Parents rally for teachers, urge province to meet their demands

As Ottawa parents await news of further strike action by the province's elementary teachers, some are vowing to stand strong behind the unions.

About 50 people marched in solidarity with teachers' unions Sunday

A few dozen Ottawa parents marched in support of the province's teachers Sunday, starting in Confederation Park and making their way through the downtown. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

As Ottawa parents await news of further strike action by the province's elementary teachers, some are vowing to stand strong behind the unions.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (EFTO) has said that details of their latest phase of job action — set to begin March 23 — would be announced Monday.

Even with the potential for further walkouts looming, however, dozens of parents marched through Ottawa's downtown Sunday to show their support.

"We'd like the government to hear our message, which is that parents are on the side of teachers," said Claudia Ratchjen, a parent and organizer of the weekend protest.

"We'd like them to meet their demands. We think if teachers are happy, kids will be happy."

A parent holds a sign in support of teachers during Sunday's march. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

Class size makes 'a real difference'

Last week, the Ontario government said it would backtrack on high school class size increases, offering an average class size of 23 students — just one more than last year's levels— instead of the 28 it originally proposed.

The province also cancelled a plan for mandatory online learning.

However, it refused to budge on wage or benefit hikes or a class-size increase for elementary schools.

Marie-Lynne Sauvé said that while her family has had to scramble on some of the strike days, it's worth it if her daughter's class size comes down.

Last year, there were 21 students in her daughter's class, Sauvé said — and now it's up to 27. 

Marie-Lynne Sauvé and her daughter Jena Messier, who's in Grade 5, both believe class sizes in Ontario are too large. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

"It makes me feel like the priorities aren't in the right place," she said.

"It makes a real difference when my daughter's in class and she has a calm class. She comes home and she's calmer, and she's able to focus on her learning."

Jana Messier, Sauvé's daughter, is in Grade 5. She said the current size of her class means she can't concentrate.

"Just a small amount of children makes a big difference, so I think they should take down the number of people in our class," she said. "And they should pay [our teachers] better."

Not just parents concerned

Paul Turcot has had to help care for his grandchildren during the strikes, and while he's happy to do it, he wants to see their school year go back to normal.

"This [job action] has been going on for a long time, and what the unions are asking for sounds to me as quite reasonable. And I'm not sure the government is negotiating in good faith," he said. 

"I mean, they are releasing stuff in the public, but they seem not to be meeting with the union leadership. So that doesn't seem to me as a good way to proceed."

Grandparents Paul Turcot and Denise Beaulieu say they're concerned for the future of education in Ontario. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

While ETFO is set to announce the latest phase of its job action, other unions have already signalled they're backing away from rotating strikes for the time being.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) said last week it would be pausing walkouts to minimize the disruption to students during March break, instead expanding its work-to-rule campaign.

The Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), which represents thousands of French-language teachers, has decided to hold off striking until March 27.

The Ontario Catholic Teachers' Association last held job action on March 5. 


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