Letters to the Editor: June 24

Teacher's Dispute and the Public Sector; National Aboriginal Day

Public sector

Re: Neil Matheson’s letter June 17:

Neil Matheson has repeated his strong sense of resentment toward the BCTF during the recent contract dispute.

My view is that the BCTF is a valid collective voice of individual teachers. When teachers train as professionals, they set out to make life better for kids, not to be political activists and it takes a lot to move them to action. But if you listen to the real daily experience of even a few teachers, you quickly realize the devastating effects of the cuts and erosion of education services and funding throughout the 12-year term of this Liberal government. All teachers are able to articulate the real impacts on kids when there are too few counsellors, librarians, and special education teachers, when increased inflation costs for basic needs go unfunded, when custodial services are cut, building improvements denied and resources not available.

Teachers have been pushed to take action because of the continuing refusal of Christy Clark’s government to adequately fund public education. When teachers find it impossible to provide the level of service that they were committed to providing when they entered the profession, they are driven to speak out. When teachers see government spend more money on a stadium roof than special education, they feel obligated to stand up and speak out about class size and composition. Teachers know that children with special learning challenges deserve to be integrated into classes with their peers, but they should not be tossed into overcrowded classrooms where no students get the attention and personal support they need to thrive.

Far from being “reactionary”, for twelve years, teachers, through the BCTF, have been the only progressive voice advocating for adequate funding on behalf of kids. It’s a shame that so many have been silent about the brutal cuts which for 12 years have jeopardized the future of many thousands of kids and caused far more damage than a couple of weeks of strike action.

It’s interesting that Mr. Matheson on the one hand rages against the BCTF for advocating a fair salary increase that would move them toward equity with teachers in other provinces. Is he really advocating that we should have the lowest paid teachers in Canada? At the same time he calls on the government to be more “ruthless.” I’d advise him to join a union and advocate for increased equitable prosperity for all. He too could then make contributions, as public servants do, to his own fair and reasonable pension plan that allows for a manageable retirement. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had that?

I believe it’s time for the government to come to the table with a reasonable offer that helps to restore better conditions for students and their teachers. There’s no better investment opportunity than the education of our children.

Dean Chatterson/Cranbrook

Public sector

Another June 21, another National Aboriginal Day in Canada. My union, the University of Regina Faculty Association (URFA), sent a note to all members reminding us that June 21 “is a time to celebrate the cultures and contributions of our First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples”. I’m proud of URFA for a lot of reasons, not the least for its sound political analysis. URFA also reminded us: “While June 21 is set aside for celebration, it is also a day to remember that governments continue to neglect the deplorable conditions faced by First Peoples and have failed to provide basic necessities such as safe water, health care and economic sustainability.” No kidding. Canada has just been reprimanded by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples for its awful disparities between the quality of life for non-Indigenous and Indigeous people.

So here in Ktunaxa territory, what did our city government do to recognize National Aboriginal Day, to work on reconciling settler and Indigenous relationships, to educate people about our long and challenging history and our positive options for the future? Nothing. Nada. Except for celebrating Sam Steele Days, including hosting a party of ersatz “scouts” riding in from Alberta. That is, celebrating the mythology of the dominant population and utterly ignoring Ktunaxa – all on National Aboriginal Day. This, despite the large population of Ktunaxa and some Metis living and paying taxes in Cranbrook. The whole message is that Indigenous people just don’t count.

Next year, let’s do something more positive, more thoughtful, and way more appropriately organized to take note of National Aboriginal Day.

Joyce Green/Cranbrook