While the teachers’ federations are saying their two week “political action” was a moral victory which got the ball rolling against Bill 160, some students are not so convinced.
Kiley Hanson, a grade-12 student at Fort Frances High School, said she understood why the teachers did what they had to do.
But with the strike ending without the government budging on Bill 160, Hanson wondered if anything was really accomplished.
“I think it was a waste of time for students as well as the teachers," she said. "They didn’t accomplish all they could have.”
“They were hoping the government would give in, but they didn’t,” echoed Jennifer Katona, also in grade 12.
Other students, like senior Eric Sieders, were less diplomatic.
“They looked stupid because they didn’t get much out of it," he said. "It was a total waste of time. It was two weeks of their pay and it was two weeks of our time.”
Chris Matheson, also in grade 12, admitted while the teachers didn’t come out with all they wanted, they did manage to prove the government doesn’t have as much control as they thought they did when the courts refused to order teachers back to work.
“I knew what was going on, I felt [the strike] was the right thing to do," Matheson said. "[The teachers] then chose to fight a different way and that’s why they came back.”
The end of the teachers’ strike was abruptly announced last week, when three of the five teachers’ federations said Friday they would be back in the classroom on Monday.
By the end of the weekend, the remaining two federations voted to be back in school on Friday as well.
Andrew Hallikas, local Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation president said Monday the time had come for the pickets to go down.
“It was very important to go back voluntarily, to go back at a time of our choosing because in order to continue the fight, we need the public,” Hallikas said.
“We put the focus of all Ontario citizens on education," he said. "[We showed] that the government with this bill is not focussed on education.”
And the fight against Bill 160 continues. Sharon Preston, local Federation of Women Teachers’ Association of Ontario, said they’re hoping the public support they roused during the protest will continue petitioning the government.
Also, Preston was quite confident the federations would launch a constitutional challenge if Bill 160 was passed.
“I’d rather have them do that instead of a walkout,” Katona remarked, implying the strike could have been avoided entirely.
But whether they were for or against the strike doesn’t seem to matter now, as classes resumed this week as if there wasn’t any interruption at all.
“Everything’s back to normal," Hanson said. "There’s no bad blood or anything.”