Hamilton kindergarten teacher says 'government gave us no choice'

Public elementary school teachers in Hamilton are staging a one-day strike on Monday in protest of the provincial Bill 115. CBC Hamilton will report live from strike locations.

'Charter rights aren't just for times of economic prosperity'

Heather Adeney teaches kindergarten at Dr. J. E. Davey in Hamilton and she has a message for parents and the children who are off school today because of a public elementary school teachers' strike in Hamilton Monday.

"We don't want to inconvenience them but the government is leaving us few options," she said. "Charter rights aren't just for times of economic prosperity. The government has backed us into a corner and not given us a lot of options."

"We would very like to see the bill repealed. It violates our charter rights. It has to be repealed," she added. 

Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten responded on Monday. She said "it was a very difficult decision to make but we do have to recognize that the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario is in a legal strike position," she said. "It was very disappointing for them to choose to put the students in the middle of a dispute with the government."

The Hamilton teachers' actions are part of rotating one-day strikes that are occurring across the province. Educators in the Niagara, Hastings-Prince Edward and Lakehead regions, among others, have already staged one-day strikes, while nearly half of the province's elementary teachers, including those working in the Toronto District School Board, are set to walk out on Tuesday.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario has said teachers are not striking over pay, but rather in protest of Bill 115, which gives the provincial government the power to stop strikes and impose new contracts on staff.

Premier Dalton McGuinty has defended the legislation, arguing that, with Ontario facing a $14.4-billion deficit, the province can't afford pay hikes for teachers.

Rian McLaughlin, president of Hamilton's ETFO occasional teacher local, told CBC Hamilton on Friday that teachers will be picketing at "about 20 sites" throughout the city, including "schools that are most visible" and MPP Ted McMeekin's office.

'Sandy Hook Elementary is in our thoughts'

The school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. was on the minds of the many picketers. Teachers marching at several Hamilton schools held moments of silence for the victims of the massacre.

On Friday, a gunman forced his way in to U.S. school and killed 20 children and six adults.

One teacher marching at Dalewood Middle School in west Hamilton said she wished the Hamilton walkout had been scheduled for another day so she could talk with her students about the tragedy.

Another carried a sign that read "Sandy Hook Elementary is in our thoughts."

Stay tuned to this page to follow CBC Hamilton's live coverage of Monday's strike.