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Crowd gathers for teachers rally in front of MLA office

DOZENS OF TEACHERS, parents and students rallied Tuesday morning in front of MLA Don McRae
DOZENS OF TEACHERS, parents and students rallied Tuesday morning in front of MLA Don McRae's office in support of striking teachers.
— image credit: ERIN HALUSCHAK

Dozens of parents, teachers and students gathered Tuesday morning in front of Comox Valley MLA Don McRae's office to show solidarity for striking teachers, and even called for McRae to step down.

Organizer Alix Wilson, a parent of two, said she created the event because it was time for parents to step up and put pressure on the government for what they want for their kids and for the future.

"(We want) to remind (the government) that they're our voice for what we want, and we want smaller class sizes for kids and we want public education to be successful for the future."

Nick Moore, president of the Comox District Teachers Association, explained despite the positive turnout, teachers would much rather be teaching.

"We're disappointed to be here right now. We're ready for the Liberal government to invest in education. We're a service industry; we're not a business and we need support now."

He noted he believes more parent-run rallies will be springing up throughout the week, "as parents start to see that this is not just about wages, this is not just about benefits but this is a long term problem that needs to stop now."

Moore extended an invitation for McRae to return to a classroom, particularly following a letter which recently came to light which McRae wrote in 2008 as a teacher at G.P. Vanier to then-Education Minister Shirley Bond about overwhelming class sizes.

"Don's a teacher. He felt what it's like to be in classrooms. He penned that letter in the early 2000s, and it's worse now," added Moore.

About half an hour into the rally, McRae addressed the crowd from outside his office, telling them he has never stopped fighting for good quality education in the province.

"I want to see a scenario where I see the government and the BCTF reach a negotiated settlement, not a legislated settlement. That to me, would be the ultimate way to get to a resolution," he said.

"I'm committed to trying to work with my colleagues and the BCTF to have both parties to get to a place where we get a negotiated settlement. It has not been easy, it has never been easy."

He fielded questions from the crowd, explaining he was there to listen.

Chants of "recall" began, with one protestor handing McRae a letter and asking him to reconsider his political beliefs.

"If you cannot convince your colleagues of what's right, of what you know is right as a teacher, then you're in the wrong sandbox, and you need to sit as an independent," she said.

One parent asked McRae if he's taking party politics over his constituents, and asked if he would have the courage to stand up against government policies.

"One of the things in the world of government in the British Parliamentary system is the conversations you have in caucus and in cabinet are subject to solidarity," McRae explained. "And that is one of the roles you take on going forward when you go into the British Parliamentary system.

"I can make the decision to leave cabinet at my discretion; I will not have a say at the cabinet table then. But I'll tell you this: whether people choose to believe me or not, I do fight for public education."

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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