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Event Reports
March 13th, 2012

Public Lecture Series

No to War!
Yes to Teachers!

Money For Education
Not for War!

Stop Attacks at Home and Abroad!

Organized by Mobilization Against War & Occupation (MAWO)

“Money for Education Not for War”
MAWO Forum Discuses Labour Struggle in the Era of War and Occupation

As the ongoing dispute between the British Columbia Teacher's Federation (BCTF) union and the BC Provincial Government escalated with a recent 3-day strike and continued job action promised by teachers, Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) organized a public lecture on March 13th titled, "Money for Education, Not for War!” The event aimed to put the teachers struggle in the overall picture of the current political climate in Canada, and Canadian government’s priorities and policies both at home and abroad.

Invited highschool teacher and BCTF member Tamara Hansen opened the public lecture by giving a background to the current dispute. She shared her own experiences of working in overcrowded classrooms with severely limited resources, and sighted constant attempts by the BC Liberal Government to limit teachers’ ability to collective bargain to ensure acceptable educational standards and working conditions. She noted that the BC Supreme Court had previously ruled against new education laws which the government introduced, and that the new laws they are trying to impose through Bill 22 are essentially the previously overruled laws in a new package.

She also pointed out that the education standards the BCTF and its 41,000 members in BC are trying to ensure are not impossible to attain. She gave the example of Cuba, a country with significantly less financial resources than Canada, but which devotes 10% of its annual budget to education. Education in Cuba is free from kindergarten all the way to Masters Degrees and PhDs. Class sizes are also a maximum of 25 students to 1 teacher in primary schools, and they are working towards 15 students to 1 teacher in secondary schools. In contrast, the United States spends 2% of its annual budget on education and Canada only 3.5%, and the negative results have become painfully obvious .

Tamara closed by emphasizing, “ The current struggle between teachers and the government is not only a struggle between these two parties, but needs to be seen as a flashpoint in the overall attacks and fightback between the government and all poor and working people.”

MAWO co-chair Janine Solanki was the next presenter. She set the stage by asking, “What kind of government do we have in Canada when it prioritizes sending young people to kill other innocent people in Afghanistan and Libya, and lets the education system here rot due to a supposed lack of funding?”

She sighted the Canadian government’s own projection that it will spend 490 billion dollars on the military in the next 20 years, and has already spent 25 billion dollars occupying Afghanistan and 60 million bombing Libya. All this while BC teachers must struggle to maintain even the bare minimum, and post-secondary students in Canada are staring down the barrel of almost 14 and a half billion dollars in student loan debt repayments.

Janine also pointed out that education in the countries which Canada is bombing and occupying is severely deteriorating as well. “How can ordinary Afghans attend school when their school has already been bombed, or they are simply struggling to survive because of the inhumane poverty and conditions which have characterized the last 10 years of foreign occupation of the country?” Prior to NATO’s war on Libya, education had also been free at all levels. In this she emphasized her final point – that poor and working people in Canada suffering from government attacks on their rights to a decent education among all of their basic rights and freedoms, have common cause with the people living in countries on which Canada wages its wars. The New Era of War and Occupation which began with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 has since left no stone untouched as imperialist countries fight an increasingly desperate and violent battle for total control and resources. She concluded, “We need to build an antiwar movement that seeks to fight against the Canadian government’s wars both at home and abroad, and finds common cause with millions of oppressed people fighting against imperialist occupation around the world.”

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