French-language teachers join the picket lines

Members of AEFO walking the picket line outside Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey's office. 13 February 2020. (BlackburnNews.com photo by Colin Gowdy)

Teachers in Ontario’s French system, including educators in Sarnia-Lambton, walked the picket lines for the first time ever Thursday.

Teachers from Franco-Jeunesse, Les Rapides, St. Thomas D’Aquin, and Saint Francois-Xavier, members of the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), took part in the province-wide walkout.

St. Francois Xavier Guidance Counsellor Ron Perron was one of several educators who marched outside Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey’s office to protest education cuts.

“Well it’s going to affect everybody, it’s going to hit our school boards particularly hard, lots of services are going to end up getting cut and it’s going to hurt our students,” said Perron. “I mean every time we lose a teacher, we lose six courses, so I could definitely anticipate losing courses like technology courses, art courses, physical education courses, you’re going to end up seeing classes combined.”

Perron said increased class sizes would negatively affect both students and educators.

“Students who would’ve had the support of a teacher one-on-one are now going to find themselves in combined classes and have less time with teachers. It’s going to be tougher on everybody. So, when everyone’s workload increases it becomes harder to coordinate extracurricular activities as well.”

AEFO will take part in another province-wide strike involving all four major Ontario education unions next Friday.

Perron said the scheduled strike would be a show of solidarity among teachers.

“I think a lot of people have been looking forward to it, kind of a joint message. We really don’t know what it’s going to look like in the Sarnia area yet. We’re going to get details as the week goes by, but it’s definitely good to stand together, let everybody know we’re all seeking the same thing. This is really not about teacher’s salaries, it’s about conditions in the classroom.”

Perron said they just want to be back in the classroom.

“Nobody wants to be out here picketing, nobody wants to be out of the classroom. Everybody who is out here, they all chose the profession because they love to teach, they want to be in the classroom, they want to be teaching. We just know that if the cuts proposed go through, it’s going to make our job a lot harder and the students are definitely going to suffer.”