A century ago, the ATA was among five provincial teachers’ organizations that worked together to create the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF/FCE). Driven by the pressing need for a national voice for teachers, these early organizers made their vision a reality in 1920. Since then, the CTF/FCE has grown to 18 member organizations, representing teachers from coast to coast to coast, with the ATA consistently playing a pivotal leadership role. While the issues have changed through the decades, the need for a strong national voice is as important as ever. Let’s fast forward to the work of the CTF/FCE today.
Although education is a provincial/territorial matter, issues facing teachers know no boundaries. Regrettably, ill-advised government schemes are shared across provinces, territories and internationally; what goes around in one is likely to come around in others. Through the CTF/FCE, individual teacher organizations are never alone fighting against the undermining of bargaining rights, professionalism, pensions, working conditions or health and safety. At the same time, the CTF/FCE respects and is enriched by the unique ethos, values and history of each member organization.
In the active engagement of their provincial and territorial organizations, teachers across the country determine the way forward for the CTF/FCE, establishing strategic priorities that guide federation lobbying, research and programs. In recent years, these have included the internationally acclaimed We the Educators (addressing the privatization of public education, in conjunction with the ATA and Education International); the award winning social justice program Speak Truth to Power, Canada; our Canadian Heritage-funded campaign addressing the shortage of French first language teachers in minority contexts, Enseigner, ça me parle; and advocacy to raise awareness about the toll the pandemic has been taking on teachers, including a video seen by tens of thousands across the country.
Does the CTF/FCE work in isolation? Absolutely not. To amplify the teacher voice, the CTF/FCE frequently partners with national and international non-governmental organizations to extend our reach. This outreach builds effective alliances and elevates the importance of the profession in the broader community. Current collaborations include the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada–funded Healthy Professional Workers project with the CTF/FCE as community partner and education advisor; Youth Resilience in the Digital Age initiative, with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada; collaboration with the Canadian Labour Congress to secure improvements to the employment insurance program; and work with the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions to raise awareness regarding the importance of teachers and education workers being prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination.
On the global stage, the CTF/FCE engages with Education International (EI) as a strong voice for Canadian teachers, and uses its influential seat on the EI executive board to represent CTF/FCE members. CTF/FCE is also a leader in development co-operation through Project Overseas and multiple partnerships with EI affiliates in the global south. These partnerships work towards increasing the capacity of national teachers’ organizations, supporting gender equity and offering professional learning for undertrained teachers.
On a national scale, the CTF/FCE engages with the federal government on a wide range of issues related to education and the teaching profession. While management of public education is not a federal responsibility, many government decisions that affect teachers and public schools are. With strategic non-partisan government relations and advocacy, the CTF/FCE is a go-to voice in the national debate on topics such as reconciliation, mental health and well-being, employment insurance, anti-racism, child poverty, protection for teachers in the Criminal Code and the role of public education in a healthy democracy.
Let’s zero in on the prevailing issue of COVID-19. Last spring, the CTF/FCE proactively researched and responded to the profound impact of the pandemic on public schools, teachers, students, families and communities. Teachers in all parts of the country engaged in record numbers, informing our relentless advocacy for safe, well-considered, well-funded and viable public education decisions during a pandemic, decisions that address the significant equity concerns the pandemic has laid bare. We’re pleased that the federal government answered our call for increased support for education in these challenging times, and we’ll continue to raise our voice — your voice while also supporting the lobbying efforts of member organizations.
The CTF/FCE is the only national organization in Canada promoting quality, inclusive, publicly funded public education. It is all of us, Canada’s public-school teachers and educators, making a difference coast to coast to coast. While the issues evolve, the ideals that sparked the formation of the CTF/FCE stand true today. We look forward to the next 100 years of solidarity with the teachers of Alberta. ❚
Cassie Hallett is secretary general of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.