate donuts,” and “shopped on eBay during class.” Other charges include “had class watch a movie that was unrelated to curriculum” or “interrupting a class in session.” In every ongoing case I have reviewed, there is frequently no indication of a specific date, time, place, or frequency of these incidents. Whether the alleged “misconduct” was grossly chronic or just a one-off is often not stated, suggesting that the latter could be the case. While some of these behaviours may not be acceptable, there are more appropriate ways to deal with them than a hearing before the college. As professionals, we should be outraged that minor peccadilloes are being brought into the most severe, career-limiting, and expensive disciplinary forum that a teacher could encounter, short of the criminal courts. It is comparable to tasking our criminal court judges and Crown prosecutors with cases of alleged jaywalking or littering. Concerning the cases it hears, the college makes the explicit promise on its website that, “if a complaint does not relate to professional misconduct, incompetence, or incapacity, or if it is frivolous, vexatious or an abuse of process (my italics) the Investigation Committee will refuse to consider or investigate the matter.” So what this means is that, on careful consideration, the collective legal mindset of the college truly does consider 19 @ OECTA | april 2014

Robert Smol asks a question of Liz Papadopoulos, chair of the Governing Council of the OCT.

bar” enter the realm of absurdity? And while I agree that teachers should be held to account for serious misconduct, minor complaints or concerns, such as eating donuts in class, should NEVER reach the college. And, regardless of the charge, teachers should not be deprived of the right to a fair process in which allegations are clearly framed in terms of exact time, place, and what specifically is alleged to have happened. Robert Smol is a teacher with the Dufferin-Peel Secondary Unit, who also works as a freelance journalist and columnist.

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@OECTA April 2014 issue  

Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) member magazine

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