March 6 Rally at the Legislature : If Not Now, When?

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Disclaimer: I speak only for myself, not as a representative of the Board of Education of SD61.

The “t” word keeps coming to mind. Tyranny: an arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power.

Small steps in poisoning democracy may not be noticed at first. Friends and I look at each other, deeply worried and concerned,  and try to think “Not here… not in Canada.” But Bill 22 has ramped up the progress of the increasing destruction of our civil society. It’s impossible not to notice.

The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation is putting itself in harm’s way – in the way of excessive fines (when compared with the fines for the employer in a lockout situation – see Section 4, “Offences”, in the Bill) for the Union and for individual members – in harm’s way to protect our students, public school teachers and all workers, public education, and democracy in British Columbia. Today the British Columbia Federation of Labour joined the BCTF in a rally of thousands on the steps and lawn of the BC legislature.

This may sound like over the top rhetoric and I hesitate to write it. It looks so stark. But I have been watching the erosion of worker rights (and citizen rights aren’t far behind – see Rob Wipond‘s excellent articles on citizen surveillance) by this government since I watched the illegal dismantling of a collective agreement in 2002 with Bills 27 and 28. With a stroke of a pen rights disappeared, because they were inconvenient for this government. Now, with Bill 22, workers will be forbidden to strike. We all know public education is a vital service. But an “essential service”, like services that deal with threats to life? That legislation was clearly a law of convenience for the government, as is Bill 22.

Citizens expect legislation to be based on more than expedience and convenience for government. Citizens expect legislation to have at least a passing relationship to justice and to the common good.

Citizens expect more than a raw misuse of power from a government that enacts repressive legislation based on “because we can”.

It was good to stand with workers from unions in the BC Federation of Labour, citizens concerned for democracy and social justice in British Columbia today at the legislature. It was good to see high school and post-secondary students speaking out for public education and social justice, good to see George Davidson from the Public Education Network Society (formerly the Charter for Public Education), Adrian Dix and Robin Austin, and many other friends of social justice and public education.

And it is good to know that today, the Board of Education of School District 61, Greater Victoria, followed the Vancouver School Board (and hopefully other Districts’ Boards) in writing a letter to the Minister of Education supporting the immediate involvement of an independent mediator.

The coming days will test resolve. We are all in a very big picture situation. Stand strong.