After years of lobbying, the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC (FPSE) is delighted with news that Premier John Horgan has restored funding to Adult Basic Education and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs in B.C.
Cuts to ESL education announced by Ottawa in late 2013 led to huge tuition fees for ESL students, and provincial cuts to adult basic education, starting in January 2015, shut the door on post-secondary ambitions for many adult learners. The introduction of fees for ESL and adult basic education disproportionately affected low income earners, single parents, newcomers, refugees, and aboriginal students.
FPSE President George Davison attended the funding announcement Tuesday, August 8, at Camosun College in Victoria, where he met with Premier Horgan, Advanced Education, Skills and Training Minister Melanie Mark, and Education Minister Rob Fleming.
“Premier Horgan’s announcement marks the end of a three-year campaign to ensure that adult learners and newcomers have access to basic education and language training in B.C.” said Davison. “Our members were clear that adult basic education and English language programs provided foundational skills essential to secure employment and further post-secondary learning.”
The premier’s announcement is a victory for our members. Our Open the Doors campaign resulted in pre-election commitments to restore funding for these essential programs from the BC NDP and BC Greens, and from the BC Liberals in their aborted Throne Speech. The announcement is an important step in making sure that our education system is more affordable and accessible for all.
“This is good news for our members, and for anyone who cares about education in our province. But our work isn’t over,” said Davison. “There are a number of serious issues still facing our members in both public and private institutions throughout B.C., and we will continue to press the new government on those issues, including improving the trades training system, addressing affordability for students and student debt levels, the casualization of precarious academic work, and fulfilling the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”
As educators and staff in the post-secondary education system, we know creating a safe environment where every person’s human and civil rights are respected is crucial to a productive learning environment. We also know that this work does not end at the classroom door, and I am so proud to stand with our member faculty and staff in solidarity with the LGBTQ2*+ community.
Across BC, Pride parades and events mark a meaningful time to celebrate progress being made within our communities, especially the significant advances that have been made in the past year:
- July 25, 2016: In BC, Bill 27 was passed in to law, adding gender identity and expression protection to the Human Rights Code.
- June 19, 2017: Bill C-16 received Royal Assent and became federal law, adding protection of gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Code and the Criminal Code.
This is also a time to reflect on the work that is still to be done to achieve an entirely free, just, safe, and inclusive society. At home and abroad, many people are under threat of persecution and worse due to their gender identity, expression, or sexual orientation.
FPSE encourages all members to show support for LGBTQ2*+ equity by taking part in Pride celebrations in your communities. Pride festivals are an opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments, and to keep working for a society where everybody is free to express who they are and free to love who they want.
On July 18, 2017, Premier John Horgan and his cabinet were sworn-in and are now the official new government of British Columbia. Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC President George Davison was in attendance to witness this historic moment, and had the following to say on behalf of the Federation:
“Over the past 16 years, government funding of post-secondary education has massively declined, placing an unsustainable burden on students and families across BC. On behalf of the member locals of our federation, we welcome The Honourable Melanie Mark, M.L.A., to her new role as Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. We are confident that the new government is committed to improving the lives of all British Columbians with a renewed commitment to providing better choices and opportunities in post-secondary education.”
We look forward to working with the minister on issues such as free access to Adult Basic Education and ESL, reducing student debt including the elimination of interest on student loans, support for rural colleges, and indigenization of the curriculum.
FPSE has always worked to ensure post-secondary education remains affordable and accessible and that it meets the needs of people throughout the province. We look forward to working with Premier Horgan and his government to address the challenges ahead.
FPSE is working toward our strategic goal of supporting decolonization, reconciliation, and Indigenization on our campuses and in Canadian society. To that end, delegates at the 2017 AGM voted to create an Indigenous Standing Committee, with the collective support and effort of our Federation.
The committee's name, membership, and terms of reference will be finalized in the coming months.
I don’t know about you, but I think this has been the most interesting start of a summer vacation I’ve ever had. After a long election campaign, made even longer by some very close races, and weeks of uncertainty about who would form government, we are now on the brink of new government in B.C. Last night, former Premier Clark asked Her Honour the Lieutenant-Governor for the dissolution of the Legislature. Exercising her constitutional authority, however, L-G Judith Guichon declined this request and invited now Premier-designate John Horgan to form government. We have a great deal to celebrate.
All three of the major party platforms featured post-secondary education prominently, something we can attribute largely to the success of our Open the Doors campaign in raising voter engagement on the issues of affordability and accessibility in our sector. In particular, after years of effort, our campaign resulted in commitments from all three major parties to restore funding for Adult Basic Education (ABE) and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs (although the B.C. Liberal conversion came somewhat later than the others).
Now, the NDP and Green Party have the opportunity to implement their historic agreement. By the time we’re heading back to our classrooms and our offices, John Horgan’s government will be sworn in and hard at work. Our Fall will be busy as we build relationships with this new government, engaging with key decision-makers on our top priorities, including revamping the funding formula, improving affordability for students, and developing mechanisms for frequent consultation with those of us who work and teach in the system. First in line, though, is a call to restore free tuition for developmental programs on time for the start of classes in September.
Government relations and public policy advocacy is critical to our effort to improve the post-secondary education system: to ensure that it is affordable and accessible for all, not just the wealthy few. This work is especially top of mind as we eagerly watch the transition from the government of the past 16 years to a new one. But in the meantime, we continue our work as part of the broader labour movement and in our communities. We stand in solidarity with those who are fighting for their human and civil rights. We acknowledge that while the government of Canada celebrates 150 years since Confederation, the work of reconciliation with the indigenous peoples – whose land was colonized to build this country - is just beginning. We join our LGBTQ friends and colleagues in celebrating Pride, but also in remembering that Pride marches originated as political events to call attention to hatred and violence experienced in those communities.
And when summer winds down, there is no better way to mark its end and the start of a new school year than by joining your local Labour Day celebration, marking over a hundred years of advocating for workers’ rights. I’ll be at the BC Federation of Labour picnic at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, joining trade unionists from all over the Metro Vancouver area to celebrate the proud achievements of the labour movement, and I would invite all of you in the area to join me.
Stay tuned for periodic updates as we find out more from Victoria and prepare to kick off our next phase of advocacy for our members and our students. And whether you’re taking a well-deserved vacation or teaching through the coming months, I wish you an enjoyable summer. At the very least, it should be an interesting one!
Delegates to FPSE’s Annual General Meeting and Convention, held May 15-18, 2017, demonstrated their ongoing support for FPSE’s leadership by acclaiming all four executive officers to their positions. Returning to their roles for another one-year term are President George Davison, Secretary-Treasurer Terri Van Steinburg, First Vice-President Frank Cosco, and Second Vice-President Leslie Molnar. Presidents’ Council also elected two Members-at-Large to serve on the Executive, Tim Walters (Local 9) and Shirley Ackland (Local 16), at the post-Convention meeting.
“I’m humbled to have once again received the support and confidence of the members of our Federation,” said Davison. “We have an exciting year ahead of us, full of opportunity with a new government poised to take office. We look forward to increased consultation with faculty and staff at our public post-secondary institutions, and working together to improve affordability and accessibility for post-secondary students.”
“It’s an honour to have been re-elected to the role of Secretary-Treasurer. Being part of our Federation’s leadership has been an incredible privilege,” said Van Steinburg. “FPSE is growing rapidly, taking on exciting projects and campaigns, and I’m committed to ensuring we have the necessary resources to support all our Locals and members across the province.”
This year’s keynote speaker was Jane McAlevey, who gave a rousing talk about the importance of building high-participation unions. McAlevey, an organizer, negotiator, author, and educator, works with unions all over the world to make a shift to more participatory approaches to our traditional work. “I want to talk about winning, because winning matters,” McAlevey said. “Some things that we do lead to winning, and some things that we do don’t. Taking risk is connected to winning.”
Delegates also heard from Aaron Ekman, Secretary-Treasurer of the BC Federation of Labour; Paul Faoro, President of CUPE BC; Anna Beukes, President of Alberta Colleges & Institutes Faculties Association (ACIFA); and Simka Marshall, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students.
The convention featured robust and healthy debate on a variety of topics. Among the resolutions passed was a bylaw amendment creating a seat for the Chair of the Non-Regular Faculty Committee at Presidents’ Council, which governs FPSE between AGMs. Like the Executive Committee members, this position will have full voice but no vote. Delegates also voted to continue FPSE’s advocacy for tuition-free Adult Basic Education and English as an Additional Language; to build upon the Open the Doors campaign; and to prioritize decolonization, reconciliation, and indigenization on our campuses and in Canadian society – including the creation of a new FPSE Standing Committee to further these goals.
The 48th Annual General Meeting and Convention will be held May 14-17, 2018 in Whistler, hosted by Capilano Faculty Association, FPSE Local 1.
On behalf of 10,000 FPSE members, we want to congratulate John Horgan and Andrew Weaver on reaching their historic governing agreement, putting British Columbians ahead of partisan interests.
We are hopeful that this agreement will be transformative for BC, and that its spirit of compromise serve as a democratizing force encouraging cooperative and consultative governance far beyond the next four years.
We look forward to the opportunity to consult with a new government to discuss post-secondary education policy priorities, including a comprehensive review of the funding formula, tuition-free ABE and ESL programs, and student debt relief.
There is a great deal of work to be done in the coming weeks, months, and years, and we’re looking forward to being part of it.
On behalf of 10,000 post-secondary educators at BC’s colleges, institutes, and teaching universities, we call on the BC government to respect the Aboriginal rights of the Treaty 8 First Nations, especially the indigenous peoples of the Peace River watershed.
We further call on the BC government to uphold that principle and immediately to refer the Site C dam project for review and recommendations under Section 5 of the BC Utilities Commission Act, and additionally, to delay issuance of any further permits or authorizations until such review has been completed and until the courts have decided on First Nations’ land issues at stake. The principle of free, prior and informed consent is an inherent right of Indigenous peoples that helps ensure their survival, dignity, and well-being. There can be no reconciliation without respect for fundamental human rights.
We urge the BC government to pay heed to the Treaty 8 First Nations, who are opposed to the proposed Site C Project for a number of reasons, including the cost to ratepayers, the environmental impacts, and the loss of sacred archeological and burial sites, as well as the impacts on their Treaty rights.
The Peace River Valley is home to Treaty 8 First Nations’ hunting, fishing, and trapping grounds, fertile agricultural lands and farms, old growth boreal forests, and is one of the most important wildlife corridors in the Yellowstone to Yukon migration corridor chain. The proposed site of the dam also has some of the best agricultural land in northern BC, capable of feeding a million people.
If this project is not stopped, the Site C Dam will destroy wildlife-sustaining habitat that has supplied generations of First Nations people with food and cultural sustenance for thousands of years. It will destroy one of the largest and most important wildlife corridors on the continent, and submerge valuable carbon sinks instead of promoting food security and the need to adapt to climate change. This project will cause irreparable harm to the environment, while costing British Columbians an estimated $8 billion in the process. It will also destroy the site of the earliest European occupation in BC.
The Peace River Valley is a special and unique place and cannot be replaced. The impacts of the project are significant, far-reaching, and cannot be mitigated.
Please join us in the call to stop this project before it is too late.
As the people who work and teach in BC’s public post-secondary institutions, we experience firsthand, every day, how government policy is failing students and families. It’s time for a change of direction.
Until recently, all British Columbians had the opportunity to attend a college or university that was comprehensive, affordable, and accessible to students. Not anymore. Since this government took office in 2001, average tuition fees are 220% higher, provincial funding has steadily declined in real dollars, and government revenue from student fees is 400% higher.
Shifting the cost of education onto you, our students, has had devastating effects. When you graduate, you’ll have the highest levels of debt nationwide and the highest interest rates: BC’s average debt burden is $35,000 after four years. Some people won’t have the chance to enrol in the first place, because programs like adult basic education and English language learning, which used to be free, are now unaffordable.
The government predicts that 80% of future jobs will require post-secondary education, so why do they continually reduce investment in our colleges and universities and force students to pay more and more?
As educators, we believe our students should have the opportunity to contribute to a vibrant, diverse, modern economy without being forced into crippling debt. Many forward-looking jurisdictions are making post-secondary education more affordable but BCis moving in exactly the opposite direction.
The truth is that underfunding post-secondary education is bad for students, bad for the economy, and bad for the future of our province.
We’re ready to help our students learn, innovate, and meet the needs of our province in the 21st century but we can’t do it alone. We have proposed solutions at openthedoors.ca. With your help, we can make BC debt-free for students and families.
On May 9, vote for a government that cares as much about your future, your children’s future, and the future of our province as you do. Vote to invest in post-secondary education. Vote to invest in people.
Authorized by FPSE; George Davison, registered sponsor under the Election Act, 604-873-8988
International Women’s Day is an annual opportunity to reflect on how global events are affecting women and to take action in our own communities. For many of us, this is our year-round work, part of who we are and what we do every day in our lives. International Women’s Day is our chance to share our work with others.
This year, the work of International Women’s Day started a couple months early. On January 21, 2017, women and allies all over the world joined what started as a local Women’s March on Washington, but quickly became a global event. Over 1 million people marched in Washington, D.C. and over 5 million worldwide, protesting the statements and policies of the newly sworn-in Donald Trump.
The marches began as a response to what many see as misogynist behaviour and speech from the new president, and grew to include many other issues as well. Thousands of marchers carried signs and placards expressing their dismay or outrage at Trump’s policies or in solidarity with those people who are more vulnerable under the Trump administration.
As is so often the case when we organize for change, these marches weren’t without controversy. Since they took place feminists and allies have been engaged in the deep work of reflection about what we’ve learned and about the need applying an intersectional lens to every event we organize. Intersectionality is about seeking understanding of how individuals and systemic barriers or discrimination intersect. It’s about understanding what we mean when we speak of “privilege” and accepting that some of us may experience certain barriers but still have considerable privilege relative to others, because of systemic discrimination – and vice versa.
Post-secondary educators and academics tend to have a considerable amount of privilege. We tend (with some exceptions) to be better educated, better paid, and have access to more information and resources than many other segments of the population. We are called upon as experts in our fields; we speak with authority both in and out of the classroom. We also attend, participate in, and organize a lot of events, such as conferences and panel discussions. For those of us also active in our unions, our opportunities to organize events are even greater.
It’s important that when we’re organizing an event, we consider what steps we take to ensure we have diverse voices reflected among the speakers or panelists. Have we endeavoured to have diversity amongst participants? Have we asked participants to identify access needs and made every effort to accommodate them? Here at FPSE, we’re paying close attention to these issues, and this year, we’ll be offering a workshop on building inclusive movements.
These topics - intersectionality, discrimination, and privilege - are often uncomfortable. It’s easy for feelings to be hurt, for anger to arise, for resentment to surface. To be identified by someone else as being privileged but unaware of it – and thereby inadvertently behaving or speaking in a discriminatory manner - can be shocking for those of us who see ourselves as progressive feminists. The discomfort is not only to be expected, it’s a necessary part of the growth and learning. It is incumbent upon all of us to recognize our own privilege where it exists, to name it, and to make every effort to listen and learn from those whose privilege is less than our own.
This International Women’s Day, let’s all commit to examining the parts we play in building a stronger, more diverse and inclusive movement – one that has space for everyone and that challenges us to learn and grow. Let’s ensure that systemically-marginalized voices are heard and that “International Women’s Day” means “intersectional” too.