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Five corners rally saw support for teachers

Rally organizer Lisa Fairney holds a sign at Five Corners on Friday that says
Rally organizer Lisa Fairney holds a sign at Five Corners on Friday that says 'We support public education.' Beside her is teacher and parent Monique Lousier with a sign saying '12 years of fighting is too long!'
— image credit: JENNIFER FEINBERG/ PROGRESS

Retired education assistant Lisa Fairney organized a lunchtime demonstration of support for striking teachers on Friday at Five Corners in Chilliwack.

It was the recent B.C. government offer of $40 to parents that did it.

"I think it was the straw that broke the camel's back for me," she said.

"That $40 is not about education — it's about babysitting and buying off the parents."

The offer to B.C. parents is a contingency, to cover childcare for each student under 13, should the strike drag on into the fall.

Parents can apply for the $40 online, starting Sept. 2.

Fairney was an EA for 25 years in the school district, working at first with a severely deaf student.

But the work became "too chaotic" for her, with bulging class sizes, and more students with special needs.

"It's one of the reasons why I retired. I had to piggyback too many students. It's hard to teach when some students are throwing chairs or threatening others with scissors."

So the key issues at stake are much more complex than just what teachers are paid, Fairney said.

"The negotiations will again I hope. I'm being optimistic."

The labour action led to rotating strikes over several weeks in May and June, before classes were interrupted two weeks early with a full-scale walk-out.

A dozen years of battling over teacher contracts is simply too long.

That's the point teacher and parent Monique Lousier sought to make with her neon-green sign that read: "12 years of fighting is too long!"

She held it up for all to see as traffic passed the little lunchtime demonstration at Five Corners Friday.

It had two photos of her son, one as a newborn, and the other at age 12 to show how long teachers have been grappling with these issues.

It was in 2002, Lousier remembered, when the BC Liberal Government stripped the classroom size and composition language out of the teachers' contracts, and it changed things for good.

"What I want people to understand is that our union is not like other public sector unions," she said. "No other union fights for our clients like this. Our clients have no voice, because they are children. We're fighting for the kids."

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/chwkjourno

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