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Ontario education minister: ‘Disturbing’ that ETFO is withdrawing services for ‘vulnerable’ kids

ETFO , Ontario government to resume contract talks
WATCH ABOVE: It was announced on Tuesday an Ontario mediator has called the union that represents elementary teachers and the government back to the table to discuss ongoing contract negotiations. Travis Dhanraj reports.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce is raising concern about the withdrawal of services for special needs students due to ongoing job actions.

A number of hospital boards will be affected by rotating strikes and a one-day walkout by members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) next week.

Hospital boards, according to the Education Act, are “located within medical facilities and Children’s Treatment Centres (CTCs) for children and youth. The students receiving their services have complex medical needs and are unable to attend regular school.”

READ MORE: Elementary teachers to hold Ontario-wide walkouts once a week if contract talks do not resume, ETFO says

“I find it particularly disturbing that ETFO has decided to withdrawal services from schools in hospitals for vulnerable and sick kids,” Lecce said in a statement to Global News on Tuesday. “This isn’t about politics, it’s about basic decency.”

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The schools affected include:

  • Bloorview School Authority
  • Campbell Children’s School Authority
  • John McGivney Children’s Centre School Authority
  • KidsAbility School Authority
  • Niagara Peninsula Children’s Centre
  • Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre

The schools offer programming for students in kindergarten to Grade 12 who are clients of affiliated treatment centres or hospitals.

In the event of a strike, students enrolled would continue to receive support through those treatment centres but education programming could be limited or suspended altogether.

“ETFO previously claimed that their job action would not harm Ontario students — I could not think of an action that more directly and egregiously hurts our most vulnerable students,” Lecce said. “I’m calling on the union to reinstate these services, immediately.”

Global News contacted ETFO President Sam Hammond on Tuesday but he was unavailable for comment.

PR battle over public education in Ontario
PR battle over public education in Ontario

On Monday, ETFO issued a release saying the union will “escalate its rotating strikes across the province beginning Monday, Feb. 3, if central agreements are not reached by the end of January.”

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“There is nothing to be gained by Minister Lecce avoiding meaningful and fair contract talks other than further damaging the reputation of the Ford government,” union president Sam Hammond said at the time.

“It’s time that the Ford government recognized that our public education system is key to the future of this province’s economy. We must have the tools and supports to prepare students to realize their individual aspirations and productively contribute to the economic and social fabric of this province.”