December 16, 2014

Quebec unions call government wage offer ‘insulting’

By Phillipe Authier | Published Dec 15, 2014 by the Montreal Gazette

A showdown is looming between Quebec’s common front and the government as a result of Quebec’s plans to freeze their wages for two years and discourage retirement because it costs the treasury a bundle.

“It’s as if the government is lonely for the sound of banging pots,” said Lucie Chabot spokesperson for the Secrétariat intersyndical des services publics in threatening to send workers into the streets to make sure cabinet ministers have a “warm winter” in their ridings.

“What we have here are five pages of contempt,” added Sylvain Mallette, president of the Fédération autonome de l’enseignement. “Quebec is saying to its employees, you are not worth the rate of inflation.

“This is a government that does not like its employees,” said Régine Laurent, president of the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec, representing 65,000 nurses and health care workers.

“This is a government that wants to drive its employees out of the public sector.”

Read more:

December 14, 2014

Vers une hausse du ratio maître-élèves?

By Denis Lessard | Published Dec 13, 2014 by La Presse

(QUÉBEC) Augmentation du ratio maître-élèves, réduction du nombre de congés de maladie; le gouvernement Couillard s’apprête à déposer une série de propositions normatives qui seront dures à avaler pour les 550 000 salariés du secteur public.

Des demandes musclées qui s’ajoutent à des propositions salariales exigeantes: deux années de gel salarial et des augmentations à doses homéopathiques étalées sur une convention de cinq ans.

Ces propositions seront faites, au cours de la semaine prochaine, aux tables sectorielles qui entreprennent la négociation de la prochaine convention collective – celle en cours se termine le 31 mars. Lundi matin, le président du Conseil du trésor, Martin Coiteux rencontrera la table centrale, réunissant les présidents de la CSN, de la FTQ, le SIPS, le secrétariat intersyndical des services publics, pour leur transmettre les offres salariales.

Plus d’élèves par classe

Selon les informations obtenues par La Presse, en dépit des engagements de Philippe Couillard à ne pas sabrer les services à la population, Québec demandera qu’on augmente le ratio maître-élèves au second cycle du primaire et au secondaire.

Read more:

December 8, 2014

Conference: How School Board Elections are connected to Corrupt Quebec Politics

By Celebrity journalist, broadcaster & public commentator: Anne Lagacé Dowson

Citizens in Action is honoured to host Anne Lagacé Dowson, journalist broadcaster and public commentator, as guest speaker for our December conference. Anne can be heard every day on CJAD 800 on the Gang of Four with Tommy Schnurmacher. In 2008, she ran for the NDP in the Westmount/St. Louis riding and more recently, as chair for the English Montreal School Board. She has the inside story of how Quebec Politics manages to permeate every aspect of our lives, even our children’s education

Organized by Citizens in Action
Date: Tuesday, December 09, 2014.
Place: Concordia University, School of Community & Public Affairs, (basement

December 3, 2014

Racism and the Charter School Movement: Unveiling the Myths

By Antonia Darder | Published Nov 30, 2014 by Truthout

Rather than an oppressive and manipulative engine for capitalist accumulation, schools should function as centers of creativity and imagination where an ethos of democratic life is grounded upon cultural inclusiveness, social justice and economic democracy.

For almost three decades now, the charter school movement has sought to create the illusion that it is a better alternative to public education. Steeped in a narrow language of choice and student success, charter schools have also begun to quickly populate the terrain of educational justice, despite the conservative roots from which this movement sprang. Despite what was once a central commitment to public schooling in the United States, radical education advocates cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the struggles against racism that exist and persist within charter school environments, despite the rhetoric of equality and justice. This is particularly necessary because many of the most vulnerable students, with the greatest needs, have generally remained within now even more poorly funded and resourced public schools, while more and more public dollars, under private control, are redirected to serve the privileged few.

Common Myths

Given the growing number of teachers of color and children of color whose lives are directly affected by the consolidation of public-private resources, educators committed to a critical ethics of social justice in education must contend with the myths associated with the racialization process at work within charter schools today. One way to better understand this phenomenon is to consider the many myths at work in the charter school movement.

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November 30, 2014

Letter: Open-house visit of Plateau EMSB school was an eye opener

By Tina Wayland | Published November 27, 2014 by The Montreal Gazette


The school is in serious need of repair.

And all I kept thinking during the tour was how well-maintained and modern the English Montreal School Building is; how much money was spent during the recent school-board elections; and how our schools — the places where we craft the minds of our future citizens and leaders — are largely neglected, mistreated and ignored.

The upside of our visit? The two Grade 6 boys who gave us the tour were smart, polite, informed, and engaged young men who’ve obviously learned a whole lot from the dedicated, overworked and underpaid teachers at the school. These teachers do so much with so little, as opposed to our elected officials who manage to do so little with so much.

Read more:

November 13, 2014

Voter suppression and the English Montreal School Board

Old guard use Republican tactics to maintain hold on power

By Anne Lagacé Dowson | Published Nov. 12, 2014 by

In the United States they call it voter suppression. Here we call it voter irregularity. By whatever name it taints the entire electoral process.

On Nov. 4, the Montreal Gazette reported on its front page that hundreds of people were disenfranchised on election day as they tried to vote in the English Montreal School Board election. The reporter passed it off as bureaucratic ineptitude on the part of the school board. Now there is evidence that a campaign of voter suppression may have been at work.

The first shocker was discovering that Pierre-Yves Bezazz, the man running the election for the school board, was actually in the pay of the school board. It’s hard to exaggerate how wrong that is. Picture entering the playing field for a final match and finding that the referee is wearing the team sweater of your opponent. The result? Every time we cried foul, Mr. Bazzaz would respond “denied!”

The voter suppression started with the infamous voters list. Voters discovered that if there name was not on the list, they had to run a gauntlet to get registered: download a form from the internet and then trek across town to register the form with the office of Mr. Bezazz at school board headquarters. We petitioned Mr. Bezazz to make it easier to get on the list and to at least extend the deadline for getting on the list, as was done in a previous election.

Read more:

November 4, 2014

Anne Lagacé Dowson calls for investigation into EMSB election

EMSB chair candidate says voting in Ahuntsic/Montreal North ward was rigged

Published Nov 3, 2014 by CBC News

Anne Lagacé Dowson, who was defeated in her run for chair of the English Montreal School Board, is calling for a formal investigation in one ward and a recount in another after Sunday’s school board election.

Lagacé Dowson says the vote in Ward 7 (Ahuntsic/Montreal North) was rigged.

Sylvia Lo Bianco, the candidate seeking re-election in that ward under the banner of Team Angela Mancini, won by a margin of about 800 votes. Lo Bianco’s sister ran the polling station.

“The sister of the candidate gave the green light to all kinds of people who walked up and who showed ID and were able to vote — despite a clear directive from the director general of elections, which we respected,” said Lagacé Dowson.

Lagaçé Dowson has asked the province’s education ministry to launch a formal investigation.

Read more:

October 28, 2014

EMSB denies breach of voter privacy in school board election

  | Published Oct. 27, 2014 by Global News

MONTREAL – The English Montreal School Board is denying that it provided a confidential list of phone numbers to one of Angela Mancini‘s candidates.

The school board elections at the EMSB have been particularly hard fought this year.

Our own Global reporter, Domenic Fazioli says he got a call from a candidate on his private cell number.

If it came from a school list it would be a major breach of the political process.

“My phone number was given out when it shouldn’t have been given out,” he said.

Fazioli was shocked to get a phone call on Sunday asking for his support for an incumbent EMSB commissioner.

The problem is he says he only gave his cell number to his child’s school in case of emergency only.

“The man made it clear that there’s a list from the EMSB and they were calling probably other parents like myself on their work numbers on their cell numbers,” said Fazioli.

“I think that’s unacceptable.”

Read more:

October 25, 2014

EMSB elections: One retired teachers union President questions another at NDG candidates meeting

By Jim Wilson

wilsonI attended the school board  candidates meeting in NDG this week. One of the candidates running on the Team Angela Mancini slate is former President of the Montreal Teachers Association (MTA) Ruth Rosenfield. Considering that she uses her union background as being a qualification to be a commissioner, I questioned  her  record of financial transparency as a union president.
I made following remarks at the public meeting. Firstly, that Ms Rosenfield used the union contingency funds to pay herself in one year $40,000 in overtime. Secondly, that she arranged for the same contingency fund to provide  a member of the executive with  an interest free loan. Ms. Rosenfield made no effort to deny these charges. Thirdly, despite some members demanding clarification of union spending, pointing out that documents provided [by the union] were incomplete, and amongst other things formally demanding to be given access to view the itemized Amex bills paid by the MTA dating back five years. Rosenfield’s view is that once the financial review is accepted at the annual general meeting, the books are closed and members are no longer entitled to access any information on previous years.
In a perverse manner, Rosenfield’s  actions mirrors those of  the school board, school taxes increase as enrollment falls , so as the number of teachers decreased, their dues increased to provide for higher  MTA staff salaries and benefits. However, would this similarity of practices be considered as  a good reason to elect her?
Jim Wilson
October 24, 2014

Montreal-area school board candidates denounce omissions from English voter list

By Linda Gyulai | Published Oct. 23, 2014 by The Montreal Gazette

Rival candidates in the English Montreal School Board election have denounced voting list irregularities as advance polling is set to begin on Sunday.

The revised voter list for the Nov. 2 election contains dozens of omissions of Montrealers who found themselves on the French voter list and who filed the appropriate forms at EMSB headquarters during the revision period to be transferred to the English list, Anne Lagacé Dowson, who is running for chairperson of the board, said at a news conference on Wednesday. She is leading a slate of school board commissioner candidates.

A voter must be on the English list to be eligible to cast a ballot in an English-language school board election in Quebec.

About 3,400 names were transferred to the English list to vote in the election of EMSB commissioners and chairperson, Team Lagacé Dowson said, but dozens more people who handed in their transfer forms have not been included on the list, it said.

Read more:

October 23, 2014

Parents who libelled teacher ordered to pay $1.02 million

Michelle Lalonde | Published Oct 15, 2014 by the Montreal Gazette

A Quebec Superior Court judge has ordered a local couple who libelled their son’s teacher in 2008 to pay the teacher an additional $1.02 million, since it is now clear the effects of the slanderous public comments destroyed the woman’s career and her quality of life.

On March 25, 2008, Kathryn Rosenstein and Hagop Artinian dropped a lawsuit against their son’s grade school teacher at Roslyn School in Westmount, on the day the case was to go to court. The parents had alleged the teacher, Mary Kanavaros, had targeted and humiliated their son by, among other incidents, telling him in front of classmates that he should do his own homework, rather than have his mother do it.

The details of the out-of-court settlement were supposed to have been kept confidential. But when reporters asked them about the settlement, the parents implied they had proven Kanavaros had behaved unprofessionally. In fact, in the settlement, the English Montreal School Board had agreed to pay the couple $5,000 to drop the lawsuit with no admission of fault by either Kanavaros or the board.

Read more:

October 21, 2014

School board election campaign heats up at EMSB

By MARIAN SCOTT | Published Oct. 19, 2014 by The Montreal Gazette


The rulings said Feldman breached ethical rules by tarnishing “the reputation of other EMSB’s (sic) commissioners” and making statements that harmed “the reputation of the director general.”

In an earlier ruling, Feldman was reprimanded for calling fellow commissioners “dinosaurs” and “secrecy-obsessed characters”.

Dowson said the accusations against Feldman were “bogus ethics complaints (…) made mainly by members of (Mancini’s) group and allies.”

“None of the complaints (against Feldman) actually deal with ethics in a substantive way, in particular, conflicts of interest, nepotism or abuse of power by a member of the school board, all of which have been problems on the board in recent years,” she said in the statement.

Read more:

October 15, 2014

Young Quebec teachers face feast or famine

By Kalina Laframboise | Published October 14 by The Montreal Gazette

The night before the first day of school, Erin Flynn had all but given up hope. The recent Bishop’s University graduate had still not signed a teaching contract and accepted she may not find relevant employment in the education sector for the upcoming year.

In what Flynn chalks up to chance, she was interviewed the following day for a position at Châteauguay Valley Regional High School and wound up in a classroom with her new students 20 minutes after the interview ended. She is an exception among her peers who crossed the stage after four years of exams, stress and internships, only to continue working summer jobs. Her contract is 80 per cent of a full-time workload, the subjects are not what she specializes in and she provides instruction in both English and French; yet she was fortunate to have found work at all.

“I lucked out,” said Flynn. “The majority of my peers did not find teaching jobs.”

This is not uncommon for new teachers and students completing degrees in education in Quebec — especially those who apply to the province’s struggling English system. The sector’s troubles go beyond a sluggish job market — English school boards face a decline in enrolment, extensive budget cuts, limitations on admission due to Bill 101, forced closures and merging of schools and a plunge in retirements.

A report from the Ministry of Education for the 2012-13 school year shows a drop in both the number of children eligible to attend English schools and the number of students who choose to exercise this right. More than 13,000 students who have the right to English instruction opted for French instead. Across the province, parents are sending their children to French schools more than ever before and as a result the English system is scrambling.

Read more:

October 8, 2014

Why the EMSB needs Anne Lagacé Dowson as its Chair

By Robert Green

Elections for school board commissioners are fast approaching. On November 2 citizens living within the EMSB’s territory will have the opportunity to choose between a slate of candidates lead by the EMSB Council of Commissioners’ incumbent Chair Angela Mancini and a slate of candidates lead by media commentator and parent Anne Lagacé Dowson.

Before discussing the candidates, its important to mention how one becomes eligible to vote in these elections. If you are a parent with a child in the English school system you should be automatically registered to vote in English school board elections. To verify call 1 (888) 353-2846. Otherwise you are likely to have been registered by default to vote in French school board elections and need to submit this form to the EMSB in order to be registered to vote in the EMSB elections. Don’t delay in submitting this form as the deadline to make this request is October 14.

There is no question that these are incredibly important elections. Given recent government threats to abolish school boards altogether, the stakes are extremely high. The very survival of these institutions may depend entirely on the quality of their elected leadership.

Those considering giving incumbent Chair Angela Mancini another term in office might want to take a trip down memory lane:

  • In 2008 Henry Aubin wrote a column in the Gazette entitled ‘School board’s secrecy cuts it off from the public‘. The column outlined the duplicitous political manoeuvring Ms. Mancini engaged in to initially win for herself the position of Chair. Aubin describes how this manoeuvring ensured that the culture of secrecy, block voting and entrenched loyalties won out over and against the public interest.
  • In 2009 the Gazette reported that the infighting amongst school board commissioners had gotten so bad under Mancini’s leadership that the Quebec government had to appoint a special mediator whose salary cost taxpayers upwards of $100,000
  • In 2011 the EMSB received a great deal of very negative press coverage over its move to close a number of schools. Particularly contentious was the case of Nesbitt elementary whose parents created a blog that is essential reading for anyone interested in learning what Ms Mancini’s leadership has meant for parents. Hour magazine published a scorching condemnation of the EMSB’s handling of the affair by two Nesbitt parents, describing its public consultation process as “a sham” and concluding with the question ” How could we be in worse hands than we are now?”
  • Also in 2011 the blog Citizens for Democratic and Autonomous Schools published a piece by commissioner Julien Feldman (running on Team Anne Lagacé Dowson) questioning Ms Mancini’s decision to include three elected commissioners on a junket to China.

annedowsonendorsementThough Ms Mancini’s record offers plenty to be wary of, I am not advocating that people vote for Ms. Lagacé Dowson simply as an alternative to Ms. Mancini. I am advocating that people vote for Ms Lagacé Dowson because she is intelligent, articulate, politically savvy and firmly committed to the public interest. In short, she is exactly the sort of person the EMSB needs to turn the page on the culture of secrecy, bitter partisanship and entitlement that has plagued the EMSB council of commissioners for far too long.

However it is not just that Anne has the skills and principled commitment to openness and transparency, she also has a clear vision for how the EMSB can deal with its most fundamental existential threat: declining enrolment. In response to reports that as many as 15 percent of those eligible to attend English Schools are instead registering in the French system, Anne wrote an op-ed in the Gazette arguing that the EMSB needs to bring those students back by improving its French language instruction.

Team Angela Mancini candidate Ruth Rosenfield responded with an op-ed of her own crassly characterizing Ms Lagacé Dowson’s thoughtful piece as a “broad attack on English-language schools and school boards” and suggesting that the EMSB already does a great job in French language instruction. In focusing only on the work the board is already doing Rosenfield seems to be suggesting that this is enough; that 15% of those eligible for English schools choosing the French system is an acceptable situation that does not warrant any additional action being taken. It would be interesting to know if Ms Mancini also thinks that despite the large numbers leaving, the status quo is just fine.

If there’s one thing that’s clear its that the status quo is not fine. The EMSB needs new leadership that is committed to people not partisanry; to democracy not demagoguery; to cutting bureaucracy instead of closing schools. The EMSB needs Anne Lagacé Dowson!

Here are a few video clips of Anne articulating her vision for the EMSB:

October 6, 2014

Canada’s education apartheid

By Robert Green | Published October 2 by

Many Canadians are aware of the fact that Canada’s 1876 Indian Act, which stated that “The aborigines are to be kept in a condition of tutelage and treated as wards or children of the State”, was studied by South Africa’s apartheid regime and served as the inspiration for many of its policies.

Because the information gathering missions to Canada by South African officials occurred way back in the 1940’s, we can safely acknowledge and openly discuss this fact as a dark and shameful chapter of our history without having to look too closely at our present. Yes we served as a model for apartheid but that was a different time, we tell ourselves.

However an examination of Canada’s treatment of its First Nations reveals that parallels with apartheid era South Africa continue right up to present day. Nowhere is this more true than with respect to Canada’s policies regarding First Nations education.

In 1953 the apartheid regime passed one of its most overtly racist laws, entitled the Bantu Education Act. The act’s aim was to place all black schools, which had been run by the church, under the control of the state. As the government saw blacks as little more than “hewers of wood and drawers of water” it was quite open about the fact that education for blacks would be both separate and unequal. The injustices caused by this act would later be recognized as one of the principal causes of the Soweto uprising.

The education system created by the Bantu Education Act had three principal characteristics: 1) Massive gaps in funding between black and white schools; 2) Colonial control over curriculum and school management; 3) Significant differences in the level of training and experience of teachers in the black and white school systems.

Though Canada’s contemporary policies with respect to First Nations education do not go nearly as far as South Africa’s overtly racist policies, each of the above characteristics are clearly present. Continue reading