Entire Ontario public school system closed, millions out of class Friday as teachers strike

Over two million Ontario students will not be in class Friday as the province’s four largest education unions are set to hold a provincewide strike, resulting in a complete shut down of the public education system.

Members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA), and Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) will all be hitting the picket lines, as tensions between the unions and the provincial government continue to increase.

The labour groups say today marks the first time since 1997 that teachers and education workers from all four major unions will walk out on the same day.

In Toronto, educators are planning a massive protest at Queen’s Park, which the unions say may draw as many as 30,000 people.

Security at the legislature is bracing for a huge crowd, with road closures planned around the building.

In Peel Region, the four unions are planning a mass 30-kilometre picket along Hurontario Street (Highway 10) from Caledon down to the lakeshore in Mississauga.

OSSTF Peel tweeted that they expect to have 20,000 teachers and education workers along the route between 9 a.m. and noon.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce criticized the planned walkout and said the unions should ensure students remain in class.

“These strikes are impacting the very kids that we all purport to care about.”

The unions announced the strike on Feb. 12.

“It is clear to all four Ontario education unions and our members that the Ford government and Education Minister Lecce care nothing about students or educators and everything about taking money out of the publicly funded education system,” AEFO president Rémi Sabourin said in a statement at the time.

“Educators in every school board will not stay silent as the Ford government proceeds to decimate our publicly funded education system,” said ETFO president Sam Hammond.

Meanwhile, negotiations continued on Thursday between the government and OECTA as well as AEFO. But tentative agreements weren’t reached with either union.

Among the issues on which the two sides continue to disagree are class sizes, e-learning and compensation.

The unions have been without a contract since the end of August and have been engaging in labour action for the past few months.

— With files from Gabby Rodrigues, Travis Dhanraj, and the Canadian Press

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