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High school winter sports latest casualty of Nova Scotia teachers work-to-rule

Nova Scotia high school students hoping to show their sports skills at regional and provincial championships are in for a rude awakening. File Photo

High school students hoping to show their sports skills at regional and provincial championships are in for a rude awakening, as the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation (NSSAF) announced Thursday the competitions would be cancelled.

As a result of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union‘s work-to-rule, the young athletes saw an interruption in their practice time, because part of the job action directives involved teachers ceasing to coach and facilitate after-school sports.

READ MORE: What is the new normal as Nova Scotia teachers adjust to legislated contract?

The regional and provincial championships for the following sports have been cancelled for the 2016-2017 school year:

  • Basketball
  • Wrestling
  • Snowboarding
  • Skiing
  • Curling
  • Hockey

Stephen Gallant, NSSAF executive director, said it would be “literally impossible” to get regional and national championships complete before the end of their scheduled seasons.

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“Everybody, the teachers, administrators, the board members – we all would love to be watching the kids participate in those sports. It just became logistically impossible for us to do that,” Gallant said.

He said due to the gap in play that resulted from work-to-rule, even if some schools felt they were ready to compete, the organization could not determine a way to get all schools ready and able to participate in all championships.

“Being a provincial organization we have to be fair to everybody,” he said. “By the time we found out what schools were in or out, it just began logically impossible for us.”

NSSAF Board of Governers chair Robert Carreau said in a release that remaining sports would resume their regular programming immediately. According to the NSSAF website, that means championships for sports like badminton, cheerleading, table tennis, slow-pitch and fast-pitch softball, rugby and track and field will go ahead.

The men’s hockey team at Citadel High School in Halifax is one of many disappointed by the news, even writing a letter to their principal to advocate for their team.

Team captain Marshall Taylor said in an interview that players feel disappointed by the cancellation.

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“We were definitely robbed, I guess, because of how the standings went we were really confident going into [provincials] this year,” he said. “Last year didn’t work out too well for us so this was our last chance, for sure, that we really wanted to perform and have a good time at provincials, but also take home the banner.
“[The letter says] we’ve supported the teachers throughout their work-to-rule situation and now we want them to hold up their end of the bargain by bringing it back to us, because there’s still time.”

Teachers in Nova Scotia began working-to-rule in December after voting to reject a third tentative agreement from the government.

That job action came to an end when the Liberal government passed Bill 75, legislating a new contract on the teachers this week.

READ MORE: NS teachers tell legislature that imposed contract will hurt students most

The new contract, according to the union, doesn’t force teachers to go back to their normal level of involvement in after-school activities, like coaching and facilitating sports or offering extra help to students. The union says those commitments are up to each individual teacher.

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While some teachers say they’ll resume their prior level of involvement with extracurricular activities, others say they’re exploring the option of taking a step back.

“There’s going to be a new normal where they’re just going to stick to the contract,” physical education teacher Shawn Hanifen told Global News Wednesday.

“Teachers are basically past their breaking point, they have no interest now in doing anything for this government other than what they’re mandated to do under the Education Act or under the contract.”

Some coaches like Frank Hubley also chose to support teachers and step away. His team went on to join Midget X, a league outside the schools created in response to work-to-rule, but Hubley decided not to follow.

“I’m a former teacher and from my perspective I just felt like because of this situation and the ongoing situation with the government that it’d be better that I step away from it,” said Hubley, who’s been coaching the Halifax West High School Boys Hockey Team since 2005.

Some teachers who spoke with Global News also expect spring concerts and plays may also be cancelled as a result of the legislated contract.

— With files from Marieke Walsh and Sean Previl, Global News. 

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