A National Teacher Advocacy Movement to Build on Strength at the Grassroots

By Bob McGahey
June 13, 2014
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

The  famous quote from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities describes a time when both England and France were undergoing turmoil created, in large part, by a poor economy and an aristocracy that cared little for those less fortunate. The result in France was a revolution at home and in England, a revolution in the colonies. There are many similarities between the circumstances leading up to these revolutions and today. Neo-liberal ideologies have widened the income gap and cut public services replacing them with pay-per-use services limited to those with sufficient resources.

While this could be the worst of times, it may also be the best of times as there is an unprecedented unity building among progressive thinking organizations and citizens to reclaim the nation that once made us so proud. CTF is a part of this movement and is working diligently to represent teacher interests on a number of national issues.

With the assistance of the Broadbent Institute, the CTF will be hosting a two-day “Camp” for teacher advocates as part of its national advocacy campaign: VOX. By focusing on positive messages and actions, we will encourage the disenfranchised electorate to exercise their franchise. The CTF VOX campaign aims at heightening the teacher voice to the federal political discourse.

With partners in the labour movement, CTF addresses issues that affect all working Canadians, including access to Employment Insurance benefits and fair treatment in the workplace. The federal Conservatives have indicated that they’re not interested in spending any of the projected $3.6 billion surplus to help Canadians who cannot find stable work. While funds were contributed by workers and employers, they will likely be used to balance the federal budget in order to create a “good news” story ahead of the next election. CTF advocates for these funds to be used as intended – to help Canadians in dire financial situations who cannot find stable work. Every teacher knows the effect that an unstable family environment can have on the students in her/his classroom. Many studies arising from Statistics Canada National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth data have repeatedly shown that the socioeconomic factors have a substantial and persistent influence over student achievement.

In partnership with Keep the Promise and Campaign 2000 and through its Imagineaction program, CTF continues to be a strong advocate for the elimination of child poverty. Despite the commitment made by all federal political parties to eliminate poverty by the year 2000, almost one million children are living in poverty in Canada today, while the government continues to cut taxes and services.

The creation of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ (CCPA) Alternate Federal Budget is another joint project involving CTF and other labour and progressive organizations. This document provides alternatives to the economic theories being used by many current governments across the country. Hollowing out the middle class and providing tax incentives to business does not improve the economy or create jobs. A healthy middle class creates a need for goods and services and the associated need for jobs. Alongside our provincial and territorial Member organizations, CTF continues to lobby for changes that promote a more progressive economic view.

CTF also works with groups such as the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, MediaSmarts and PREVNet on issues related to creating safe and nurturing environments in the classroom. In concert with these partners, CTF helps to create educational resources – for example, an anti-stigma resource for teachers and an on-line repository of Canadian human rights resources linked to provincial and territorial curricula.

Advocacy at CTF is founded on creating opportunities for dialogue and open communication. Unfortunately, the current federal government and other like-minded provincial governments do not appear to be interested in consultation. The use of ideology rather than evidence to make decisions is witnessed not only in Ottawa, but in recent education policies in Alberta, teacher regulation in British Columbia and hard-line collective bargaining in Newfoundland and Labrador, to name a few.

CTF strives to effectively express the views of teachers and advocate on issues of importance to educators. The citizenry of Canada is manifesting a growing frustration with the current political environment. Although it is unlikely that Canada will see a revolution like the one in France in 1789, our revolution can take place at the ballot box. It is through our vote that we exercise our ultimate right to have our voices heard. Government is no place for aristocracy. Politicians must know that by ignoring the voice of its citizens, they will lose the opportunity and privilege of governing.

Bob McGahey is Acting Director of CTF’s Research and Information.

Canadian Teachers’ Federation
2490 Don Reid Drive
Ottawa, ON K1H 1E1
Tel: 613-232-1505
Fax: 613-232-1886
Toll Free: 1-866-283-1505

Perspectives web magazine is published by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF), a national alliance of provincial and territorial teacher organizations that represent over 273,000 elementary and secondary school teachers across Canada.

Editor In Chief: Francine Filion | Translation and Editing: Marie‑Caroline Uhel and Marie‑Hélène Larrue
Proofreading: Denise Léger
Graphic Design: Nathalie Hardy and Jean-Louis Lauriol | Web Design: Greg Edwards

Requests for permission to reproduce any part of this publication for academic, professional, or commercial purposes should be sent to [email protected]. Articles and advertisements do not necessarily reflect the views of the CTF.

Comments: [email protected]