September 18, 2016

Quebec’s rotten history curriculum is fault of both PQ and Liberals

By Robert Green | Published August 30, 2016 by

Horrified by the Parti Québécois’s proposed Charter of Values and the conservative ethnic nationalism it represented, the election of 2014 saw large numbers of Quebecers turn to a corrupt, austerity-mad Liberal Party, hoping it to be a lesser evil.!h.300,id.10734,m.fill,w.540This fall, high school students throughout Quebec will reap the consequences of this short-sighted political calculation as they are subjected to a dogmatic, exclusionary and politically regressive history program that is as much the product of the PQ’s conservative ethnic nationalism as it is the Liberal Party’s myopic obsession with public sector austerity.

An ideologically driven reform

The genesis of this reform begins with the lobbying efforts of la Coalition pour l’histoire, an organization founded by nationalist historians Éric Bédard and Robert Comeau with the support of organizations such as la Fondation Lionel-Groulx, le Mouvement national des Québécois, and la Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal. Despite the fact that Quebec’s current curriculum contains numerous and frequent references to Quebec nationalism and the Quebec nation, the coalition sees it as its mission to stop what it calls the “denationalization” of Quebec history.

The politics of this coalition were laid bare in 2013 when the organization refused to meet with the members of the initial committee set up to reform the curriculum, because of the “divergent views” that would be present. Evidently the coalition members wanted a committee as monolithic in its composition as the view of Quebec society they sought to impose on Quebec’s students.

The PQ education minister of the day, Marie Malavoy, subsequently decided to meet privately with a small group of coalition supporters. Cancelling a meeting of the larger, more diverse committee was a telling indication of the direction she was intending on taking the program.

In an open letter published by Le Devoir, the leadership of L’Association québécoise pour l’enseignement en univers social (AQEUS) scolded the minister for taking her advice from a committee of nationalist historians that not only excluded any participation from teachers and pedagogical experts, but also prevented one historian from participating because of his activism with Québec Solidaire. They also accused the minister of “instrumentalizing” the teaching of history for “purely partisan and political ends.”

Though the report that would serve as the basis for the PQ’s pilot program did eventually involve a modest process of consultation, the end result clearly reflected the coalition’s desires for the program. Coalition spokesperson Robert Comeau was quoted in Le Devoir as being “very satisfied.”

Minorities omitted from history

So what exactly is so problematic about the proposed reform? To answer that question, one must consider the things that have been omitted. Continue reading

June 21, 2016

Petition and Open Letter: Stop testing Grade 6 students in Quebec with a ridiculous exam.

By Jo-Ann Connolly

Plea to parents and educators,

As a grade 6 teacher who has just finished correcting provincial math exams, I am convinced that our government has taken the wrong path in evaluating knowledge that our children in Quebec society have grasped through our educational system.  The exam is divided into 8 parts, with one large situational problem and 6 shorter applications.There is also a traditional multiple choice and quick answer booklet.

os-ed-standardized-testing-front-burner-intro--001There is no sound pedagogy in what the government is requesting from 11 and 12 year olds.  The applications took anywhere from 1 to 1 and a half hours, rather than the 20 to 30 minute time limit the government wanted.  The situational took 2 days rather than the 1 to 2 and a half hours.The children could not do this on their own, despite discussion beforehand to clarify exactly what was being requested of them.  The government is asking them to work in isolation on a budget proposal scenario which frankly is irrelevant for most children, and the steps involved are too complex.  Most twelve year olds do not hold the purse strings in their families.  They are lucky if they have an allowance.  Parents buy the necessities and children in poor neighbourhoods have never handled money. They may be able to find percents and calculate tax on an item when we scaffold the activities, but they have no idea what budgets and proposals are about.The applications are too long and the language is such that the child does not even know what is being asked. Continue reading

June 18, 2016

Quebec’s History Program Chaos

By Robert Green

This was an eventful week for Quebec’s History program. Thursday the Gazette published two excellent articles by Marian Scott about the reactions to the Education Minister’s flip-flop on his previous commitment to put the controversial new History curriculum on hold, and the decision of the English School Boards to implement this curriculum:

English school boards criticized for adopting Quebec history curriculum

Quebec lags in diversity education, comparison of history programs shows

I spoke with CJAD’s Tommy Shnurmacher about the History reform:

Later Thursday the CBC broke the story of the leaked essay question on the provincial History exam and the Ministry’s decision to not count the question:

Quebec students launch petition after history exam leak

I spoke with CBC Homerun’s Sue Smith about the history exam leak:

Friday the Gazette’s editorial board weighed in on the decision of the English School Boards to go ahead with the implementation of new History curriculum:

English school boards are failing history

June 4, 2016

CBC on Quebec’s Controversial New History Reform

An interview and an article from June 3rd:!h.300,id.10734,m.fill,w.540The Interview:
Robert Green speaks with CBC’s Sue Smith about the Couillard government backtracking on its commitment to postpone the implementation of its controversial reform of the province’s History curriculum. Stream the interview below or click here to download the mp3.

The Article:

Read Ben Shiller’s excellent article: English school boards to use controversial history course next year.

June 3, 2016

Quebec’s non-inclusive new history curriculum is a missed opportunity

By Robert Green | Published by Montreal Gazette June 1, 2016

Earlier this year, Quebecers learned of a reform to the province’s history curriculum that provoked a great deal of concern. Not only was the role of Quebec’s anglophone community reduced to that of a comic book villain intent on impeding progress, indeed the contributions of all of Quebec’s minority groups seemed to be systematically excluded. There was nothing about the anglophones who participated in the 1837 rebellions or organized some of Quebec’s first labour strikes; nothing about the struggles against discrimination faced by Jewish and Italian immigrants; nothing about the contributions of more recent immigrants, like the Vietnamese or Haitian communities.

However, perhaps the most significant omission had to d!h.300,id.10734,m.fill,w.540o with the First Nations. This reform was being developed at the very moment the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made its recommendations. Specifically the TRC recommended that all levels of government “Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.” Quebec had a real opportunity to be the first province to implement the recommendation. Instead, by ignoring the TRC and refusing to engage in any meaningful consultation with First Nations communities, Quebec instead chose to reinforce the colonial pattern of relations that has existed for hundreds of years. Continue reading

May 21, 2016

CJAD Teachers Panel Discusses Recent Liberal Proposals for Education

Teachers Katharine Hogan and Robert Green discuss the many changes to Quebec’s education system that have been proposed in the last week with CJAD’s James Mennie. From the May 17, 2016 Tommy Shnurmacher Show. Stream the interview below or click here to download the mp3.

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May 15, 2016

Common Front deal for Quebec public sector workers wasn’t as good as advertised

A closer look at the agreement reveals inflated numbers. Who will be held accountable?

By Robert Green | Published April 18, 2016 by Ricochet English and 26 avril 2016 by Ricochet français

Now that the dust has settled on Quebec’s negotiations with public sector workers, it’s time for public sector workers to look back on the campaign that was.

For the 400,000+ members of the Common Front, a coalition of public sector unions, one issue in particular demands critical reflection: the manipulative and dishonest way that information about the tentative agreement on salary was presented to the media, the public and the Common Front’s own members.

In general, the act of consciously making untrue statements is considered to be something for which politicians should be held accountable. Many a powerful world leader has fallen as a result of dishonest behaviour, including most recently the president of Iceland. The question for Common Front members is whether this same principle should apply to leaders of labour federations.

To illustrate just how dishonest the Common Front was in presenting the salary agreement to the public, let’s compare it to how this same salary agreement was presented by another labour federation, La Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE), which is not part of the Common Front.

Spinning the deal Continue reading

April 19, 2016

Motion to Censure QPAT President Richard Goldfinch

In order to hold our syndical leadership accountable for the blatantly dishonest way that information about the negotiated agreement on salary was presented to the public, the teachers of Westmount High School have submitted the following motion to be debated by the Montreal Teachers Association. We encourage other members of the Common Front to pass similar motions in order to send a clear message that consciously misleading the public in order to have an agreement approved is utterly unacceptable.

La version française suivra

Motion to Censure QPAT President Richard Goldfinch

Whereas one-time lump sum payments, investment in resources and money for bonuses are very different from salary increases that benefit teachers for the rest of their careers, and

Whereas at a December 20th Common Front press conference the following occurred:

  • one-time lump sum payments, investment in resources and money for bonuses were presented as if they were salary increases, with the claim that government’s salary offer had moved from 3 percent to 9.15 -10.25 percent
  • the goal of ‘stopping the continued impoverishment of members’ was presented as if it had been achieved.
  • speculation was offered that given the low rate of inflation, public sector workers might even come out ahead in terms of buying power by the end of the contract.

Whereas the misinformation presented by the Common Front leadership gave the public and union members the mistaken impression that the government’s offer was much more generous than it actually was, and

Whereas similar misinformation (presenting the salary increase as 9.15 -10.25 percent) had been widely reported in the media two days previous, and

Whereas Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers President Richard Goldfinch failed not only to send in corrections to the major English media outlets or even to his own members, he also failed to ensure that the Common Front press conference held two days later would not repeat this misinformation, and

Whereas even if the leadership of the Common Front sincerely believed that this was the best deal possible for its members, it is utterly unacceptable to use manipulation and deceit in order to have the agreement approved by members

Be it resolved that the members of the MTA hereby censure QPAT President Richard Goldfinch for failing to ensure that the information presented at the December 20th Common Front press conference was as accurate as possible, and

Be it further resolved that MTA President Peter Sutherland be directed to draft a letter to each of the Presidents of the labour federations participating in the Common Front expressing the dissatisfaction of MTA members over the manipulative and deceitful way that information about the agreement in principle was presented to the public.

Continue reading

January 28, 2016

Why are university students lacking basic literacy skills? CJAD’s Teachers Panel discusses declining academic standards in Quebec’s public schools

Teachers Robert Green and Catharine Hogan discuss the declining academic standards in Quebec’s schools with CJAD’s Tommy Schnurmacher

January 15, 2016

An important point regarding pension changes in proposed contract

I recently received an email that made an important point about the changes to our pension plan in the proposed contract:

Hello again, Robert

Read your last article “…a hollow victory for unions“.
I think it would have been useful if you had added that the increase in deductions to the teachers pension plan would “consume”, according to my calculations, 72% of any increase proposed by the government (at least for anyone earning more than $54,900). That means, for the 1% increase in salary offered in the agreement, the real increase is only 0.28%. For the 2% increase offered, the real increase would be 0.58%.
With the other increases (CPP, EI, drug plan), the real increases would go further down to real zero or actual reductions in salary. It is understandable that higher absolute values of pensions payments require higher contributions, but most regular folks should be aware of the real numbers before they go to vote for the new agreement.
And you were talking about increases to cover inflation!
January 12, 2016

Quebec’s proposed deal with public sector workers: a hollow victory for unions?

After months of mobilization and negotiation, union leaders are more interested in claiming victory than in actually achieving it

By Robert Green | Published January 5, 2016 by

Prior to the holidays, teachers, parents and students in Quebec received some hopeful news: the Common Front, consisting of unions representing over 400,000 of the province’s half a million public sector workers, had overcome their final hurdle and arrived at an agreement on salaries. The news was filled with stories of satisfied union leaders trumpeting the fact that they had persuaded the government to move from their initial offer of 3 per cent in salary increases over five years to an increase of between 9.15 per cent and 10.25 per cent per year.

It may therefore come as a surprise to readers to learn that many public sector workers are preparing to vote against the deal. Delegates for the federation representing health care workers, which represents nearly one-quarter of the Common Front’s membership, have already voted to reject the deal. The FAE labour federation, which represents 34,000 teachers in the province’s French school boards (but is not a member of the Common Front), is recommending that its members reject a similar deal.

Why are Quebec workers, who have been without a contract since last April, skeptical of the proposed settlement? Because, on closer inspection, the deal on offer is not at all the victory that the Common Front leaders are claiming. Continue reading

January 7, 2016

Discussing the details of the Common Front salary deal for Quebec’s public sector workers

Robert Green discusses the details of the Common Front salary deal with CKUT’s Dan Parker and Stefan Christoff:

Click here to download

January 5, 2016

Extracurricular activities are back on at the EMSB following tentative deal

By Katharine Wilton | Published January 5, 2015 by the Montreal Gazette


While union leaders are recommending that teachers ratify the agreement, Robert Green, a teacher at Westmount High School, said he cannot support the deal. Green said he is unhappy that Common Front leaders are including lump-sum payments and adjustments to salary scales when calculating the 9 per cent pay increase.

“When these are removed, the actual salary increase is 5.25 per cent over five years,” Green said. “A lump-sum payment (1.5 per cent) is not a salary increase. The numbers the Common Front is putting out is being presented in a very manipulative way.”

A 2.4 per cent increase that was negotiated as part of a government plan to reduce pay scales for civil servants should not be included in the nine per cent increase, Green contends. “These were separate negotiations,” he said. “The unions are making it seem that the government has come further than it actually has.”

Green said he is also unhappy that there are still not enough resources for students with special needs. “We are left with a status quo that has 25 per cent of teachers leaving the profession in the first five years,” he said.

Read more:

December 30, 2015

Sign the petition demanding equal treatment for teachers in Quebec’s English School Boards

Petition text:

QPAT (Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT) has let its members down especially the 70% of us who are women. We, the 8000 teachers in the English school boards in Quebec are the only teachers and public sector workers in Quebec without an important equity feature in our contract. The ANNEX XXXV  on family-work reconciliation (or similar letter of understanding) is found in the contracts of the 100,000 francophone school board teachers (FSE and FAE)  and in the contracts of all CEGEP Teachers, nurses, and health care workers – 330,000 Quebec public employees with whom we made up the Common Front. This important recognition asserts that. The bargaining parties encourage the local parties to facilitate the conciliation of parental and family responsibilities with work-related responsibilities, when determining and implementing working conditions.

The members of QPAT, the majority of whom are women balancing work and family responsibilities deserve to have this very 21st Century recognition of their rights and their lives in their contract. It would encourage  management to be more responsive and sensitive to accomodating family needs of teachers with our work conditions.Please sign if you support QPAT teachers (all teachers in the English Public School System in Quebec ) sharing in the rights of the francophon majority and if you support the advancement of women`s rights in the workplace.

To sign the petition click here

To read Katharine Cukier’s open letter to Richard Goldfinch click here

December 19, 2015

An Open Letter to QPAT President Richard Goldfinch about a Glaring Omission in the Contracts of Teachers in Quebec’s English School Boards

By Katharine Cukier

Dear Mr. Goldfinch,I am writing as a member of QPAT to express my concerns about our new contract. Many of the women and the young parents at my school share my concerns about the omission of the letter of understanding found in the 2010-2015 contracts of 100,000 teachers of the FSE and FAE that is absent from the QPAT contract.  ANNEX XXXV in the 2010-15 collective agreement of FSE and FAE  asserts  the ”interdependence between work and family’, and makes the recommendation that management endeavours to ”organise work conditions” to allow for a better family-work balance”.

For many of us with family responsibilities, in my case a highly dependent disabled child and my aging father, this understanding would allow for a more humane management culture and an enlightened context for  discussions and arrangements around family-work balance.

I have brought this omission to the attention of Peter Sutherland, and I am hopeful  that the omission of 2010-2015 will be corrected.

It would be helpful to know why we were denied this Annex to begin with. Forgive my feminism, but could it be because the QPAT executive is all male? Perhaps QPAT needs parity. If the the federal cabinet of Canada can do it, surely a small teachers’ union could.

Attached to the contracts (2010-15) of our negotiating partner, FSE (CSQ)  and also to the contracts of the FAE contract,  the annexe XXXV  is as follows:

ANNEXE XXXV LETTRE D’ENTENTE RELATIVE AUX RESPONSABILITÉS FAMILIALES La CSQ (or FAE) d’une part, et le gouvernement du Québec représenté par le Conseil du trésor d’autre part, reconnaissent par la présente, la relation d’interdépendance entre la famille et le travail. En ce sens, les parties favorisent la prise en compte de la dimension de la conciliation famille-travail dans l’organisation du travail. À cet effet, les parties à la présente encouragent les parties sectorielles, régionales ou locales, selon le cas, à une meilleure conciliation des responsabilités parentales et familiales avec celles du travail, dans la détermination des conditions de travail et leur application.

It is not clear to me nor to my colleagues why the 8000 QPAT teachers have been denied this important step towards creating better working conditions for our union members, the majority of whom are women. I hope you will look into this personally and make sure that QPAT teachers have this recognition that 100,000 of our francophone colleagues have.

I will be doing my best to inform the membership of my union about this problem.


Katharine Cukier

Update: to sign a petition demanding equal treatment for teachers click here