Education International
Education International

Speech by EI Deputy General Secretary, Jan Eastman, at the Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Teachers' Federation, 12-14 July 2007

published 16 July 2007 updated 16 July 2007

Mes amis, mes colleagues, invitées spéciale et Président Winston Carter:

C’est un grand plaisir pour moi d’être ici à l’Assemblée Générale Annuelle de la FCE à Toronto, et de remettre les salutations de la part de l’International de l’éducation. C’est une bonne occasion d’écouter les membres de la FCE, les enseignantes et les enseignants; et de discuter avec eux, mais c’est également pour moi un plaisir tout particulier de retourner à la FCE. I wish to Acknowledge Mairlies Rettig’s important contribution, as Executive Board member and particularly as Chair of the SWC to moving forward the equality agenda. EI was also pleased to welcome Emily Noble, incoming president of CTF, and Gene Lewis to the last Executive Board meeting in March this year. Also recognize Reg Weaver, EI Vice-president. I was delighted to join the Women’s caucus today! Good work. Well done. I wish to congratulate CTF also on the significant work it has been doing on diversity, an issue that goes to the heart of the mission and role of EI, as it does for the CTF itself. The theme of celebrating diversity at last year’s AGM and the diversity conference in May of this year mark important milestones in the work we do. So too with this year’s theme: teachers at the centre of the teaching and learning process: there are few more important themes, and clearly the new phenomenon of cyber-bulling has hit a nerve. CTF’s leadership and efforts on the international scene continue unabated and I congratulate you. It is an enormous contribution, to members by members, to individual teachers and to their unions, in professional development and union capacity building. It is a contribution of which you should be rightly proud. CTF has the honour of all the Member Organizations of holding its AGM closest to the EI Congress, we had to really use our running shoes to move from St John’s, NL to Harare, Zimbabwe to reach that significant First World Congress. Reach it we did; participate we did indeed. I expect no less of CTF at the imminent 5th WC. EI has been in full gear for some time now in preparation for the Fifth World Congress (WC) in Berlin. More than 1,500 of us will participate 22-26 July 2007. It will be an historic gathering of 383 unions that represent 30 million educators worldwide, together engaging in 5 pre-Congress caucus events, a full day of breakout sessions on a range of key topics, and with many speakers from all parts of the globe.

  • Promoting democracy
  • Promoting quality public education
  • Promoting trade union unity

This is what EI is all about, and these goals are reflected in the themes for 5WC: Educators joining together for quality education and social justice. In addition to 4 resolutions reflecting this theme, the Executive Board is recommending one on Pay Equity and one on gender dimensions of international migration. It is time that we do more than offer rhetoric on education as a human right; it is time equality of people is fact not fiction. And, as educators, as citizens, we must dare to imagine together a better world – a world of justice and fairness and decency, of understanding between cultures and peoples, of respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, and above all for human dignity. We must increase our efforts to end impunity against violence against women and girls; and we must use all means available to end the impunity of those who repress, kill, and threaten human and trade union rights activists. Democracy, respect for human rights and equality, and quality public education for all children are fundamental challenges for all societies and therefore EI members. New and emerging phenomena also demand our attention. Equality does not exist for women in too many parts of the world, including here in Canada. In Australia, the Prime Minister wants to assert paternalism with a racist streak on the aboriginal population, applying a plan that reflects the old idea that Aborigines are by nature irresponsible children and need to be treated as such. From a process of reconciliation that gave real hope a few years ago, back in a flash to panic, and families fleeing to the bush as the horror of the infamous “stolen generation” is recalled. In Poland thousands of lesbian and gay citizens are choosing to leave – or flee – the country because of the climate of fear and persecution. Discrimination of workers, legal and illegal, forced to migrate to find work to feed their families is rife in Europe and elsewhere, with heinous offshoots of trafficking in women and children, new phenomena on an old theme of slavery. The feminization of AIDS we see our young women of 17 – 24 years old emerging as the most vulnerable group. EI takes its responsibility to play its part in developing a different vision of the world very seriously, and the WC provides the opportunity for us to develop a vision based not on building barriers but on building bridges. Quality education and social justice: These are the two great goals that unite all teachers and education workers who are active in Education International and committed to its principles and values. It is clear that we must intensify our fight for the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that pertain to education, especially the world-wide campaign to achieve free quality Education for All by 2015. EI joins in the call for long-term, predictable and stable funding for the achievement of the MDGs. The most recent report indicates that poverty reduction has been accompanied by rising inequality, that girls and children from poorer or rural families are least likely to attend school, that women’s labour is more likely than men’s to be unpaid, and that although women are gaining ground politically, men still wield control. ON HIVAIDS, prevention measure are failing to keep pace with the spread of AIDS, and more than half of those living with HIV in hardest hit areas are women. And my last point is a telling one, where advocacy is warranted: development aid has fallen despite renewed commitments by G8 countries. I commend The MDG Report 2007 to you. In many countries, being a trade unionist means putting your life on the line. At EI we work to defend the rights of those who are willing to risk everything to give the gift of education to the next generation. We honour the many courageous colleagues who are taking risks to defend the educational and labour rights we hold dear. Those who dare to teach girls in Afghanistan, the Iranian teachers who have taken to the streets, the teachers of Ethiopia who carry on despite years of government repression, the teachers of Colombia, one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a trade unionist. AI July 2007 reports that Colombia’s National Trade Union school documented 2,245 killings, 3,400 threats and 138 forced disappearances of trade unionists between January 1991 and December 2006. Two courageous Colombians, Samuel Morales and Raquel Castro will be the recipients of the Mary Hatwood Futrell Human and Trade Union Rights Award at this Congress. A strong, diverse and independent trade union movement for the 21st century is what we want. Around the globe the struggle for freedom of association and right to collective bargaining continues unabated. In Peru, teachers are protesting legislation that threatens the imposition of essential services; in Portugal collective bargaining is at risk with new legislation that includes individual contracts. BUT in Canada the news is good news indeed, with the Supreme Court ruling that “Recognizes that workers have the right to bargain collectively as part of their freedom to associate …”. This landmark decision benefits not only education and health workers in BC, but right across the country. The new Council of Global Unions will assist the trade union movement to organize itself in the era of globalization. It plans to mobilize around the world as never before. Child labour, gender equality, and non-discrimination are included in this agenda, as well as the ILO’s funadamental freedoms at work and decent work agenda. One more highlight of the World Congress will be the launch of the Barometer. The EI Barometer of Human and Trade Union Rights is a comprehensive piece of research that examines the state of education and respect, or lack thereof, of educators’ rights in every country of the world. The Barometer, and its accompanying online data base, will provide a unique and powerful tool for education researchers, policy developers and human rights defenders. Our friend and colleague here, Sheena Hanley, was a major contributor to this endeavour. Teachers’ voices are indeed powerful. When we speak and act in unison and in concert we can sway governments, we can make social change that benefits people, especially our children, all the children of the world, who not only deserve a future that includes quality education instead of a life of hard labour, and global citizenship with its accompanying responsibilities as well as rights, but dignity, hope, and the opportunity to participate as equals in the great amazing thing we call life on earth. Merci et bonne chance. Thank you again for the chance to be part of your Annual general Meeting. I wish you every success.