We try to teach our children the importance of justice, fairness, moral decisions and the rule of law in our everyday life. But our kids would better understand what these values entail concretely if they could see how they should be practiced, especially by our leaders.
What do we reply to our children when they ask us: “Why are “essential workers” laid off when they demand fair wages?” That this is our government’s alternative meaning of “essential”? What do we tell them about Premier Higgs’ intent to use the Emergency Measures Act or back-to-work legislation to circumvent the right to strike, protected by our constitution? That it’s routine practice in unsavoury regimes, but not in Canada?
Even though our children don’t grasp the minutiae of our public employees’ overall labour action, they can sense wrongdoing in their immediate life: why is their school reverting to distance learning for reasons other than a health emergency – in this case, a labour action? Simply because that method is available? What if strike-breakers – or even thugs – were available?
Our kids may not be able to articulate it in so many words, but they understand that, by instructing schools to switch to online teaching, the Higgs government is essentially forcing teachers to cross the picket line. Under the cover of a health emergency, the government is violating a set of laws that have been established to allow for labour negotiations to be conducted fairly.
Do we want our children to believe that cheating rules is acceptable if they think the end justifies the means? That justice and fairness can be set aside for the sake of convenience? That this is leadership? Especially in the context of education, it would be honourable if the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development served as a model of morality for our youth and future leaders. What a message to send to our young people if he stood up and encouraged the government – his government – to return to the negotiating table – and reopen schools for in-person education.
Luc Walhain and Taeyon Kim are parents of two students at École Sainte-Anne.
Access all of NB Media Co-op’s coverage of the CUPE strike here.
Read all about the the events leading up to the strike here.