Following walk-outs across the province, high school students organized a rally at Queen’s Park to call on Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to “Kill Bill 115.”
More than 100 people–students, teachers, parents and solidarity contingents from the Canadian Federation of Students, CUPE and PSAC–gathered to expose the “Putting Students First Act,” which imposes a wage freeze, outlaws the right to strike and has forced teachers to stop volunteering to lead extra-curricular activities as a form of protest to the imposed conditions.
Frustrated at the loss of extracurricular activities, such as clubs and sports, students across Ontario have been organizing protests and walkouts to call on the Liberal government to kill Bill 115.
Kayla Smith, a grade 12 student at Bramalea Secondary School in Brampton and one of the organizers of the rally, emphasized the students’ opposition to the bill: “I have a message for Mr. McGuinty: repeal Bill 115. It bans the right to strike, it freezes the wages of teachers and cuts their benefits. There was no negotiation, there was no collective bargaining. Teachers feel disrespected and that is what we want to say today: you have to respect the teachers, negotiate and not just impose demands on them.”
Speakers throughout the rally emphasized that McGunity’s plan to “put students first” is essentially a plan to bail out the government at the expense of public education. With the lowest corporate tax rates in the developed world and with class sizes in Ontario growing larger, it is easy to see who the McGuinty government “puts first.”
Tim Yu, a middle-school teacher in Brampton, spoke at the demonstration and emphasized how proud he was of his students for mobilizing to defeat the bill.
Yu made the connection between the teachers’ fight and the future of public education, explaining that “while it is true that I am a teacher, I do not stand here to lament about wage freezes or sick days. Instead I am here to rally you, the next generation, to realize that our fight is truly for you and your future.”
A series of the teenage speakers made the connection between Bill 115 and other workers that have been legislated back to work, from the Air Canada workers to the Postal Workers, and called for students and teachers to unite and fight against Bill 115.
Tim Yu echoed this sentiment, aiming his comments at the students present: “today you have started a revolution that I hope will last your lifetimes. You have begun to realize that your voices have power. Like the generation of youths who fought for civil rights and won, you are the frontline in the battle for our rights to democracy. Viva la revolucion!”