As of today, all extracurricular activities have ceased in high schools across Ontario as teachers begin a new wave of retaliatory action against the Ontario government’s “Putting Students First Act”. The bill, which freezes teacher wage increases, also allows the government to cut teachers’ sick days and block strikes. Up until now, student activities have suffered little, with service withdrawals directed at school administration. However, the new work-to-rule has pulled students into the fight between the province and the union. As such, today’s student council meeting, which ran through support from the administration, addressed the pressing issue of teacher job action and its impact on students.
President Soheil Koushan and vice president Yanxiu Wu proposed a bill to address on the ongoing conflict over Bill 115. It defined an official stance on the issue and presented a student action plan. Student activity council declared that Garneau’s student body would not take sides in the ongoing conflict and advocate solely for students’ rights.
The three-part student action plan aims to inform Garneau students, to voice student opinions, and to amplify the student voice. SAC believes that students must first be well-informed about the issues before they act. SAC resolved to communicate information to Garneau’s student body through e-mail, social media, and through The Reckoner.
SAC also planned to provide students with the opportunity to express their opinions on Bill 115. This provision includes student rallies like those organized today at Earl Haig Secondary School and Don Mills Collegiate Institute. SAC clearly differentiated between a civilized, purposeful rally and an irrational protest. It will focus on the first part of the action plan to allow for orderly student demonstrations. “Student council is going to make sure you all have outlets to have your voices heard,” said Soheil. “We will make sure you are always well informed.”
SAC further moved to amplify the student voice. SAC agreed to extend student opinions beyond immediate administrators to other schools and trustees. “Primarily, we’ll have a page of people you could contact, such as student and school board trustees, as well as MPPs,” said Soheil. “We will endorse a petition, and make sure that it’s available to students.”
Students have been drawn into the battle between teachers and the provincial government, and they must deal with the repercussions. All across the province teachers are taking a stand for their rights—starting now, students will do the same. Stay tuned for more information on Garneau’s student action plan and what you can do to get back the extracurriculars and learning environment you all deserve.