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BC teachers union votes in favour of full-scale walkout

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British Columbia’s teachers’ union has voted 86 per cent in favour of a strike, although its president said a decision has not yet been made to move towards a full-scale walkout.

In releasing the results late Tuesday night, Jim Iker said his members still want a deal with the government by the end of June, or sooner if possible, and he asked families to contact their elected officials to demand change from the government.

The union said 33,387 teachers cast ballots Monday and Tuesday, and 28,809 voted in favour of escalating job action.

The union is now obligated to give three days’ notice before teachers walk off the job, meaning a notice issued early Wednesday could result in a strike beginning Monday.

“Even if we make the decision to escalate, we will provide three days’ working notice,” said Iker, adding that in the meantime, rotating strikes will continue across the province.

“That means there are several days left before any moving to the next stage. That gives both sides a small and important window to reassess their proposals, to reach a settlement, avoid a possible full-scale strike and end the government’s lockout.”

Iker said the union’s leaders will now look at timelines and discuss the issue before making a decision on the next steps.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said in a statement the results of the vote are not unexpected.

“While the BCTF leadership received the mandate they sought, no one should interpret this as any kind of enthusiasm on the part of teachers to shut down schools,” he said.

“I know teachers would prefer to be in their classrooms and I know that students and parents would rather finish this school year on a positive note. It is now up to the BCTF leadership to decide if they are going to move to a full walkout.”

Earlier in the day, Premier Christy Clark said it wasn’t yet impossible to reach a settlement.

“It’s well within the realm,” she said hours before the vote tally was revealed. “If there’s a will, there’s a way. And there’s certainly a will on my part and on the government’s part.”

At the same time, teachers in Vancouver were holding a rally outside the offices of the government’s bargaining agent, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association.

They said public education has eroded over a decade under the Liberal government.

“This is hugely frustrating and deeply troubling for teachers that we have to do this and take this stand which impacts our students and parents,” said Gerry Kent, president of the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association.

But “short-term pain” was necessary to protect the quality of education, he said.

Some teachers were already asking how they could get financial help as they prepared to go for an extended period without pay, Kent said. In the event of a walkout, the association expects requests for assistance to rise, he said.

“Is it going to be a hardship on teachers? Absolutely.”

A rally was also held in Victoria earlier Tuesday.

The government has applied for a Labour Relations Board hearing to get permission to compel teachers to mark critical exams for senior secondary school students. No date has been set.

Teachers and the government have engaged in tit-for-tat tactics during the dispute that has increased stress for students and families as the school year wanes.

The teachers’ contract expired in June 2013. In early March, after more than 40 bargaining sessions, the union called a vote to initiate the first round of job action.

In late April, teachers halted a limited number of duties. By late May, they began rotating strikes that shut down schools in every district for one day a week.

A third week of similar action began this week as teachers cast their ballots on Monday and Tuesday, amplifying the labour unrest.

The government responded to the rotating strikes by partially locking out teachers and docking pay by 10 per cent. It also plans to initiate a full lockout for all secondary school teachers on June 25 and 26, with all teachers fully locked out on June 27.

The province announced Tuesday that the lockout for summer school would be lifted. It will be the teachers’ decision whether they return to the classroom.

Teachers have lost wages while walking the picket lines and are getting $50 strike pay per day from the union. The union has said there won’t be any money left at the end of the week.

The government has saved $12 million each week in teacher salaries during the job action, plus nearly $5 million more by chopping wages.

The province expects to save an additional $82.5 million each week in the event of a full-blown strike — possibly closing schools two weeks before the official summer break.

During the last round of contract negotiations in 2012, teachers walked off the job for three days. They held an illegal 10-day strike in October 2005 before conceding that their efforts wouldn’t get them a deal.

ROTATING STRIKES FOR WEEK OF JUNE 9-13

Tuesday, June 10

61—Greater Victoria

Wednesday, June 11

06—Rocky Mountain

10—Arrow Lakes

22—Vernon

38—Richmond

39—Vancouver

40—New Westminster

41—Burnaby

44—North Vancouver

45—West Vancouver

46—Sunshine Coast

48—Sea to Sky

50—Haida Gwaii

52—Prince Rupert

54—Bulkley Valley

58—Nicola Similkameen

62—Sooke

64—Gulf Islands

67—Okanagan Skaha

68—Nanaimo

78—Fraser-Cascade

79—Cowichan Valley

92—Nisga’a

Thursday, June 12

05—Southeast Kootenay

20—Kootenay Columbia

23—Central Okanagan

27—Cariboo-Chilcotin

28—Quesnel

37—Delta

42—Maple Ridge

59—Peace River South

69—Qualicum

70—Alberni

72—Campbell River

74—Gold Trail

75—Mission

82—Coast Mountains

83—North Okanagan-Shuswap

84—Vancouver Island West

87—Stikine

91—Nechako Lakes

Friday, June 13

08—Kootenay Lake

19—Revelstoke

33—Chilliwack

34—Abbotsford

35—Langley

36—Surrey

43—Coquitlam

47—Powell River

49—Central Coast

51—Boundary

53—South Okanagan Similkameen

57—Prince George

60—Peace River North

63—Saanich

71—Comox

73—Kamloops Thompson

81—Fort Nelson

85—Vancouver Island North

Canadian News

Ontario to reopen province, guiding principles unveiled

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Ontario to reopen province, guiding principles unveiled

THE Ontario government on Monday released A Framework for Reopening our Province, which outlines the criteria Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will use to advise the government on the loosening of emergency measures, as well as guiding principles for the safe, gradual reopening of businesses, services and public spaces.

The framework also provides details of an outreach strategy, led by the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, to help inform the restart of the provincial economy.

Details were provided by Premier Doug Ford, Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

“Our top priority remains protecting the health and safety of the people of Ontario and supporting our frontline heroes as we do everything in our power to contain and defeat this deadly virus,” said Ford. “At the same time, we are preparing for the responsible restart of our economy. This next phase of our response to COVID-19 is designed to help us map out what needs to be done, and when, to get us back on the road to recovery.”

The government is planning a stage-by-stage approach to reopening the economy to ensure there are appropriate measures in place so workplaces can open safely. Public health officials will carefully monitor each stage for two to four weeks, as they assess the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak to determine if it is necessary to change course to maintain public health.

  • Stage 1: For businesses that were ordered to close or restrict operations, opening select workplaces that can immediately modify operations to meet public health guidance. Opening some outdoor spaces like parks and allowing for a greater number of individuals to attend some events. Hospitals would also begin to offer some non-urgent and scheduled surgeries, and other health care services.
  • Stage 2: Opening more workplaces, based on risk assessments, which may include some service industries and additional office and retail workplaces. Some larger public gatherings would be allowed, and more outdoor spaces would open.
  • Stage 3: Opening of all workplaces responsibly and further relaxing of restrictions on public gatherings.

Throughout each stage, continued protections for vulnerable populations must be in place, along with the continued practice of physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene, and significant mitigation plans to limit health risks.

“Recent public health indicators show us that we’re beginning to turn a corner in the COVID-19 outbreak, while economic data, feedback from businesses and insights from our communities are outlining how we need to plan for economic recovery,” said Phillips. “Turning on an economy after an unprecedented shut-down is not as simple as flipping a switch. We need to plan this out carefully to ensure we do not spark a sudden outbreak, undo the progress we have made and put the safety of the public at risk.”

To reopen the economy, the government will consider factors such as the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and the ability to implement protective measures to keep workplaces safe. The Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will provide advice to the government about easing public health measures using a range of set criteria, including:

  • A consistent two-to-four week decrease in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases;
  • Sufficient acute and critical care capacity, including access to ventilators and ongoing availability of personal protective equipment;
  • Approximately 90 per cent of new COVID-19 contacts are being reached by local public health officials within one day, with guidance and direction to contain community spread; and
  • Ongoing testing of suspected COVID-19 cases, especially of vulnerable populations, to detect new outbreaks quickly.

“It is because of the collective efforts of all Ontarians to stay at home and stop the spread of COVID-19 that we are able to consider plans to move into the next phase of our battle against this virus,” said Elliott. “The Chief Medical Officer of Health has outlined some criteria he will use to advise government on when we may begin to slowly and safely ease public health measures and restart our economy. To be able to do so, w e need everyone to continue their extraordinary efforts so that we can meet these thresholds and begin to move forward.”

Supporting the next phases of Ontario’s Action Plan, the new Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, chaired by Minister Phillips, will be consulting with key sectors in all regions to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the provincial economy and develop a plan to move forward. The government and Members of Provincial Parliament will lead discussions with business associations, chambers of commerce, municipal leaders, the postsecondary sector, corporate leaders, small business owners, community and social service providers, Indigenous partners, Franco-Ontarians, entrepreneurs and others.

The work of the committee will build on Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, the first phase of the government’s $17 billion response, that is delivering targeted relief for businesses and families across Ontario.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has had far-reaching economic impacts for businesses and communities across Ontario,” said Fedeli. “In the face of these challenges, businesses and individuals have stepped up to support our frontline workers, produce essential equipment and keep our supply chains moving. Our plan to carefully and methodically reopen Ontario’s economy will ensure that businesses are supported on our path to renewed economic prosperity.”

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Canadian News

Stephen Lecce, Ontario education minister appoints investigator to examine Peel District School Board

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Ontario education minister appoints investigator to examine Peel District School Board

ONTARIO’S Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, on Tuesday announced he has appointed Arleen Huggins to conduct an investigation into the Peel District School Board’s compliance with the Minister’s binding Directions to the Board issued on March 13.

“We expect our school leaders – trustees, senior administration, and educators – to ensure all students are learning in safe and inclusive classrooms,” said Lecce. “This is why effective, transparent, and accountable school board governance is essential to the success and well-being of students in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.”

Huggins is a practising lawyer with 30 years experience in employment law, human rights law, workplace harassment and discrimination investigations and commercial litigation. She is a former President of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers and a Former Chair of both the Canadian Bar Association Standing Committee on Equity and the Ontario Bar Association Equal Opportunity Committee.  Huggins was also on the founding Board of the African Canadian Legal Clinic and has served on the Doctors Without Borders Human Resources Committee and the federal Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee (JAAC) for the GTA.

With the issuance of 27 binding Directions to the Board on March 13, the minister provided clear direction with specific timelines and deliverables to address systemic discrimination, particularly anti-Black racism, as well as dysfunctional governance, leadership and human resources practices within the PDSB.

“When it comes to confronting racism and discrimination, I will not accept delay or inaction,” added Lecce. “The message I am sending is — do better. Our kids deserve better. And I will do whatever it takes to ensure these issues are addressed immediately and effectively.”

The Ontario Government said it is committed to ensuring PDSB complies with the minister’s binding directions so that parents, students and the community get the positive change that they need and deserve.

Huggins will deliver her report to the minister on or before May 18.

The PDSB is responsible for 257 schools in Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon, and over 155,000 students representing a rich array of racial, ethnic, linguistic and religious backgrounds.

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COVID-19″ More Indo-Canadians returning are from India

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More flights carrying Canadians leave India

CANADIAN High Commissioner in New Delhi, Nadir Patel, tweeted on Wednesday morning that the 15th special flight from India to Canada – had left Mumbai, bringing home more Canadian travelers stranded in India.

He added: “More special flights taking place in the coming days, thanks to all for your patience while we work through the complexities.”

On Tuesday, the 14th special flight with Canadians took off from Kolkata and Patel tweeted: “Huge thanks to our colleagues Australian High Commissioner Barry O’Farrell & his team for collaborating to make this happen.”

The 13th special flight with Canadians had departed from Bangalore on Monday, covering six states in the south.

And last Sunday (April 26) the 12th special flight from India departed from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with nearly 300 Canadians aboard.

More flights carrying Canadians leave India

More flights carrying Canadians leave India

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