I know that God’s reign is not primarily brought about by the legislation of a nation state. I don’t pine for some good ole days when Canada [or the USA] was a “Christian country.” It never was and never will be. But I like Canada. This is where I was born by some incredibly good fate. I like being Canadian. Our TV is always on CBC news at 10 and the radio dial in the car is tuned to CBC2. I like multiculturalism. I am in awe of our vast landscape from sea to sea. I care about reconciliation with First Nations people who have endured so much torture from settlers over the last century and more. I appreciate our previous reputation as a peacemaker among nations. Our universal health care is an amazing benefit. I like public education. I don’t mind paying some taxes so that everyone can be looked after.

The “common good” is an important value for me. I believe that the church is called to work for the common good. I believe that the government is elected to work for the common good. I believe that each one of us has the responsibility for the common good, and to speak up when the common good is being compromised, especially for those who are vulnerable: the sick, the old, and the young. In the case before us at present in the province of British Columbia, it is the young in our schools who are being abused. Education is universally recognized as a means for surviving and thriving as a human race. Our government does not seem to recognize this in the midst of labour negotiation with teachers. I’m reposting a facebook update by Christine Backmeyer to help educate people about this important issue for our children.

BC has the worst student-educator ratio in Canada. BC has the 2nd worst per student education funding in Canada. Education funding in BC is $1000 less per student than national average. BC has the highest child poverty rate in Canada. BC teachers with a Bachelor of Education and no experience are 12th highest paid of the 13 provinces and territories. BC teachers with a Master’s degree and ten years experience are 11th highest of the 13 provinces and territories.

Since I began teaching in 2001 teachers in BC have had their collective agreements ripped up, their right to collective bargaining ignored, their right to negotiate class size and class composition levels removed, have been legislated back to work, have been on strike (three times), and have not had a pay increase since 2010. In this time the International Labour Organization (part of the UN) has ruled against the BC government’s actions three times, and the BC Supreme Court has ruled two government bills (28 and 22) unconstitutional and has condemned the government for repeatedly negotiating in bad faith.

On May 5, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation asked for a four-year teacher contract with a 10.75 per cent wage increase, plus 2.75 cost of living increase, a return to the class size and composition rules last seen in 2001, and an increase in the number of specialty teachers like counsellors and teacher librarians hired in B.C. districts.

One of the things that makes me proud to be from BC and Canada is that people believe in public education. Personally speaking, I do not want to live in a province with a two-tiered education system where people with more money can afford a better education than those with less. This was not the case when I went to school, but I fear it is dangerously close to happening now. 

In the upcoming days, weeks, and perhaps months don’t fall prey to all of the tired accusations usually lobbed against teachers during labour strife (they have summers off, they only work 6 hours per day, etc….). Educate yourself on the issues and the history of bargaining between the BCTF and the BC government. The BCTF is not without criticism, but any wrongdoing pales in comparison to the government’s intransigence and actions over the past thirteen years. No one outside of teachers and a small number of members of the general public have shown any willingness to stand up for students and for public education. At the end of the day there is not a single argument that does not justify increased investment in K-12 public education.

I’m adding myself to this small number so that it might become a little larger.