A meeting at a local independent school became a political flashpoint on the first day of the provincewide teacher strike in Chilliwack Monday.
Premier Christy Clark was scheduled to meet with independent school officials at Unity Christian school in the afternoon, but the meeting was relocated when teachers turned out in force to protest.
“We think she should be in Victoria doing the business of Victoria, which, certainly on the first day of a provincial teacher walkout, is teacher issues,” said Chilliwack Teachers’ Association president Katharin Midzain, who was among the protesters who lined Hack Brown Road in front of Unity.
Clark shot back in a Times interview after the meeting Monday.
“I think the more relevant question is why aren’t teachers in classrooms today, when closing down classrooms isn’t going to make one wit of difference,” she said.
The meeting at Unity was a gathering of independent school officials and parent groups from Chilliwack and Agassiz.
“We got word last week” said Unity principal Ed Noot. “[The Premier] asked us if we’d be willing to host a forum with independent schools.”
He made no apologies about meeting with the Premier on the first day of the public school strike.
“We’ve had a proactive relationship with government, and if we get a chance to sit down with any government leaders, we will take that opportunity and talk about issues around independent schools,” he said.
Clark said the meeting had been planned for some time and that it coincided with the first day of the teacher walkout unintentionally.
“Twelve per cent of parents send their kids to independent schools in the province,” she said, “so I have a responsibility and a duty to meet with everybody whether or not the teachers have decided they want to shut down schools.”
Elsewhere in Chilliwack teachers gathered in front of their schools to protest but many of their signs had disintegrated in the rain and wind by the afternoon.
Earlier LRB rulings prohibit teachers from forming picket lines, which would prevent other union employees in the school district such CUPE from crossing into schools, but teachers are allowed to form “information lines” and hold protest signs on sticks.
A union member from another district has aptly dubbed the lines “stick-it lines,” according to Midzain.
“We’re allowed to have our signs on sticks and we don’t mind sticking it to the government,” she said.
Teachers will be off the job until Wednesday this week and may be off for another day next week if legislation now in front of the legislature to end the strike isn’t passed before then.