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Ontario elementary teachers to reconsider extracurriculars

Teachers gathered in large numbers in front of the Minister of Education Offices on Bay Street in Toronto on Jan. 15, 2013. The peaceful, but loud demonstration, helped along by a Samba band, blocked all lanes of traffic on Bay Street during part of the rush hour.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario says it will review the teachers' decision to pause extracurricular and voluntary activities before March 1.

"What happens after that review will be dependent upon what happens throughout the [Liberal] convention, the new premier, and the discussions we have with our provincial executive," Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, said on Tuesday.

In the meantime, he urged teachers to withhold from any voluntary and extracurricular activities.

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"Not all of my members are happy with the position we've taken but I would say that the overwhelming majority of members are," he said. "What we need to remember here is that we're talking about, frankly, voluntary activities outside of my members' contractual legislative obligations in their professional responsibilities."

Many of the elementary and secondary teachers protesting against Bill 115 Tuesday night agreed with Mr. Hammond that withholding extracurricular activities is the best plan of action. The bill set a Dec. 31 deadline for bargaining, and enabled the province to impose a contract this month that froze wages and cut sick days.

Twisted Sister's We're Not Gonna Take It blared through the speakers outside of the Ministry of Education building as hundreds of teachers sang along. Cars that passed through Bay Street honked in response to signs that read, "Honk for the teachers who taught you how to read!"

Ryan Kelley, 35, a teacher at Donald A. Wilson Secondary School in Whitby, said that while he hates the pause to extracurricular activities, it's a necessary step to ensure that the teachers' voices are heard.

"It's one of the few things we have left to put pressure on the government," he said. "I find it disappointing but it's inevitable given Bill 115."

Kindergarten teacher Krista Kilian of Joseph Brant Public School, however, said that she will resume extracurricular activities if the union can bring 10,000 parents to Queen's Park on a "well-publicized" day.

"Who is the real army when it comes to a bully?" she asked the crowd. "The bystanders! The parents are our bystanders … How will we get them to help us? By dangling the only carrot we have: teachers."

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With that, the crowd welcomed Mr. Hammond to the microphone as he delivered his main message to the crowd: "We will continue to fight this legislation and this government at every turn."

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