Welcome to the 2019-2020 academic year! I hope that you were able to enjoy the summer months, whether you were off on vacation or teaching in the summer session. This year promises to be a very interesting one. In mid-July, I was part of the Quebec delegation to the Canadian Teachers' Federation's Annual General Meeting. I was very fortunate to be present as our former President and current QPAT President Heidi Yetman interviewed both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and leader of the NDP Jagmeet Singh. (You can listen to the interviews and ). Well done Heidi!
As a classroom teacher, I never really understood why CTF existed, given that education is a provincial responsibility. In taking part in these meetings, and in the discussions I had with delegates from other provinces, one thing became clear: education ministers across the country are clearly reading the same playbook and are speaking with each other, and it is therefore important that we as teachers coordinate ourselves too. Many of the same issues that we face in Quebec are present elsewhere, and we are seeing significant restructuring of education ministries nationwide. It is important that we stand together and make our voices heard.
Looking at Quebec, we are set to embark on another important round of negotiations with the government. We will be tabling our demands in October, with an expected response from the government in January. We have seen in the past months that this government is living up to its promise to make education a priority: we have seen rapid changes in our network in just a few months. We have seen the addition of mandatory afternoon recesses and the creation of more four-year-old kindergarten classes. We have seen restrictions as to who can become a teacher based on religious symbols in the midst of a teacher shortage. We have heard rumours of changes to school board governance (with a surprising announcement this week that these may apply differently to the English system). All in all, the provincial government has education on its mind, so our negotiations could not come at a more opportune time. It is now time to value teachers in a new way, in both our working conditions and in our salary demands. I will be calling on each and every one of you to stand strong as negotiations begin, so that the government hears our voices loud and clear.
What is most important of all, even as the political winds swirl around us, is to never forget why we are teachers: we play such a critical role as public educators. Every day, you make a significant contribution to the fabric of our society. Thank you for all that you do, and I wish you a very successful year!
Matt Wilson, PTU President