Educators for Social Justice – Nova Scotia Calls for Concrete Plans to Eliminate Child Poverty

KJIPUKTUK/HALIFAX – Educators for Social Justice – Nova Scotia is calling for Nova Scotia’s political parties to lay out their plans for eliminating child poverty during the current election period. As education workers, we see the effects of child poverty every day. Giving children the things they need to thrive early in life is an investment.

1 in 5 children across this province live in poverty. This figure is 1 in 3 in Cape Breton, and 1 in 4 in the Kentville area.
 
“Every year the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Nova Scotia releases a child and family poverty report card, complete with specific recommendations for reducing and eliminating child poverty” says Angela Wyllie, an elementary teacher in the Annapolis Valley. “It makes headlines for a few days and then is mostly forgotten.”

Wyllie added, “Teachers work closely with these kids. We want them to thrive in school and beyond, which they can’t do if they’re dealing with the physical and emotional stresses associated with poverty.’

The CCPA-NS 2020 report included recommendations such as the creation of a Child and Youth Advocacy Office, raising the minimum wage, and funding and building a high-quality early learning and childcare system that is child-centred, play-based, seamless (all day, full year), affordable and accessible.

“Governments have been promising to address child poverty for over 30 years. In 2015, I travelled with students to Ottawa as part of a project to remind politicians about the commitment that was made in 1989 to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. It’s now 2021 and the problem is getting worse, not better,” said Diane Lewis, a high school teacher in Cape Breton.

“We know what the solutions are to this problem,” says Dr. Lesley Frank, Tier II Canada Research Chair in Food, Health, and Social Justice at Acadia University and co-author of the CCPA-NS report. “We need to see that those running to govern the province have the will to implement them.”

ESJ-NS is hosting a Zoom press conference this morning at 9:30 a.m. with further information. Details to join are below. As well, ESJ-NS is encouraging educators to ask provincial candidates on their party’s plan to implement the CCPA-NS’s recommendations to reduce and eliminate child poverty. To see short versions of these 11 recommendations see esjns.com

To arrange an interview please contact Cole Wild, at 902-292 6220.

PRESS CONFERENCE: Educators call for concrete plans to fight child poverty in the provincial election
Date: Friday, July 30, 2021Time: 9:30 a.m.Zoom linkhttps://us06web.zoom.us/j/81999245343?pwd=ZytmSGRBUkVpelJTZ2g1M1hOSXZHQT09

Speakers

  • Angela Wyllie, elementary teacher, Annapolis Valley Regional Centre for Education
  • Dr. Lesley Frank (Acadia University), co-author, Child and Family Report Card 2020 – Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Nova Scotia
  • Diane Lewis, high school teacher, Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education
  • Alec Stratford, executive director, Nova Scotia College of Social Workers
  • MC: Cole Wild, junior high school teacher, Halifax Regional Centre for Education

Department of Education and Early Childhood Development should follow through with plans to purchase book for Nova Scotian schools

In April, Nimbus Publishing was contacted by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD). The Department inquired about doing a special run of I Place You Into the Fire, a book of poems by acclaimed Mi’kmaw author Rebecca Thomas, past poet laureate of Halifax, for schools across the province. However, the DEECD asked that the author remove 6 poems from her book, including one about being the child of a Residential School survivor.

Nimbus reached out to the Department to ask why they requested those poems removed, but received no response. Thomas said in an interview that she did not wish to erase her history and culture in order for these books to appear in schools. She even expressed a willingness to work with the DEECD in order to create a teacher’s guide on how to deal with some of the more difficult language and themes in the book.

An author should not be made to re-write or sanitize her work in order to sugar-coat Canada’s history of the genocide of Indigenous people. The DEECD should recognize this and renew contact with Thomas and her publisher to continue forward with a bulk purchase of her book in its original form.

We encourage educators and parents to contact the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development and ask them to continue working with Nimbus and Ms. Thomas in order to purchase copies of her book. 

Statement of Solidarity With the Mi’kmaq Fishery

Educators for Social Justice stands in solidarity with the Mi’kmaq who are asserting their inherent and treaty rights to fish in their own unceded and unsurrendered territory of Mi’kma’ki. For those of us who are settlers, we do this in recognition of our treaty obligations to ensure that the Mi’kmaq “shall not be hindered from, but have free liberty of Hunting and Fishing” (1752 Treaty of Peace and Friendship).

We condemn the racist violence they have been facing from white settlers.

As educators, it is clear to us that a lack of understanding of the Treaties of Peace and Friendship plays a significant role in the longstanding denial of Mi’kmaw treaty rights and the current conflict. We call on the provincial government to increase funding and support for comprehensive Treaty Education professional development for all public school educators, which must include proper compensation for Mi’kmaw Elders and Knowledge Keepers working with educators. We call on the federal government to take immediate action on all Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2015), especially those related to education and the full adoption of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007).

Finally, we call on settlers in Mi’kma’ki to learn what it means to be a Treaty person in Mi’kma’ki, with the guiding principles of relationship, respect, reciprocity, and responsibility to the Mi’kmaq and the land of Mi’kma’ki, and to fulfill our obligations as Treaty people.

A safe Return to School is Possible

Education workers, parents and students alike are concerned about the return to school in September. 

Teachers want to be back in their classrooms. Kids are tired of staring at phone and computer screens. Parents are eager to return to life as normal. 

But we’re not convinced that our governments are doing all they can to keep our school communities safe during this pandemic. As NSTU president Paul Wozney has emphasized: the current plan is simply not good enough.

We’re told we have to “learn to live with COVID-19.” This may be true, but it doesn’t mean that those of us who spend our days in schools should compromise our safety for the abstract goal of re-starting the economy.

The province has received more than $48 million from the federal government specifically to help with the safe return to school – yet there’s no indication that this money will be spent to ensure the most important measure for containing the spread of COVID-19: reducing class sizes to allow for physical distancing.

We know there are effective ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19 – in particular, physical distancing; and avoiding spending long periods in closed, poorly ventilated areas with large groups of people.
 
Why then are so many educational authorities across the country forcing students and school staff into exactly these conditions? 

Along with reductions to class sizes, properly functioning ventilation systems, and mask use (thankfully, most school authorities have now said they will require and support students to wear masks to school), there are other, complementary measures such as rapid COVID-19 testing, paid sick days for all workers (so parents can stay home with sick children) and even rent and mortgage freezes would allow families to make decisions about school based on the best interests of their children, not economic desperation. 

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed deep inequities in our society for all to see: those who can work from home and those who can’t; those with and without access to technology; people with easy access to outdoor space and those without. 

If plans to reopen schools are unsafe, it’s the marginalized in society who risk the most – those children who must come to school because their parents have no choice but to return to work in order to survive. 
 
Governments are concerned about deficits and their bottom line. But our province and our country do have the means to ensure a safe return to school for all – not to mention to ensure that all Nova Scotians are fed and have a comfortable place to call home. 

In February, when the NS Liberal government decided to cut corporate taxes, it found $80 million dollars. In March, when the ferry terminal in Bar Harbor, Maine needed an upgrade, the government found another $8.5 million. 

A modest wealth tax on Nova Scotia’s four billionaires would barely be felt, but could yield millions for provincial coffers.

Safe schools are possible. Let’s demand them.