York Catholic Teachers, known as York OECTA, is the local unit of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA), representing over 4000 permanent and occasional teachers in Catholic schools across York Region.
Founded in 1964, the first president was Nick Van Bakel. Two York Catholic Teachers’ presidents would go on to lead the Association through OECTA’s only 2 province-wide job actions: Marshall Jarvis in 1997 and Liz Stuart in 2020.
In 2015, Filomena Ferraro became the first York Catholic teacher to sit on the Executive Board of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council. York Catholic Teachers’ solidarity with the Labour Council began in 2002 and continues today under Acting President Mike Totten.
York Catholic Teachers has a long legacy of political activism and advocating for education.
OECTA was founded in 1944 with membership open to all English speaking Catholic teachers.
More than 600 English Catholic teachers crowded the Royal York Hotel in Toronto for OECTA’s first provincial meeting.
In 1975, after unprecedented turmoil marked by mass teacher resignation, the School Boards and Teachers Collective Negotiations Act (Bill 100) became law, outlining the negotiations process and giving teachers the right to strike. In 1984, Ontario Premier William G. Davis’ announced full public funding for Catholic schools through to grade 13 under Bill 30.
In 1991, an agreement signed by OECTA and the Ontario Catholic Occasional Teachers’ Association allowed occasional teachers to become members of OECTA, growing membership to over 35,000.
At the end of the 1992-93 school year, Premier Bob Rae introduced the “Social Contract” to reduce government debt. OECTA worked to protect the negotiated settlements of local units and the teachers’ pension plan, facing uphill battles to recover from government freezes of teachers’ salary increments.
The election of a majority Conservative government in 1995 presented the Association with new challenges. Teachers saw Junior Kindergarten, Grade 13 and Adult Education among threatened programs. As the extent of government debt reduction plans became clearer, the education sector and the labour movement forged new links to fight sweeping lay-offs and cuts to social programs.
OECTA helped organized a Rally for Education at Queen’s Park on January 13, 1996, attracting 37,000 demonstrators in a historic peaceful display of opposition to the government’s policies and its vision for Ontario. Days of protest organized by the Ontario Federation of Labour came to large cities across the province.
A province-wide political protest shutting down all schools started on October 27, 1997. For two weeks, 126,000 teachers in Ontario’s publicly funded schools joined the political protest, the largest work-stoppage in North American history.
The turn of the century saw a renewed focus on professional development and equity. The Beginning Teachers’ Conference, Summer Learning opportunities and Leadership Training were founded. The Status of Women’s Committee was formed, and support for ensuring Catholic schools are safe and welcoming places to LGBTQ2S+ students grew.
In 2018, Doug Ford’s Conservatives formed government, proposing devastating changes to education in secondary including increasing the provincial average from 22 to 28 and imposing mandatory e-learning, and threatening the model of the world-renowned FDK program. Tens of thousands of teachers descended on Queen’s Park on April 6, 2019 to protest the cuts to education. That year and in that spirit, OECTA celebrated its 75th anniversary.
In 2020, although OECTA remained committed to bargaining, talks broke down with the government, and OECTA launched its first-ever provincial strike in the history of the Association. Working alongside teacher affiliates, OECTA was successful in efforts to apply relentless pressure that forced the government to walk back its attack on education. Today, OECTA is 45 000 members strong.