Thank you to Riley Sparks for his story in the National Observer.
We have addressed some of the arguments raised by the OTPP in various blog posts:
Thank you to Riley Sparks for his story in the National Observer.
We have addressed some of the arguments raised by the OTPP in various blog posts:
OSSTF, divestment and decolonization
By Andrea Loken, ECA co-founder
Thank you so much to AMPA 2017 for taking time to debate the divestment of OSSTF’s Internal Investment Fund. Despite debate being cut a little short [IMHO], many good points were made and some good questions asked. The motion to divest internal investments did not pass. Other motions regarding OTPP and OMERS divestment did not get to the floor. But this is only the beginning of the conversation.
While there is a global fossil-fuel divestment movement spear-headed by Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben in response to the climate crisis, my ninety second opening argument for divestment focused on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. The issues are deeply interconnected, of course, but OSSTF leaders speaking against divestment refused to comment on the human rights argument.
OSSTF now has an Indigenous land acknowledgement statement to open meetings. As Canadians discover the truth about the history of our country through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we are making these small gestures and beginning the conversation so desperately needed to move forward as a country. If we truly appreciate what this land acknowledgement means, we need to begin to think about what “sharing” the land really means and what Reconciliation really means.
Our economic system and education system are both examples of colonization. Both are imposed systems, assumed to be the only Way, that do not recognize Indigenous ways of being or land rights. In the view of capitalism, First Nations’ rights are just a hindrance to making profit – something to be ignored if one can get away with it. At the recent Ontario Ministry of Education consultation “Deeper Conversations” I recently attended, Ministry representatives framed the education system as one designed to feed our economic system; they repeated the mantra that it is our job as educators to prepare students to be “economically productive”. Residential schools were an extreme manifestation of this principle, since Indigenous Peoples needed to be indoctrinated into this system.
Our governments have failed miserably at keeping promises to First Nations, using the economy as an excuse. Russ Diabo, writer, political analyst and activist of the Kahnawake Mohawk, explains in this post “Justin Trudeau continuing proud Liberal tradition of betraying Indigenous peoples”. The Canadian Government, by continuing to approve dirty energy projects like the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the Liquified Natural Gas project on Lelu Island, is continuing the colonization of Indigenous Peoples. Will ignoring Treaty rights and human rights continue to part of Canada’s history?
I was moved by these words from a piece in the National Observer by Melina Laboucan-Massimo, a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation in northern Alberta:
“Trump’s Dakota Access pipeline has already come at a terrible price. It’s up to us to hold Trudeau to his promise to honour the Treaties. The spirit of Standing Rock has not diminished; it’s tracking northward as people across Canada act in solidarity with Native Nations Rise, refusing to let attacks on Indigenous people for the sake of oil profits go unnoticed.
These winds of resistance in British Columbia and across Turtle Island should be a signal to our governments and to investors. When we rise, we rise as one. A light breeze becomes an unstoppable gale.”
As one speaker against the motion put it, investments in fossil fuels will eventually be unprofitable and we will no longer invest in them at that point. Does it matter that in the meanwhile we condone this kind of behaviour towards Indigenous Peoples? Do we agree that if there is money to be made, our Internal Investment Fund must make it? We will just wait until the market decides it’s unprofitable, then we will act? This is completely unacceptable to me and hope to many other OSSTF members and Canadians. Let’s get our money out of dirty energy by divesting from fossil fuels. OSSTF has signed the Leap Manifesto. To be sincere, let’s support an economy “based on caring for the Earth and for one other”, as put by the Leap Manifesto. This is only a tiny start to decolonization, but it will be on the right side of history going forward.
NOW Magazine published an excellent piece about the campaign to divest the OTPP from fossil fuels. The Educators Climate Alliance thanks NOW and Toronto350 for cranking up the heat (figuratively)! Please follow the link to their publication.
by Kevin Bowers, ECA member, OSSTF Limestone District 27
The core mandate of unions has always been to protect people from the ravages of a marketplace that often exploits and harms for profit. Global warming is without a doubt the single most daunting crisis on our shared horizon, and corporations and governments have failed in their roles to mitigate its effects and protect people and other life on this planet.
Business, corporate and government leaders have spent a lot of Public Relations dollars on undermining the good brand of unions. The media repeats phrases like ‘union bosses’ and frames unions as ‘special interests’ and ‘job killers’. In the last decades this attempted union-busting PR strategy has been very effective in undermining unions, and union membership has decreased under this continual assault.
The present political moment offers a perfect opportunity for unions to rebrand themselves by taking on their core responsibility as progressive protectors of people and planet. There is a void on the left side of our political culture, and unions could be moral leaders in this burgeoning progressive culture. A fossil fuel divestment campaign would demonstrate the selfless leadership and moral clarity that unions need as both a ‘brand’ and an institution. A commitment from unions to contribute to fossil fuel divestment would help undermine the PR campaigns that pit union bosses against jobs and the economy, and focus attention on the failures of unchecked capitalism and its essential responsibility for the ecological crisis of climate change.
Divestment isn’t perfect, but it is an acknowledgement of what society must do to keep fossil fuels in the ground. For a three-minute explanation of carbon budgets, please watch this video. For a much more detailed illustration of carbon budgets, check out this infographic. (Both are great resources for the Grade 10 Science curriculum.)
Our country and culture are straining to hear reasonable, sane voices that articulate a sustainable, empathetic and humane way forward when it comes to confronting climate change. Unions have an opportunity to pick up the megaphone and speak for the disenfranchised and ignored. They have the opportunity to speak truth to power, and to articulate the clear need for people to have a say in their own destiny, and in the health and safety of the planet.
Will our union take the important first step in rebranding itself as a progressive leader and protector of people by pledging to divest from carbon?
We are pleased to share the responses from OSSTF candidates seeking elected positions at AMPA 2017. We thank them for their courage and openness and for taking the time to participate in our survey.
A list of candidates declared so far can be found here. There is the possibility of others running “from the floor”.
The three questions we asked were:
1. As Union Leaders, we are to be the voice of our people. As OSSTF/FESSO leaders we can look to live integrity and solidarity we profess in our motto “Let us not take thought for our separate interests, but let us help one another”
This means leading the way in advocating for meaningful changes. It means holding leaders accountable to doing what they pledged to do, particularly in communication of said efforts. We are Educators, and in that role have a responsibility to model that character trait of reconciliation particularly when it comes to inclusion, recognition and rights. We aim to create a working and learning environment where principles of equality, equity, cultural diversity, social justice and environmental stewardship are lived out as we look to inspire the next generation towards the future. We have daily Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Announcements in our schools. We have opportunities to teach others about what is passionate to us. We can do more that bring the curriculum and policy to life. We have an opportunity and a responsibility as a Union to be a public voice advocating for others, especially those who are seeking the restoration of self autonomy and their legal rights to be respected with dignity and substance. Dialogue such as this question of potential future leaders may be the first step in creating more awareness and motivation for all of OSSTF/FESSO to take initiative in advocating for those who need the support and strength of our voice.
2. Our collective action or inaction responding to Climate Change may define how much we value stewardship of the future and our most precious resource: planet earth. Any global change requires a global population response. We humans have never faced such a large scale exponential issue that requires a collective commitment to change. The progressive altered climatic patterns will indeed threaten our present quality of life and our future existence. This is not the result of living in an inter-glacial period, but the result of our choices to not prioritize stewardship of our environment.
OSSSTF/FESSO’s home page states our membership is more than 60,000 strong representing multiple job classes, districts and languages. We are a snapshot of the population. We debate motions on environmental stewardship yearly at AMPA, and in our locals. We count the cost in the short term, and wonder about long term impact. I think we can do more than this. We can be intentional in our choices. We can be educated and promoters of truth in the environmental costs our footprint makes. We can make choices and set policies that provide long term good for our planet. We can choose whom we align ourselves with in business policies and send the message that factors besides money matter. This can be a proactive response, as can how we chose to conduct our business.
To my knowledge, most candidates running for election have opted for paperless campaign promotion. My hope is the rationale goes beyond the cost savings but for a reduction in generating waste that our physical environment will eventually have to absorb.
People are mobilized to action together, uniting with those who are likewise passionate for a cause or value. We at OSSTF/FESSO have the potential to be a large example of mobilizing for more than our rights. We can mobilize for the rights of everyone; to live on a planet where someone else doesn’t willfully place their short term comfort or convenience over the rights of those who may not have the knowledge or power to make that difference. We already unite for supporting the labour movement and can use these methods of mobilization for invite everyone to join together. We have the volume of membership, the moral value of investing the future, and the means to encourage and invite others to move forward together for something everyone wants; a sustainable more habitable planet. Why don’t we use our greatest strength; our people?
3. Our investments (both internal and in the OTPP) are how we speak about the future and what we value. We value security and see money as that insurance. Do we value our short term future at the cost of the long term?
OTPP valuation models are based on 70 year projections. We invest our dues and reserves in long term infrastructure or real estate or monetary holdings.
Often the popular topic of divestment is “will choosing non fossil fuel (non-renewable resources) mean a lower economic return?” We collectively fear it will. We fear it may cost us our financial comfort, in a shorter term than us feeling the effects of the non-monetary negatives that come from those choices.
I simply don’t believe the co-relation between divestment from environmentally or socially responsible investments is mutually exclusive, nor as strong as we may fear. I’ve seen my own personal investments still generate a comparable return to other investments. So even if we collectively value high and fast monetary return above other principles, maybe we need to take a close look at our investments.
Leadership can be the ability to speak up for those who will subsequently reap the benefits and consequences of present actions. I believe leaders have a responsibility to look out for everyone. Leadership has the ability to influence others and set an example for all.
Delegates often decide on who they will elect into leadership based on their character and values. I urge everyone to talk to candidates; learn who they are and what they stand for. Meet them and see what they are willing to do on the various issues. Come to the OTF Governor suite. Have a cookie and talk further to Laura Drexler about what matters to you.
“Thank you for raising these important issues but the responses are complex. Please come to my suite at AMPA to discuss.”
“Thank you for sharing your concerns, I am more than willing to share my thoughts on these issues at AMPA and look forward to meeting you. Please feel free to visit me my campaign suite or ask your questions during the Question and Answer period Saturday night.
The following letter and questionnaire was sent to all declared candidates for OSSTF President, Vice-President, Executive Officer, Treasurer, OTF Governor and OTF Table Officer. If an email address could not be found for a candidate, we contacted them through social media.
The deadline has been extended to March 6, since some candidates have said they did not receive it.
Again, our sincere gratitude for the engagement of the candidates.
To the Candidates seeking election to OSSTF Provincial positions at AMPA 2017:
Thank you for your courage to put your names forward for leadership positions. We appreciate your willingness to take the risk and participate fully in the democratic process of elections.
Just over two years ago, the Educators Climate Alliance (ECA) was formed and launched a divestment campaign aimed at pressuring the OTPP and OMERS to divest from fossil fuels. Since then, many conversations have taken place and much has transpired globally in a world-wide divestment movement. Since Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline clash, the divestment movement has broadened to include the Big Banks that fund these destructive projects. At this point, we are not asking for divestment from the banks, but motions going to AMPA 2017 through OSSTF Limestone District 27 are asking again for divestment from fossil fuels. The motions can be found on the ECA website here.
“Indigenous Peoples are standing up to protect land, water and our collective future: not only for us but for the very existence of the human race.” – Crystal Lameman, Beaver Lake Cree
Examples of Indigenous movements and First Nations on the front lines:
Will OSSTF stand with First Nations and all Indigenous Peoples and put people and the planet over profit?
We think that OSSTF has the capacity to be a real leader in social justice and human rights causes. Our union has fought for the rights and interests of our members and has a history of advocating for progressive change on issues affecting broader society.
As a candidate seeking a leadership position within OSSTF, we would like to know your position on these issues. We request that you answer the three questions below before AMPA 2017. We will post these questions on the Educators Climate Alliance blog and share them on social media. By answering these questions you are agreeing to have your responses published verbatim on our website.
Our deepest gratitude for your participation! Please see the questionnaire below.
On behalf of the Educators Climate Alliance,
Adam Davidson-Harden (D27), Kevin Bowers (D27), Anik Hahn (D26), William MacCallum (D15)
Educators Climate Alliance Questionnaire
Please respond by email by March 3, 2017.
The following motions have been submitted to AMPA by OSSTF District 27. The Educators Climate Alliance thanks District 27 for agreeing to bring the divestment discussion once again to OSSTF’s annual meeting. We appreciate everyone for taking time to consider these motions.
Last year a motion regarding supporting refugees failed to pass. In the last few weeks, the refugee issue has become very significant. We hope that OSSTF and affiliate unions will find a way to lead on this issue that will seriously impact the frontline workers in education in Ontario. Find our blog post from AMPA 2016 here arguing that OSSTF needs to take action. Below is the AMPA 2016 motion:
BE IT RESOLVED THAT AMPA establish a work group that will investigate ways to support the education and community needs of refugees in Ontario.
The work group will be composed of the following: a) three bargaining unit presidents/leaders, with an interest in human rights, as selected by the Provincial Executive from applications; b) one Provincial CPAC member; c) one Provincial Executive member, assigned by the President; d) the Secretariat Liaisons assigned to CPAC.
The Work Group will report to Provincial Council, as appropriate, and submit an interim report with recommendations to AMPA 2017 and a final report with recommendations to AMPA 2018.