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Parents and students should expect Ontario’s schools to be closed Friday, as education workers using their collective right to strike face fines after the Doug Ford government pushed a law onto the books that their union has described as “a call to arms.”

With jeers erupting from the opposition NDP and Liberal benches at Queen’s Park, the Progressive Conservative government passed the Keeping Students in Class Act into law Thursday, using the notwithstanding clause to avoid any potential challenges from courts and tribunals.

It is a move civil liberty groups and others have decried, with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association calling the clause’s use in the bill “a catastrophe” that violates labour rights in a way that is “both unconscionable and completely unnecessary.”

MPP Mike Schreiner, leader of Ontario’s Greens, wants Ottawa to do something about it. Schreiner has written to the federal Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti to ask for help.

“Precedent and history are clear that the notwithstanding clause was never meant to be used except in extraordinary circumstances, and certainly not to override individual Charter rights,” he wrote, calling the government’s attitude to the clause “cavalier.”

Lametti has called Ontario’s use of the notwithstanding clause “exceedingly problematic” but said the feds wouldn’t decide how to respond until after a decision is made in its appeal of Quebec’s use of the clause to ban public-sector employees from wearing religious symbols.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, however, said the unusual move was necessary to make sure children remain in school.

“We need kids in school,” he said. “Every parent knows this, and our government will deliver on a plan and a promise to provide stability for kids who have endured so much from this pandemic.

The Ford government got its anti-strike law on the books ahead of a (now illegal) picket by tens of thousands of CUPE staff that will close many of the province’s schools starting Friday.

“We will use every tool available to send a clear, unambiguous message: schools should be open, and there's accountability for breaking the law,” Lecce said.

The tools Bill 28 provides to deliver that stability include fines of up to $4,000 a day for individual strikers and $500,000 for unions that organize them.

Both CUPE and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which encouraged its 8,000 education members to walk out in solidarity with CUPE, say they will deal with any fines their members receive for engaging in strike action.

“We are giving our members clear instructions,” Candace Rennick, CUPE’s national secretary-treasurer, said. “If you are fined on the picket line, you report that fine to your president and you let the union know and we will provide you with further instructions. We are in the process of seeking legal support on that.

“If the government of Ontario wants to clog up the justice system with $4,000-per-member-per-day fines, then I say bring it on,” she said.

Morgan Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

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All this to avoid the "unusual move" of paying them decently.

Anyway, joke's on the government: Nobody in that union has $4,000 in the first place, I'd wager. Still, if I were a striker I might pull out much of what money I had and give it as a gift to family members, before going out on the picket line. With a bit of luck they'll be able to buy some groceries with it before the Ford bullyboys manage to snatch it.
But at $4,000 per day, the fines are way more than anyone has in cash or liquid assets of any sort. Nearly all of these people will either rent, or they will "own" a home but owe about as much on it as it's worth. So what are they gonna do, repo their furniture and grab their canned food? That could make some interesting media coverage.

listening to Lecce repeat ad nauseum how he has no choice but to (crush workers and unions) to “save the kids “ , his tone of screechy panic was that of a parent or teacher who had jumped the shark and lost complete control of the class. you know , the scene where teacher demands Jonny spit out his gum, Jonny say “ I wont” , teacher blows an authority gasket and snarls,
“ right, the whole class has one hour detention for a week”. and…… game over for that teacher for EVER

that’s our Mini mussolini Stevie now. and SO GOOD to see the smoke coming out of the nostrils of the union leaders. they are DONE asking, please sir can we have more?
wildcat strikes are the ONLY ones that strike fear into the bosses, so smug behind their so-called “rule of law”/ always in bosses favour labour laws.
general strike here we come I hope. I think Lecce has just given the deep anxiety of most working people a focus for their rage….. we’ll see how far the stench from doug and the thugs goes past the sniff test for Ontarians.