Social and Economic Justice
Catholic teachers take a broad view of our responsibility to make this province a better place. Ontario has the capacity to build a society in which everyone has genuine opportunities to participate and succeed, but achieving this goal will require shifts in attitudes and bold investments in infrastructure, public services, and citizens.
We also work to promote peace and prosperity internationally. The world is more interconnected and interdependent than ever before, and as Catholics we are called upon to support human rights and stand up against injustice whenever and wherever it arises.
Poverty and Inequality
By some measures, as many 20 per cent of children in Ontario live in poverty. Teachers see the effects every day, as children arrive at school tired, hungry, and unprepared. In the second phase of its poverty reduction strategy, the Government of Ontario has recommitted to its goal of reducing child poverty by 25 per cent compared to 2008 levels. However, without more ambitious funding and policy changes, it is unlikely this will be achieved. Co-operation from the federal government is also critical, so we look forward to seeing the details of the promised national poverty reduction strategy.
Catholic teachers are committed to social justice and the empowerment of those who are marginalized. Through our Educational Aid Fund, the Educational Aid Committee provides approximately $250,000 (two per cent of revenue) per year in grants to support educational programs around the world. Our Educational Aid Fund has been granting money to teacher and community organizations worldwide for more than 40 years. To date, more than $2.5 million has been granted.
The Educational Aid Committee also oversees the administration of Project Overseas, which sends volunteer teachers to developing countries, mostly in Africa and the Caribbean, to conduct professional development in-service for their colleagues.
Equity, Inclusivity, and Human Rights
As Catholic teachers, we are called to strive for more peace, respect, and compassion in our society. Rather than seeing difference and separation, we seek to embrace all that unites us as people.
Catholic teachers actively promote dialogue about gender equity and ending gender-based violence. We recognize the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, participate in the YWCA Rose Campaign’s Light the Night initiative, and celebrate International Women’s Day. For several years, members of the Provincial Executive have been representatives at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. We were long-time advocates of an inquiry into the shocking numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and we have been vocal proponents of measures to address the gender pay gap and other forms of gender-based discrimination in the workplace.
We are striving to make our communities and schools as safe and welcoming as possible for students, teachers, and staff who identify as LGBTQ. We have previously hosted the Reach Every Student – Know Their Story conference, about engaging and serving marginalized LGBTQ students. We have been longstanding supporters of Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, particularly their research aimed at understanding the issues faced by LGBTQ students and teachers. Recognizing the high incidence of bullying endured by LGBTQ students, we have been outspoken advocates of Gay-Straight Alliances in our schools, and we have helped to implement recent changes to the Health and Physical Education curriculum. Our provincial Association was represented at the 2014 World Pride Parade, and several of our local units take part in annual Pride parades in Toronto and elsewhere.
Our standing Human Rights Committee meets three times per year and hosts a speaker and a caucus at our Annual General Meeting. The mandate of the committee is to provide information and promote positions of the Association regarding human rights, discrimination, equal opportunity, and the value and contributions of all peoples.
Truth and Reconciliation
Catholic teachers celebrate the contributions made by Indigenous people. At the same time, we recognize the devastating legacy of the residential school system, and we are deeply concerned about the difficulties faced by many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples and communities.
We are a proud sponsor of the Lieutenant Governor’s Aboriginal Summer Reading Camps, which deliver literacy programs to thousands of children in 28 communities. However, we believe that comprehensive public policy solutions are the best way forward. More than 80 per cent of Indigenous students in Ontario attend provincially funded schools, and more than 90 per cent of elementary and secondary schools have some Indigenous students enrolled. We will continue to advocate for more resources, including trained and certified teachers, for all communities.
Teachers have a crucial role in the reconciliation process, as we have opportunities to create safe spaces for constructive learning and dialogue. Having heard and understood the truth, we endeavour to infuse the curriculum with Indigenous history and perspectives.