B.C. teachers' strike: Tensions flare at Vancouver rally
Group of parents from Richmond crash pro-teachers rally with anti-union slogans
A brief melee broke out at a parent, teacher and student pro-teachers rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery Sunday when it was crashed by a group of parents from Richmond wielding anti-union signs.
The rally, one of three that was planned for the day, was organized on Facebook and described as a grassroots, parent-driven rally, although it easily attracted as many teachers and labour leaders as it did parents.
Part way through it, a small group of parents from Richmond calling themselves the BC Parents' Federation crashed the party to deliver an opposing point of view.
"We love teachers, but not the BCTF," read one of the signs. "Don't use kids as pawns," read another. "Respect taxpayers. End the strike," read a third.
As the group tried to push its way forward, it was met with resistance from the crowd.
"I'm a taxpayer. I'm a teacher. And you want me to give up on your kids? Unbelievable!" said one teacher. "We need help. We don't need someone to fight with."
The conversation degenerated for a few minutes into a pushing, shoving and swearing match, but Vancouver police officers on bicycles managed to keep things calm.
BC Parents' Federation spokesman Tom Tang said his group had just registered as a "legal organization."
"We're here to support our children and our teachers, but we are against the BCTF, which doesn't show any faith in the negotiations," he said."So far our children cannot go back to school two weeks after the regular school days."
Tang said his group held their own rally last week, but wanted to come to Vancouver to show people who they were.
Large show of support for teachers
Despite the brief interruption the rally went on with parents and teachers demanding the government accept the teachers' offer of binding arbitration and end the strike.
Nearly a thousand parents, teachers and children turned out in a huge show of support.
James Boothroyd with Protect Public Education told the crowd the current state of affairs in education was something that made him, "really, really angry."
"[My children] have spent their entire school careers in a system that is steadily being eroded through under funding," he said. "It means my daughter has had to spend a year in a dreary portable with very bad air quality. [It means] the main building of the school being a disaster waiting to happen as the government has delayed fortification against earthquakes."
Calls to settle the strike through binding arbitration were met with cheers.
Rallies were also held Sunday at Canada Place and Surrey's Holland Park.
The District Parent Advisory Committee in Surrey is recommending parents contact the parties in the dispute directly, including MLAs, the premier, relevant ministers and the B.C. Teachers' Federation.
Bargaining quietly resumed in Richmond this weekend under veteran mediator Vince Ready. A media blackout has been imposed and neither side is commenting on the state of the talks.
Teachers have already voted to end the strike if the government will agree to binding arbitration — a proposal the province initially rejected out-of-hand.
There have also been veiled threats of a legislated end to the strike. B.C. Premier Christy Clark said earlier this week she is determined to get a conclusion to the strike before she leaves Oct. 9 on a trade mission to India.
With files from the CBC's Meera Bains