Opening Statement

Thursday 28 June 2012

What Was Said: No Secret OECTA PDT Deal!

As rumours continue to fly, OECTA Provincial President Kevin Dwyer explains the current state of our PDT talks with the Ontario Government. The following press release was issued this week:
TORONTO, June 25, 2012 /CNW/ - Recent media reports have indicated that the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) is close to reaching a provincial framework agreement with the government. At this point in time, OECTA continues to engage in discussions with the government and trustee representatives, but no agreement has been reached.
OECTA remains at the Provincial Discussion Table (PDT) with the aim of negotiating a fair and reasonable agreement that protects the interest of our members and strengthens the classroom environment for our students, while recognizing the fiscal realities facing the province.While some progress has been made in our latest discussions with the government on the parameters they proposed, there are still many issues that must be resolved and much more discussion still needs to take place before any agreement can be reached.
OECTA is committed to bringing forward ideas to help solve problems and address outstanding issues. Ensuring that education in Ontario continues to move forward remains a common goal that provides a foundation upon which our discussions continue. 
OECTA President Kevin O'Dwyer

June 18: What Was Said: Secret OECTA PDT Deal?!?
                 June 12: More PDT: A Commentary
                 June 01: PDT Update + Some Comments
                 May 26: Late May PDT Update
                 March 11: Windsor AGM: The Education Minister's Reception
                 March 10: Total PDT Confusion
                 March 01: OECTA PDT Contract Shocker
                 Feb 25: Education Minister Gets Frosty Reception

Scroll to bottom of this centre column to find my "Blog Archive". Stay tuned to this site for further updates.

OECTA  President Kevin Dwyer speaks to the press on supposed "secret" PDT. Rumours continue to fly.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

School's Out! OECTA PDT! + TSU 3rd VP News!

School's out for summer!!! Well come Friday it is! After a busy, busy final two weeks, the summery sense of  relaxation and relief that my most favourite season brings, after another very challenging educational year, is most palatable. I can taste it indeed! Ha.

My blog will continue through the summer, on reduced hours, but I will still be here on a regular basis. I will keep you updated on any PDT developments. I will share my travelogues from Mexico and Cuba with you again, like in last summer's blogs, plus there could be a few other trips in the works. Stay tuned. For my non-Toronto readers I will continue my city blog postings. I was born here. I've lived here all my life. Let me share Toronto life with you from a local perspective. And for my local readers? Well perhaps you will get a chuckle from it too.

All this and more my friends! There should be a lot more photos, fun, and cool, summer stuff, so do drop in!

And in other news..........

No news on the OECTA PDT front. Talks continue. That is not necessarily reassuring in and of itself, but remember, the government's deadline for a settlement has long since passed without incident. We measure success in small steps but know that no large leaps forward have been made. There isn't any breakthrough. OECTA continues it's quiet diplomacy strategy of exhaustively discussing every reasonable solution, while standing firm in it's opposition to the terms being offered. There isn't, hasn't been, or won't be any secret PDT deal. Rumours continue to fly. I won't grace these, by reporting them here right now, they can be pretty absurd. Plus one has to wonder about the negative effect they can have upon group solidarity among the teacher affiliates. Our  opponents would get quite a chuckle watching any infighting possibly tear us apart from within. Beware.

The most of important of deadlines remains, August 31st, when our current contracts expire! What then? Do you return to work without a contract? Will you be locked out? Will the teacher affiliates vote in favour of work to rule, a strike or some other type of job action? We don't know. Our teachers are encouraged to complete their telephone tree forms, check the OECTA and TSU websites, and again, there's my blog site. We might have to be pretty creative with our communication strategy should everything hit the fan between now and August 31st. We did it during the Harris years. We can do it again, if need be. Hang on tight for the roller coaster ride ahead  next September.

Here are my new union portfolios, if you will, as TSU 3rd VP executive liaison.These commence with our new executive term starting July 1st for the 2012-13 school year:

Special Education: Yes, we are a full fledged committee now, nothing ad hoc about us anymore! I continue to also advocate for a new TCDSB-TSU Joint Special Education committee. It seems to be getting a very favourable and encouraging response, as an idea long overdue. Our field continues to grow and a continued joint communication, discussion, planning and problem solving committee can only help us all work together in the best interests of our specially challenged students. I am really excited about the prospect, and will continue to advocate and try to facilitate the process to make it happen asap!

Religious Affairs: The challenges this year have been many. As your TSU executive liaison I will continue to  work with the TCDSB NCC [Nurturing Catholic Community] committee. Superintendent Geoff Grant has extended a warm welcome to all of the faith partners in our community, including the unions, to bring us together. This can only be a good thing. Also I will continue to work with our members to express and advocate our shared beliefs as Catholic educators on our local TSU committee. You can go back through my blog archives. There's been quite a few postings going back as far as a year ago last March, which I would encourage you to revisit for more info. I look forward to working with everyone again. It can be a big uphill struggle. God bless you all.

Joint Safe Schools: Yup, I'm back on the committee after a one year sabbatical. School safety as per both the Safe Schools and Bill 168 Health and Safety Acts continue to be be a number one priority for me. Much, much more news and views on this to come, but for now, suffice to note, I am also on the.....

Joint Health and Safety Committee: This committee covers a very wide variety of issues, but I would like to point one out of great importance to my fellow [Sped] Special Education AU-DDME [Autism Developmentally Delayed Multiple Exceptionality] teachers. I am very concerned about proper health and safety procedures being in place in our classrooms accompanied with the comprehensive inservicing needed, for the care of our students! We need these in place, and we need them in all our classrooms across the board now! It would seem to be pretty clear cut but it is a huge challenge to which I am specially committed to on your behalf and of course for the very challenged students in our care.

Joint Medical Physical Procedures: Yup. Ditto. I will be developing this at a lot greater length here on my blog site as we get back into the new school year. These committees might sound kind of dull, but they are anything but!

No. I won't be executive liaison to the Beginning Teachers Committee. After a four year term. I am very pleased to announce that our new executive secretary Melissa Ammendola will be facilitating this for you next year. I know it is an area of direct interest and experience for Melissa. I most heartily offer my assistance, support and knowledge if and whenever required. I will miss you all [Boo Hoo Hoo!;-) but know Melissa will take TSU upwards and onwards with the tremendous enthusiasm and expertise our new and beginning teachers bring to the future of our union!

No. I won't be executive liaison for PAC [Political Advisory Committee]. I salute 2nd VP Gillian as she facilitates the good fight for us in the challenging field of government relations. This will be especially important next year, and perhaps for many more years to come. She can do it!

As an aside I would also like FB, LM and DS to know I have made a point of advocating for you. I consider our past political differences to be just that; past. You were fellow warriors in our great struggle during the Harris years. I am sure you will continue to make your contribution on any and all TSU committees to which you are appointed, as we all hopefully pull together in solidarity for the good of our unit during the possibly even bigger battle ahead!

So that's what I will be doing at TSU next year, along with whatever else comes along my way. Everybody's committee appointments are being sent out through the main office asap. Remember, when you receive them, you need to reply to confirm acceptance, so if you change your mind the next person in line gets a chance. There were many, many applications this year, which is great news, but of course that also means some very tough choices had to be made. If you are disappointed in anyway, please understand and know we managed to find something for everyone who applied, even if it wasn't always their first or second choice.

Please note that I will be personally contacting my committee members early in the new school year so we can plan our activities, create a budget and get working right away. I look forward to the pleasure of helping facilitate all your great work in the school year ahead. Please feel free to contact me anytime at my gmail address posted on the top of this page.

But first? We all earned a good rest and the summer holidays are all but here! Yippie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Busy! Busy! Busy! But on June 29th -School's Out for Summer!!!

Monday 18 June 2012

What Was Said: A Secret OECTA PDT Deal?!?

ETFO and some in OSSTF  were saying they believed a deal was to be signed last Friday by 4pm. We are nowhere close to that. OECTA President Kevin O’Dwyer has indicated to OECTA presidents that the issues identified are not accurate and clearly no deal has been signed.
The information sent out by ETFO  reflects somewhat positions stated by the government from the outset. ETFO is not at the table and so comments about Government talks by them are speculation. Efforts like these undermine solidarity and confidence and are not consistent with OECTA bargaining practice.
It is unfortunate that ETFO has chosen to act in this manner. The challenge we face with our affiliate partners remain but we must focus on every effort to build solidarity and move forward. [sic]

OECTA's response is to ETFO President's Sam Hammond's message to his local presidents which was leaked earlier. It reads: 

It has come to my attention that OECTA is close to reaching a Provincial Discussion Table (PDT) deal with the government and the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association (OCSTA). An OECTA deal will potentially affect the welfare of all teachers in the province. Despite repeated requests, OECTA has not advised ETFO about the content of their ongoing discussions with the government and the OCSTA.
If the current information is accurate the potential OECTA PDT deal is not one that would be acceptable to ETFO. We have been advised from a number of sources that the OECTA PDT deal includes, but is not limited to, the following components:
The deal will address the government parameters only 10 days of sick leave at 100% salary, that do not accumulate from year to year. 124 additional days of sick leave at 66 and 2/3% salary. 2 unpaid PA Days in 2012-13. 4 unpaid PA Days in 2013-14. Extending the salary grid to 15 years. No salary increase in 2012-13 and 2013-14. Agreement that the grid will be restructured for 2014. We are uncertain re the status of retirement gratuities but few OECTA local collective agreements include gratuities so forfeiting them would not be as detrimental as it would be to ETFO members.
It appears that there will be limited opportunity to bargain local issues.
The details in this email are based on the information that is available at this time. We will provide you with additional information when it becomes available. OECTA has continually refused to disclose the issues they are negotiating with the government and OCSTA. The information provided here is from multiple sources that we believe to be credible.
We continue to be committed to maintaining the integrity of ETFO local collective agreements and to bargain collective agreements at the local level. This information may be shared with ETFO members. [sic]

Commentary: Let's be big boys and girls here. The above statements are hardly secret or confidential anymore. They have been sent out and distributed to tens of thousands of ETFO and OECTA members. Please do not get angry and claim that I am "spilling the beans". Readers have been visiting my site non-stop for the past 24 hours or so seeking information.

Please know: OECTA does not bargain in public nor make public statements about private talks as a part of it's "Quiet Diplomacy" approach to any negotiation talks. This is nothing new. It is how OECTA does business. So I don't see why that should now suddenly suggest we are hiding anything or trying to make secret deals despite what the flurry of accusations and innuendo suggest.

There hasn't been any indication until now, at our local executive level, or in my discussions with my various OECTA contacts, that there are any outstanding conflicts between the different teacher affiliates, who despite their different strategies, have all collectively refused the government's PDT offer, OECTA included. That is until now, with this. Please don't start pointing any fingers our way. Any about face in PDT strategy, especially at this most delicate of times, is not OECTA's style. We are always quite steadfast and true.

OECTA has categorically denied that there is any truth to the rumours, as summarized in OECTA TSU President Rene Jansen's statement to our members above. Indeed there has been nothing in recent weeks to suggest that we were anywhere near a deal with the PDT talks whatsoever.

As you know, rumours of an impending Ontario provincial summer election fly. Premier McGuinty could visit the Govenor General within the next two days. The writ could then well be dropped for a July 19 Ontario Provincial government, if we are to believe the unfolding news stories, as I write this blog.

If anything, the mere suggestion that the Liberals would consider an election gambit at this point in time is, one fears, a clear sign that their party strategists think they can go it alone without our teacher support. The Liberal government's PDT demands may appeal to a soft conservative vote that has always liked it when the Conservative Party have gone after us in a similar manner. They might support the Liberal's should they call a snap election. However the demands remain unacceptable to all the teacher affiliates, OECTA included. We will not fearfully change our position.

I seriously doubt that any of us could rally our OECTA members to support a Liberal election campaign now, even if a "secret deal" were suddenly reached. The trust, since this spring, just is not there.

Anything else? This is strictly my guess: Should a summer election be called watch for OECTA to only offer support to a Liberal riding that is in great danger of a Conservative win. The Conservatives, as per our "Who Speaks for Student's?" campaign are still clearly the least pro-education of the 3 main Ontario political parties. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of NDP support, perhaps even in an instance where it is so close that they could snatch a seat from the Liberal government. With exam time upon us and summer holidays approaching, this is all very speculative of course. It would seem unlikely to me that we could do much if anything to rally our members to any side, should we so wish, as we all head out the school door for summer vacation.

What a mess! There are a lot of big political gambles being made. An OECTA "secret deal" with the Ontario Liberals isn't one of them! Any such gamble especially at this point in time, if ever, is unsound at best, and can only muddy the all ready unclear state of Ontario education politics now, for the summer, and in the fall ahead. For shame to believe otherwise!

PS: Comments to this blog are being posted without prejudice as long as they contribute to the discussion by providing further information or clarification of a constructive nature. Thanks.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

More June PDT: A Commentary!

Our June PDT talks leave me especially bewildered and confused about the Liberal government's sudden and drastic change in relations with our teacher associations since this spring. We have experienced almost ten years cooperating together to rebuild the fine education system we have in Ontario today. I've worked closely with Education Minister Laurel Broten [MPP Etobicoke Lakeshore] at the local riding association level, since OECTA first supported her with teacher campaign workers and member donations, in her first successful 2003 provincial election win. TSU helped Laurel get all the Toronto teacher associations' endorsement, and then defeat long term Conservative incumbent Morley Kells. We were all so happy and hopeful both with Laurel and for our teachers, students and schools.

I've proudly served on Laurel's riding association since then. I continue to do so now. That's because I genuinely like Laurel a lot and have great respect for her after all the tough political battles we have been through together. I do not consider myself just a teacher on her riding association but also a member of the Liberal family in Etobicoke Lakeshore. It has been a common feeling among many teachers who have personally met or worked with Laurel since the defeat of Harris' Conservative government.

Many of Laurel's campaign supporters since 2003 have been from all our different Ontario teacher union affiliates. We have a lot of war stories in common from the good, to the bad and the ugly. Actually Laurel is one of the few people still around who remembers my own particular contributions to the good fight against the Tory's, and can even share a good laugh about some of it, as scary as the struggle was at the time. Indeed, Laurel has always proudly acknowledged our support, even as recently as at her New Year's Levee, when she noted that a third of her campaign volunteers in last fall's election were teachers.

So where does that leave us now with the June PDT talks? Well the outlook is not good at all. Will we soon find ourselves as teachers on the opposite side of the widening chasm? Are we about to plunge back into the deep, dark protest and strike days of the Harris years?

True,  OECTA Provincial PDT talks with the Ministry of Education continue. The talks are focusing more on the main issues now that the government has decided who will sit at the table for the 2014 rounds. [See my last post]. Our relations between the different teacher affiliates [OECTA, ETFO, OSSTF etc] remain amiable, with everybody still talking, even with the government, though OECTA alone is still at the PDT table. For now, it seems our job is to carry on with the negotiations there, exercising quiet diplomacy, as we exhaust every reasonable option possible to reach a "win/win" conclusion to the talks.

Meanwhile what's happening with the other affiliates?  ETFO [the Elementary Teachers Federation] has launched  a public media ad campaign on how good, highly trained and quite professional and caring teachers are necessary to make our education system work. Likewise OECTA will  be continuing soon with the next stage of our Speak for Children campaign. Our emphasis will be on:

-recognizing teacher professionalism [more on this in a future post!]
-more resources for meeting the student's individualized needs
-safe and healthy schools [Think Bill 168 and teacher safety and so on]
-school partnerships based upon respect [Think Respectful Workplace]
-classroom funding, rather than more money for an ever growing bureaucracy and school administration.

For more info please visit:

All the teacher affiliates continue to oppose the PDT demands for:

-the wage and grid freeze
-the sick day reductions
-re-opening our pension plan talks.

If a PDT deal isn't reached by August 31st we might face a number of very bad prospects. Our current contract will expire. The minority Liberal government could seek Conservative party support to legislate it's PDT offer into law, and strip our contracts accordingly. We could face lock outs to enforce compliance as early as this fall. As local contracts are negotiated the possibility of lock outs, work and strike disruptions could continue all across the province, just like during the dreadful 1990's.

Like with the "Days of Action" throughout the Harris years, we could see huge rallies, protests and marches on Queens Park. Our OLF [Ontario Labour Federation] public service and labour union allies will certainly be involved. We could begin work to rule sanctions, or end up on strike soon. Indeed as our veterans will recall over 5000,000 teachers walked out in a two week protest against the Harris government, with promised rotating labour solidarity strikes at the large car plants and even at the nuclear power stations powering our province's energy grid. It's a very dark scenario indeed!

Will widespread provincial labour unrest happen again starting this fall?  Let's face it. The clock is ticking. Our PDT prospects are running out. Who knows where all this will lead us come September? Will we have come full circle back back to the Harris years, this time battling a Liberal government, as it pushes the cuts through possibly with Conservative support? If so, how tragic and ironic!

You can rest assured for now that if there is to be a teacher strike or any work action this fall, your member approval is required first. When will our OECTA vote be? Consider this: ETFO as per the terms of it's constitution, is now holding a membership vote to approve a one day political protest if the government decides to further move the legislation through to second reading at Queen's Park. Remember, the legislature will be breaking for the summer holidays soon but could be recalled anytime before or after the August 31 PDT deadline for the talks, which are still at a deadlock as the summer holidays approach!

OSSTF [the Ontario Secondary School Teacher Federation] are preparing to hold their strike vote between August.29th to September 7th, the week before classes resume. OECTA has still not announced it's plans while we continue to talk at the PDT table. Please continue to read TSU President Jansen's excellent email updates and visit the official TSU website at for more news and details. You can also drop by my site here as it will stay active throughout the summer. Let's face it, the next school year could be extremely challenging from the get-go! You need to keep informed!

The bottom line seems to be that as the current school year ends so too is the strong, long term relationship between our teachers and the Liberal government. It's lasted almost 10 years and included all the Education Minister's from Gerard Kennedy, through Kathleen Wynne, and the others right up to Minister Broten. If you had told me that we could be in this predicament as recently as this winter I would've laughed in disbelief thinking it was totally impossible. And now? Most unfortunately, one can now only hope for the best.

I seriously doubt the majority of our members would support the Liberal's proposed cuts should we come to a work action and strike vote. Contrary to popular misconceptions about teacher unions, we can no more tell you what to think or do than we can fly in the air. You are smart, qualified professions who know how to think quite well for yourselves.

The scuttlebutt right now is that the pay and grid freeze is quite unpalatable, especially for our beginning teachers and those still on the grid. They stand to lose tens of thousands of dollars each. Likewise our more experienced teachers have made many past contract concessions in exchange for their accumulated sick days, just in case they were needed, perhaps for a personal or family emergency, a health problem or even a difficult, extended pregnancy leave.

Many of us will have to face the prospect of work refusals or go into sick and unhealthy school workplaces of which there is no shortage, especially during the flu season. You could quickly use up your 10 sick days, and then be out of pocket if you get sick and stay home. As for our pension, there's all ready a lot of anger over the evaluation process, and now the Liberal government wants to cut back it's contributions. The Drummond Report? We forwarded a very detailed critique and were willing to talk. These issues will all be very hard for our members to accept. Our province could possibly see teacher job actions coming as early as this September unless we can work out a solution very soon!

I  remain very guardedly optimistic as long as OECTA remains at the PDT talks. Please know that when OECTA walks, that means every reasonable effort for a "win/win" solution has been totally exhausted. OECTA is well known as both a very serious talker and a strong fight contender because in either case, we are never rash, fickle hearted or lacking in commitment. That has been our well established track record dating back to the Harris years!

OECTA still hasn't severed our relations with the Liberal government but it remains unfathomable how it's PDT offers could've ever been formulated without our sufficient input being sought in the first place. We have always enjoyed a very open, constructive and co-operative working relationship with "give and take" on both sides that has served our province well. We have always worked together to find creative solutions to our problems. Then along comes this, right out of the blue!

Past communications had always been excellent with Minister Broten. We worked together to set up Ontario's gold star all day kindergarten program when she was the Minister of Child and Youth Services. We have greatly respected her support on social justice issues, her leading role in the Ontario Woman's Directory, and of course her support for teachers. I, for the life of me, most regretfully cannot understand how our working relationship can now end like this.

OECTA TSU in particular has had long, frequent ongoing contact with Laurel. We offered her our support as one of our favourite Ontario MPP's. We helped get her endorsed by all of the teacher unions and then get elected in 2003, 2007 and 2011. We believed in her. Unfortunately now the possibility of our continuing support seems to be fast coming to an end.

Tell us it isn't so Laurel! Let's hammer out a win-win solution to this ill advised debacle and do it soon. Let's get back on track together building our great Ontario education system into the best in the world bar none, not one which is poisoned by toxic division and discord.

We have had ten years without a single education strike in our province under the Liberal government. We have built a great education system together. The stakes are far too high now for the Ministry to gamble on anything but preserving our previous excellent, co-operative and consultative working relationship.

We can only hope from the very bottom of our hearts that against all odds we can still somehow work out a solution. Madam Education Minister, please listen and consider very carefully everything OECTA still has to say at the table.

Our aim in year's past, as now, has always been true. Is yours still too? I for one don't see how it could end up being any other way! 

Thursday 7 June 2012

TAN: Teacher Appreciation Night 2012!

This Wednesday was our annual TSU TAN [Teacher Appreciation Night] at Fantasy Farm off Pottery Road in the Toronto Don Valley. Hidden from sight among the lush ravine vegetation,  and a world away from the busy expressway rush, it is always a pure delight. This year was no exception!

Over 200 of our teacher reps, committee members, retires and executive members past and present, along with the visiting OECTA dignitaries easily helped us fill the dinning hall. We enjoyed a tasty, hearty barbecue dinner of steak, chicken or salmon with all the fixings. Our members and guests enjoyed chatting outdoors on the splendid patio, while inside we mixed and mingled before and after dinner enjoying engaging conversation and our favourite drinks. All the retirees were given Hawaiian Lays to wear, a TSU retiree tradition. Over dessert we clapped and cheered as the awards were given out.

This year's Teacher of the Year was Kevin  Welbes Godin from BMT. Michele Blais from Cardinal Carter won the Teacher Rep award. Alan Kwok from St. Mary's was named Beginning Teacher of the Year. I presented an Award of Recognition for Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan. His strong union leadership and support for Catholic education is perhaps especially poignant this year, considering the many contract problems we face. Gerard Ardanaz won the Distinguished Service Reward for his four years of tireless service as our TSU 1st VP, and of course for all the other many union contributions he has made to help make OECTA TSU the powerhouse it is today.

Past OECTA President James Ryan and Grievance Officer Bruno Muzzi graced us from OECTA Provincial. Jane Moore from Don Bosco delivered a witty, touching speech on behalf of the retiring teachers. Sal Amente returned to play the accordion for us, as our wandering minstrel, visiting the dinner tables and anywhere else our members were gathered. Master of Ceremonies Theresa Oakley once again made sure we had a smooth running, well organized, fun ,and relaxed evening. [IMHO]: In my humble opinion it was one of our best TSU TAN nights yet!

TSU's tradition is to hold TAN each year to recognize and thank our many active and retiring members for their service to our teacher union and Catholic education. It was a very pleasant mix of young and older teachers without any of the partisanship or political infighting of years past. It was quite an  honour to see our strong leadership vanguard of TSU Presidents past and present lined up for a photo shoot; Don Schmidt, Seve Kirby, Kathleen Gardiner and Rene Jansen. 

Janet and I drove off afterwards into the night. As we headed back home along the freeway, I felt a strong sense of fulfilment in having worked again with so many great teachers this year. Also, I will admit, I daydreamed a bit about when I too can retire from the ultimately tiring school year grind, and move on to the next stage and many pursuits in my life after teaching at the TCDSB. And so, a special tip of the hat goes to the many, many teachers at TAN 2012 for all their great service and the untold number of students lives who they have touched and at the very least made a little bit better as a part of our teacher vocation! We are truly blessed for all your fine service as Catholic teachers!

PS: Photos will be posted from TAN in my slide show on the top left of your screen all week. There are quite a few to share!

My wife Janet and I at TSU TAN 2012.

PPS: I have seen the TSU Highlight's photos and the quality puts me to shame. Also they have all the retirees individual photos. It should hopefully be out by the end of June or early in the new school year, so in the meantime, I hope this will suffice.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Bill 13 + GSA's 2: What Was Said?

The following OECTA press release explains OECTA's support for the provincial government's recent Bill 13 GSA Amendment.  OECTA agreed to provide "a supportive statement given the importance of this matter to the well-being of our students". OECTA's talking points supporting that statement are added afterwards for your further consideration. Also see the legislation itself and Cardinal Collin's statement in my Bill 13 + GSA's 1 blogSome points to consider are provided at the end of this blog.

May 29, 2012: Catholic Teacher's Support Students Naming GSAs

TORONTO – The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) supports the amendment to Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, which would allow students to name a club a Gay Straight Alliances (GSA), if they choose. 

“For our Association, the bottom line is to always meet the needs of our students,” says Kevin O’Dwyer, OECTA president. “Providing safe, inclusive environments and eliminating bullying wherever we can is paramount. If the students feel that a club should be called a GSA – that it makes a difference to them – then, we respect and accept that choice.” 

GSAs are student clubs that provide an opportunity for students, regardless of their sexual orientation, to work together on fostering schools that are respectful and safe places for all students. The primary goal of GSA clubs is to undertake discussion and engage in activities that will make schools more welcoming places for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered (LGBT) students and prevent bullying. 

“Many adults have commented on what should be done in schools to help prevent discrimination and victimization of marginalized students,” says O’Dwyer. “The reality is, this isn’t about the adults – it is about the students and student relationships – and we need to empower the students who are a key part of this equation.”

Research has shown that:

• students who identify as LGBT are at higher risk of experiencing bullying and are three times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual students;

• not using the word ‘gay’ leads to further marginalization of students for whom the word speaks to the core of their identity;  

• in schools where GSAs exist, students have more favourable outcomes related to their school experience and the level of psychological distress they encounter and lower rates of suicide.

“As Catholic educators, we believe that EVERY student is worthy of respect, dignity and love, and we affirm the sanctity of all human life,” says O’Dwyer. “We cannot expect to address a problem if we cannot openly discuss that problem, regardless of how difficult that conversation may be.” 

OECTA represents the 43,000 professional women and men who teach all grades in publicly funded English Catholic schools in Ontario.

For more information, contact:
Michelle Despault, Director of Communications
416-925-2493 Ext. 509

The following message was sent on behalf of our OECTA President Kevin D'Wyer. It contains OECTA's main talking points for the association's support of the GSA Amendment. The key messaging is:

OECTA supports the amendment to Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act

For our Association, the bottom line is always meeting the needs of our students and providing safe, inclusive environments and stamping out bullying wherever we cannot about what name a club has.

These clubs are really about students supporting students in the fostering of respectful and safe school environments ­ and if the students want to call their club a gay-straight alliance then we respect and accept that choice.

If having a club called a GSA will help, in even the smallest way, to foster a culture of understanding, encourage respect, and prevent students from being isolated, marginalized or bullied then how could we not support that?

As Catholic educators we believe that EVERY student is worthy of respect, dignity and love and we have an obligation to ensure that our hallways, cafeterias and classrooms are physically and emotionally safe places for ALL students.

These clubs are not about us, the adults, they are about the students so it's not really about what we think these clubs should be called. What matters most is that these clubs, these safe spaces, do exist in our schools.

We know it is not good enough to tell a student that it will get better when they leave school ­ we need to do everything we can to make our schools physically and emotionally safe spaces for our students today.

In addition to the above OECTA legal counsel is examining the matter.

This matter will be addressed further during a special  session of the COP. 

OECTA [Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association]
65 St. Clair Avenue East, Suite 400
Toronto, ON  M4T 2Y8

Tel:  416-925-2493 
Fax: 416-925-6940

Points to consider:

OECTA seems to be stressing that much stronger measures are needed to make our gay students safe at school, than those Cardinal Collin's refers to in his statement [See Bill 13 + GSA's 1: What Was Said blog below]. Our teacher's association is clearly supporting the government's position rather than Cardinal Collins. The only point all three parties can seem to agree upon is that we all want what is best for our Gay students so they are safe from bullying at school. Unfortunately there isn't any similar agreement on the best methods for doing so.

Despite protests to the contrary, the provincial Conservatives actions in the Bill 13 debate at Queens Park, and indeed with their own alternative Bill 14, does not match the public rhetoric of Party Leader Tim Hudak and his MPP's. NDP support in the legislature would most likely see it passed anyway, despite the Liberal government's minority position, and the political posturing of the provincial Conservative party.

OECTA Lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo has pointed out that any teacher assisting with these clubs could face a legal challenge in court. They could possibly lose their teaching certificate if a complaint was lodged at the OTC [Ontario College of Teachers]. The complaints could just as likely come from proponents of either of the side of the GSA issue; for or against.

The Ontario College of Teachers is investigating how to set up a Equity AQ [Additional Qualification] course for teachers who wish to work with the GSA groups. It is far from finished and numerous Catholicity issues for our faith based schools will most likely arise.

The central flaw in the legislation, from a legal point of view, is that it is too vague. Ultimately then, we can assume GSA's in the Catholic Schools will become a Supreme Court of Canada Challenge. It would need to be proven that our denominational rights would be at risk if GSA's were to be allowed in Catholic schools. The separation of church and state would be one issue. Denominational verses human rights would be another. Our denominational rights would need to be clearly defined and then tested in a court of law. This is far from clear cut. Objectively speaking the outcome, either way, could be very uncertain.

The issue of public funding for our Catholic school system has gained much attention from those who would argue that the government is funding a discriminatory religious group, as a result of the current debate. The BNA [British National Act] of 1867 would protect our right to Catholic schools, but continued funding or how we fit within the Ontario school system is less certain. Until 1985 we did not have full secondary funding. During the Harris years the Catholic trustee association agreed to trade off our right to privately collect taxes for Catholic schools in exchange for a promise to extend our per student funding. Unless the Catholic schools decide to revert to being a private system we would not be able to continue as we now exist should funding be removed. Even Cardinal Collins has not been in favour of that happening. [See my blog list below]

In Newfoundland and Quebec Catholic school rights were removed in a public referendum. Would the majority of Ontarians, including Catholics, continue to support our publicly funded schools if the debate were to result in a referendum here in our province?

The Liberal government remains adamant that it will continue to support funding for the Catholic school system. In the past the provincial Conservatives have fared poorly with their plans for Charter Schools and multi faithed funding  for the other religious groups in Ontario. Will other religious groups rally to Cardinal Collins call to protect our faith based rights in Ontario when their own schools do not receive public funding like we currently do? What other political options might be proposed to resolve the Catholic school funding issue once and for all, one way or another, if it arises in our next provincial election, which could be anytime within the next 3 1/2 years?

Of course there are no easy answers, and in the meantime our gay student population need our help, which according to all concerned, is a situation we need to fix. Only one thing is certain: We are all faced with a rough ride ahead!

For more info on the GSA issues please see the following blogs in my archives below this column.

They are:

May 5: RAC Religious Affairs Update: includes my notes on OECTA Lawyer Pal Cavalluzzo's summary of the implications for Bill 13 at the OECTA Respecting Differences Equity Conference.

March 27: Bill 13 Accepting Schools: includes a link to a video explaining the arguments against Bill 13. There is also a link to info on the OECTA Respecting Differences Conference.

March 13: Windsor AGM: Rights and Sexual Identity: includes the other approved OECTA resolutions for Equity and Inclusivity, the arguments given both pro and con, and some discussion on the democratic process at our AGMs.

March : PDT, GSA, Inclusivity + Fee Excitement Ahead: includes info on how Equity Issues have played out at past OECTA AGMs.

January 9 Archbishop Tom Collins Appointed Cardinal: includes my own observations, discussions and experiences with the cardinal, whom I respect very much.

Oct 5 OECTA Diversity, + The 3 Party Platforms: includes an overview of the provincial party platforms and support for our separate schools.

I hope this helps! As Catholic teachers we need to keep very informed on this issue!

Monday 4 June 2012

Bill 13 + GSA's 1: What Was Said?

Below is the text of the new amendment to Bill 13 "Accepting Schools Act concerning GSA [gay student alliance] equity clubs in Ontario schools, including those in our publicly supported Catholic school system. Cardinal Collin's rely follows. My Youtube Videobar below the blog column also features a changing "at random" selection of news and views on the topic for your information. OECTA's reply will follow in Part 2 of this blog to be posted in the next few days.
The provincial government has released an amendment to Bill 13 that will provide students with the right to have a GSA in their school (or some other acceptably named group). The amendment reads as follows:
Section 9 of the Bill (subsections 303.1 (2) to (4) of the Education Act)I move that section 303.1 of the Education Act, as set out in section 9 of the Bill, be amended by adding the following subsections: gay-straight alliance       
(2)  For greater certainty, neither the board nor the principal shall refuse to allow a pupil to use the name gay-straight alliance or a similar name for an organization described in clause (1) (d).Inclusive and accepting name            
 (3)  The name of an activity or organization described in subsection (1) must be consistent with the promotion of a positive school climate that is inclusive and accepting of all pupils. 
(4)  A board shall comply with this section in a way that does not adversely affect any right of a pupil guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

Below is the complete statement from Cardinal Collins on the recent amendment to Bill 13 "The Accepting Schools"Act. As you have read, the amendment will require the establishment of a GSA [Gay Straight Alliance] Club if a student requests it to be set up and named accordingly. Cardinal Collin's statement is reprinted below from the Archdiocese of Toronto website:

Observations on a recent change in government policy re: proposed anti bullying legislation

         For some time now we have all been particularly concerned about making sure that our schools are safe and welcoming places for everyone. This concern has been reflected in new educational policies over the last several years, and most recently in proposed legislation such as Bill 13 and Bill 14.

          For the comments of the Ontario bishops concerning these bills, and the wider issue of bullying that has occasioned them, I refer you to our brief published on the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario website. 

        For the moment, I would simply like to comment on the recent change in government policy concerning one method of addressing one form of bullying, and of providing personal support for some students, namely Gay-Straight Alliances.

         All of those who care about Catholic education are committed to assuring that Catholic schools are formed by the principles of the Gospel, in which all people are treated with love and respect. As we Christians put it, not as some pious platitude but as a practical norm for life: Catholic Schools must be places where each person is received as Christ.

           This may not always happen in a Catholic school, for we are all sinners, but we earnestly try to live up to this standard. We have a rich array of spiritual resources, and methods developed out of our faith tradition, which not only fight bullying, but shape a school environment that is welcoming to all. Our schools also provide competent and compassionate personal support for individuals. We also consistently have sought, and continue to seek, to work together cooperatively with the Ministry of Education to assure that Catholic schools meet and exceed all government standards. 

         Bullies use many excuses to mistreat others - it is usually because someone stands out in some way. If any students are mistreated, because of whatever factor attracts the attention of the bully, then that is evil. Our concern is that all students be welcomed and loved, and that none be bullied. In Catholic schools we seek to attain that goal through methods that arise out of our Christian faith tradition, are shaped by it, and are in harmony with it.

      A "Gay-Straight Alliance" is a particular method of addressing one form of bullying, and providing personal support.  The GSA model was developed in the United States in the 1980's.  Because this model is so closely related to a movement with particular views concerning the human person and the issues of life, people who disagree with those views are understandably concerned that the model can serve as a means not only to address bullying, but to promote the views with which they disagree. Those who share those views will no doubt wish to use the GSA methodology. They are certainly free to do so.

        I question, however, why provincial legislation should make this particular method normative in a Catholic school, which has its own different but effective methods of attaining the goal of addressing bullying and providing personal support for all students, ones which, unlike GSAs, arise out of its own fundamental principles and are in harmony with them. If the point is that there is something unacceptable about those Catholic principles, then I find that troubling, and wonder whether caricatures of Catholic faith are in play. I recognize, of course, that even among Catholics the richness of our faith, and the reasons for its teachings, have not always been communicated effectively. This is even more true within the popular culture in which we live, the sea in which we all swim.

         GSAs are the only particular method or strategy mentioned by name in Bill 13. That is interesting. Now, with the recent change in policy, if any student insists on this particular method, then the trustees and principals who are responsible for the religious foundations of the school are compelled to agree.

          As pastor of a large diocese, on the road constantly visiting the people, I have again and again heard concern from parents and educators about the proposed imposition of the GSA methodology on Catholic schools. That same concern has been expressed to me by people of other faiths, since parents often choose to send a child to a Catholic High School precisely because they expect a particular approach to life which is largely in harmony with their family and faith convictions.

         Names of organizations carry with them a distinct content: if someone asks you to join the Liberal, Conservative or New Democratic Party, you rightly expect something different from each. These groups each have their own traditions, their own shape. So the key issue is not just the name itself, but the content connected with the name, with the "brand". Is it something that you want, or something that is in harmony with your basic principles? If it is, then fine; but it should not be imposed on a community.

Some questions come to mind:

1. Why is a piece of provincial legislation being used to micromanage the naming of student

2. Why are Catholics not free to design their own methods to fight bullying, and provide personal support to students, as long as they attain the common goal of a welcoming and supportive school? Why must they instead be compelled to accept a particular method that comes from a different approach to the great issues of life?

3. The leadership of students is crucial in the fight against bullying, and in making their school a place of love and respect for all. In fact, the most effective way to stop bullying may well be the example of fellow students. Students work together with the adult leadership of the school to promote the good of all.  But trustees and principals are legitimate stewards of the spiritual tradition of the school, and in a Catholic school, that includes the Catholic faith tradition. Why should the power of provincial law be used to override that legitimate adult authority so that this one particular method can be imposed by any student who wants to do so?
4. With the principle established that the legitimate local authority is nullified in this case, then is any student free to introduce any program, any club, or any advocacy group relating to any issue? Over a year ago, I heard the principle behind this new policy expressed this way: "if a student wants it, he or she has got it." That may sound attractive, but it is a very shallow and distorted view of student leadership. Trustees and principals are legitimate adult stewards of the common good of the school community at the local level, and it is not helpful when Queen's Park moves in to remove that responsibility.

5. Apart from whatever one thinks of the idea of GSA's, in any particular school is a GSA the most effective method to help students being targeted by bullies? Who makes that decision in a local school? Is it those adults who are entrusted with responsibility for the local school community and all of its members? The new policy says that they do not. Is that wise?

      To the members of our Catholic community: I urge you to reflect on the implications for Catholic education of this sudden government change in policy, and of the extraordinary privileging of one particular way of dealing with bullying and personal support. Catholic educators should be free to make sure that Catholic schools are loving learning environments in which every person is treated with love and respect, and to do so in a way that arises out of our faith tradition and is in harmony with it. We need to consider the path ahead.

      To our friends and neighbours of other faiths, or of no faith, including those who disagree with any or all of the beliefs of the Catholic Church, and those who personally support the beliefs that form the context for GSAs: please consider the implications for all when legislation is enacted that overrides the deeply held beliefs of any faith community in our province, and intrudes on its freedom to act in a way that is in accord with its principles of conscience. If it happens to us, it can happen to you, on this and other issues. When religious freedom becomes a second class right, you also will eventually be affected.

     There is no reason for this controversy. We all want schools that are loving and welcoming places for everyone. We simply ask that diversity be respected in our society, and that we be able to attain the common goal of welcoming schools, and of personal support for students, using methods that are in harmony with the faith we cherish.        
Thomas Cardinal Collins
Archbishop of Toronto
President, Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario
Bill 13: Bad luck for Ontario's Catholic schools? More to come.....

Friday 1 June 2012

PDT Update + Some Notes

The latest PDT update from OECTA Provincial is posted below, along with some of my own notes towards the end of my blog. These are of a general nature and any TSU member questions should be forwarded to our Collective Bargaining Team at the email address given. The update from OECTA President Kevin O'Dwyer reads:

On May 22nd and 23rd negotiations resumed between OECTA, the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association and the Government. At the onset of the meeting the government presented to the parties amendments to their original parameters, which included:

1. An increase in sick days from 6 to 10 days per year at 100%;

2. A new parameter dealing with provincial benefit plan organization through bargaining agents; and

3. A new parameter dealing with provincial bargaining.

Although these amendments do not address the many concerns that OECTA has with the government parameters, they are the first sign that the government is willing to negotiate with OECTA. Your Association will continue to work on your behalf to attempt to find solutions with the government that also addresses the concerns of you, our members.

Further talks are scheduled for May 28 and 29.


The following outlines the parameters, which serve as the basis for the 2012 - 2014 PDT agreements.

Parameter: Term of the Agreements 

Term of 2 years [Sept. 12, 2012 to Aug.31, 2014].

Parameter: Salary Increases

0% salary increases for 2 years (Sept 1, 2012 to Aug 31, 2014).

Parameter: Retirement Gratuities and Sick Leave

Replace retirement gratuities with a short-term sick plan, as follows:

Freeze banked sick days accumulated as of August 31, 2012 and with future gratuity payout, upon retirement, at the employee’s salary rate in effect as of August 31, 2012.

Effective September 1, 2012 introduce a short-term sick leave plan which each year, and not carried forward from year-to-year, offers 10 sick days paid at 100% salary and 24 weeks at 66.66% salary.

Effective September 1, 2012, eliminate all accumulated non-vested sick days.

Parameter: Pensions

The government believes that filing a valuation of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) in 2012 is in the best interests of all partners. The government is seeking to resume negotiations with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation to secure the future viability and solvency of the OTPP for future generations. Government representatives in these negotiations will take the view that the viability and solvency of the OTPP must be secured without increases in government contributions and without negatively affecting the government’s fiscal plan.

Parameter: Salary Grids

Review school board employee salary grids with stakeholders during the term of the 2012 to 2014 PDT agreements including, but not limited to, how employees move on the experience and qualification salary grid (where applicable) and the variation currently in the monetary value of each grid step, with a view to future sustainability.

Current teachers and other school board staff whose salary is determined based on their placement on a salary grid and who are not at the maximum(s) of their experience on the salary grid will have their salary frozen as of August 31, 2012 for two years with no future adjustments to recognize those missed grid steps.

Current teachers and other school board staff whose salary is determined based on their placement on a salary grid and who are not at the maximum of qualifications on the salary grid will have their salary frozen as of August 31, 2012 for two years with no future adjustments to recognize missed movement across the grid. At the beginning of the next PDT agreements, placement on and future movement by qualification across the salary grid will be based on the new salary grid in effect as of August 31, 2014 and will not be retroactive.

Parameter: Province Wide Collective Bargaining

Ontario's 2012 Budget proposed to move forward with a more centralized approach to collective bargaining in the Broader Public Sector. In keeping with the 2012 Budget, the government will begin consultations in the fall of 2012 with the teachers' federations, support staff unions, school board trustee associations and school boards to develop the appropriate legislative and regulatory framework for provincial bargaining that would, if approved by the legislature, take effect by January 1, 2014.

Parameter: Benefit Plans

The government proposes to establish a committee composed of teachers' federations, support staff unions, school board trustee associations, school boards and the government (Ministries of Education and Finance) to fully investigate the creation of one or more "provincial" benefits plan(s) for the education sector, with a view to consolidation and consistency of approach. The Committee would complete its work by January 1, 2014 for consideration during collective agreement discussions in 2014, with solutions that ensure the fiscal sustainability of benefits plans for employees, employers, and taxpayers into the medium and long-term.

In solidarity,
Kevin O’Dwyer


Some Notes of my own on the Ammendments:

The provincial government amendments are the first sign of movement in some time. Remember: ETFO, OSSTF and the french teacher's associations have walked. OECTA is the only teacher association still at the PDT table. While OECTA notes they do not meet our concerns, it shows a willingness of sorts to negotiate. It looks like OECTA will stay at the PDT table for the time being, but for how much longer would seem debatable.

The province is willing to grandfather our maximum number of sick days up to the maximum gratuity amount at their current monetary value. Not much new here, though with each year they are worth less. It is willing to raise the number of paid sick days up to 10 from 6, which will be paid at 100%, with 24 more weeks at 66%. Remember, we currently have 20 days. We are able to save or use any accumulated days in our sick day bank for an emergency. The amendment isn't any major concession worth applauding.

You will still lose any accumulated sick days above the maximum allowed amount you can cash in for your retirement gratuity after August 31st.  Also consider; the sick day bank and gratuity were negotiated with trade offs in past collective bargaining contract agreements. Can the government now just legally remove them from us? Hello Supreme court!

The 2 year 0% salary and grid freeze remains in place. Our teachers will not regain the salary or grid levels lost over the 2 years. In 2014 you will continue on a new grid from where you left off using the revised rates to be set by then. Our new and beginning teachers with less than 10 years experience will still each be beat for tens of thousands of dollars to help pay off the provincial debt!!!! No change here. General Motors must be pleased.

The province is only one partner on the pension board. All the partners agreed to do an evaluation last year, so another is not due until 2013. A majority of the partners would need to agree to reopen it again. Could the government succeed? How? Also confusing; when the province says they don't want to increase their contributions are they talking about a percentage or dollar price freeze? Big difference! S
cary stuff. Maybe that's the aim?

A provincial benefit plan for the education sector could give us a lot of clout in negotiating a collective group package at the best possible rate. Look for the big drug and benefit insurance companies to scream murder! The consultation process will take 2 years with a plan expected to be in place for the next collective agreement talks in 2014. It's an interesting proposal but we definitely need to know a lot more, but won't for another 2 years!!! Consider this; who will be in charge of the plan?

The PDT is now being expanded to include the school boards, other public service unions, and trustee associations at the table. It will sit down this fall to come up with a new province wide collective bargaining model by Jan.1, 2014. The agreement will need to be in approved by the legislature. One can't see any of our teacher federations being too happy with this amendment, especially considering most have left the table. My best guess would be  that the government is looking at playing a lot more hard ball  and eyeing an end run, not only with this contract but also in 2014. A power play?

Our teacher associations were hit hard by the provincial  NDP government in the early 1990's. The Conservatives were out for blood in the late 1990's. The Liberal government alone has worked co-operatively with us until now. Since 2003 they enjoyed our great support and collective good will. In a few short months that's been destroyed. It's a strategic gamble in the current minority government situation, which regardless of whether it works for them or not has created a toxic educational environment here in Ontario that will be hard if not impossible to fix. As teachers we no longer have any party we can trust. A great age of educational respect and co-operation in our province now definitely seems irreconcilably over. That is the greatest tragedy of all.

Two important Issues:

1] How long will OECTA remain alone at the PDT?

2] How are the other teacher associations going to react?

It would take a crystal ball to figure the answers out, but TSU members can direct any other questions they have to our Collective Bargaining Committee. Email them at:  

For timely and accurate CB and other news also  join the TSU News List:  

Communist Girls ARE More Fun!

Communist Girls ARE More Fun!
See below ...

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?
A careful analytical study!

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Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!

Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!
The Temple of Kukulkan!

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