Writer saddened by board chair’s, union’s response to Killens

To the Expositor:

I write to disapprove of the treatment of Mr. L. Killens, resulting from his letter to The Expositor (‘Larry Killens weighs in on strike,’ December 19, 2012, page 4) urging teachers to resume extracurricular supervision. A Ms. Blasutti (union leader and writer of the complaint letter) and a Ms. Dewar (chair of the board) would have wished him to remain silent (‘Trustee’s letter to editor irks Rainbow Board chair, union president, February 20, 2013, page 1).

Ms. Dewar agreed with Ms. Blasutti’s complaint and berated Mr. Killens in an unusually crude fashion, as quoted in an Expositor story. She cited bylaw 8.17 as the offended article (google “Rainbow District School Board Bylaws” and scroll down the conveniently numbered list).

A cursory reading of this bylaw leaves me unclear as to whether it was contravened by Mr. Killens. He stated that he was commenting “on (his) own behalf.” His preliminary self-identification as a trustee was equally clearly stated, in the same sentence, as an easily understood attempt to avoid any reader confusion that he was exercising “governance” or acting in any official board capacity. He may also have intended simply to reassure readers of his good intentions by mentioning his work as a trustee on behalf of education.

Firstly, I find Ms. Dewar’s research quite questionable in that she accuses a fellow board member of contravening a seemingly inaptly selected bylaw. Of Ms. Dewar’s litany of castigation and menu of blood-curdling punishments that could await the miscreant Killens, I am insufficiently recovered to speak.

Secondly, and of greater concern, I find it curious that Ms. Blasutti grants to herself licence to urge—in a published newspaper (i.e., “in public”) Ontario residents to rise up en mass to protest Bill 115 because “it could happen to you.” In fact, the constitutionality of this bill has not, I believe, been decided. The governments of provinces and the federation have the right to deny Canadians’ charter rights if certain conditions are met; and yet Ms. Blasutti has seemingly subsumed to herself this decision, as evidenced by her shrill cautions to all and sundry that the teachers are the victims of legal abuse that could soon engulf us all. This is not necessarily true. The legislative arms must consider carefully any legislation that denies our Charter rights and defend their bills in the light of rigorous legal tests that have become Supreme Court precedents (“Oakes”). What is more, her declamations extend far beyond the ambit of education. One would wish that her legal concerns would remain just that—legal concerns, without trying to embroil the entire populace in uninformed protest. Until that great day when she is summoned from her union office to join her Supreme Court colleagues, we Ontarians must be content with the guidance of our present Court, deficient though it may be. Contrast this behaviour with the caring tone and passion of the letter of Mr. Killens and reflect.

In his letter, Mr. Killens pleads the students’ cause when he likewise pleads with the teachers to resume extracurriculars. We must accept the work-to-rule concept in all its airtight legality and acknowledge it as a cogent legal labour tactic. But I can’t help thinking that Mr. Killens was responding to a higher call—the greater good of the students—when he urged teacher forbearance while the wiser powers of union, board and province thrashed out their grievances. Mr. Killens’ grief is the extensive collateral damage accompanying these legal, and indubitably wise, maneouvers.

Not all thought and not all speech is governed by the bylaws of various and sundry boards and unions and committees, and I am saddened that these leaders should wish the silence of this good man. Teachers and boards and educational theorists are forever braying about creative thought and involvement, of independent thinking and courage of action. Then, when one good man practices these, he is pilloried. One would expect that this board chair and this union leader would possess the resilience and tolerance to weather and utilize Mr. Killens’ rather noble deed.

Phil Dabous
Saigon, Vietnam
(summer resident of Little Current)