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Premier's tour of Chilliwack Christian school draws protesters

Katharin Midzain (centre, red jacket), president of the Chilliwack Teachers
Katharin Midzain (centre, red jacket), president of the Chilliwack Teachers' Association, speaks with Chilliwack teachers outside Unity Christian School after hearing that Premier Christy Clark would be visiting the school on Monday afternoon. Clark never showed up.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

A tour of a private Christian high school by B.C. premier Christy Clark Monday afternoon was cancelled due to public school teachers protesting outside the school.

Approximately 40 teachers from a range of Chilliwack public schools stood outside Unity Christian with their signs, hoping to get their message across to the premier.

However, Clark opted to change locales because of the protesters.

"The protesters from the teachers' union are there, and I don't want to disrupt those kids' school day any more than necessary," Clark told The Progress in a phone interview Monday afternoon. "The protesters are going to do their thing anyway, but they will do it a lot more vociferously and angrily if I'm there."

Chilliwack Teachers' Association president Katharin Midzain, one of the protesters at Unity Christian, was disappointed Clark was a no-show.

"It's unfortunate she doesn't have the courage to come out and talk to public school workers," said Midzain. "It's sad, because we are constituents, we are voters, and we have long memories."

When Midzain got word the premier would be touring the independent school, she was appalled.

"I find it absolutely shocking that the premier is out of the legislature building today when they're bringing forward and discussing legislation about education," said Midzain. "That she would choose to be here, to promote a candidate for a byelection that hasn't even been called, instead of facing up to people in the legislature building, it's absolutely appalling."

Midzain also felt the tour locale spoke volumes to the government's priorities.

"It certainly shows where their priorities are, that they don't believe in an accessible, free, open, equal education for all students in B.C.," said Midzain.

Clark said the Unity Christian school tour had nothing to do with pitting private schools against public schools. The purpose was to interact with a group of administrators and parents active in independent schools, she said.

"This had been planned for a long time, and the fact the teachers' union decided today that they were going to shut down public schools doesn't mean that I need to stop doing my job," Clark said.

"My job is to talk to as many British Columbians as I possibly can, to talk to the whole wide array of parents out there, including the ones that make the choice to send their kids to a faith-based school."

She also noted her disappointment in the teachers' union, stating the outcome of Bill 22 is inevitable, and that the teachers' full withdrawal of services is pointless.

"Even though the teachers' union knows what the outcome is going to be, they decided to disrupt classrooms nonetheless," said Clark. "What is the point of that? What is the point in shutting down schools, inconveniencing parents, depriving kids of a few days of instruction when they know what the outcome is going to be? Doing all this to kids isn't going to make a difference. It's not putting students first."

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

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