Thousands protest Ford’s proposed education cuts at Queen’s Park

Massive crowd voiced anger over class sizes, dismantling autism program

Thousands protest Ford’s proposed education cuts at Queen’s Park

Thousands of teachers, students, and parents from all over Ontario gathered at Queen’s Park on April 6 to protest against proposed changes to education by the provincial government, with many coming from as far as Sudbury and Thunder Bay in more than 150 buses.

The rally was organized by five different teachers’ unions: the Elementary Teachers’ Federation Ontario, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario.

Premier Doug Ford’s decisions to increase average high school class sizes from 22 to 28, introduce mandatory online courses for students to obtain a secondary-school diploma, and cut at least 3,475 teaching jobs across the province were among the issues protested.

These cuts could lead to class sizes of up to 40 students, the cancellation of various electives, and dismantling effects for the Ontario autism program.

The protesters packed the streets with banners at 12:00 pm, chanting “Shut it down!”, “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts,” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Doug Ford’s gotta go!”

Ontario New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath spoke at the rally, condemning Ford and the education cuts.

“We have an education system that is really hanging by the thread, and we have a premier who is about to cut that thread,” Horwath said. “We are here to say no.”

Annalisa Crudo-Perri, President of the Ontario Association for Parents in Catholic Education Toronto also took to the stage. “Education is an investment in our child’s futures,” Crudo-Perri said.

“It must not become a deficit reduction exercise that will compromise their opportunity to seek higher postsecondary education.”

OSSTF President Harvey Bischof also spoke at the rally, saying, “Our message is simple: our education system needs investment, not cuts.”

He also believes that the Ford government is “starving the system” to allow for the privatization of the education system.

Other speakers at the event included AEFO Ontario President Rémi Sabourin, Ontario School Board Council of Unions President Laura Walton, CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn, Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff; and Ontario Federation Labour President Chris Buckley.

“The premier, of course, will continue to threaten us and intimidate us, tell his lies, we will take none of it,” Yussuff exclaimed to the crowd.

Minister of Education Lisa Thompson echoed a previous comment from Ford, who called teachers’ unions “thugs,” and said in a statement the day before the rally that unions have not been focused on student success, adding that the government would not be “distracted by union tactics.”

 

Former U of T professor pleads guilty to second-degree murder of wife

Mohammed Shamji, Elena Fric-Shamji were both U of T faculty

Former U of T professor pleads guilty to second-degree murder of wife

Former University of Toronto professor and neurosurgeon Mohammed Shamji pleaded guilty at his pre-trial on April 8 to the second-degree murder of his wife, Dr. Elena Fric-Shamji, who was also a U of T professor and physician.

The murder occurred on November 30, 2016, two days after Fric-Shamji had filed for divorce after 12 years of marriage, which the court heard had been marked by verbal, emotional, and physical abuse. Testimony from the preliminary inquiry included descriptions of repeated sexual assaults and one instance of Shamji choking Fric-Shamji until she lost consciousness.

In May 2016, Fric-Shamji had initiated divorce proceedings “after years of unhappiness,” but Shamji pleaded for more time to work through their problems, according to an agreed statement of facts read to the court.

The couple reconciled but the marriage continued to deteriorate until Fric-Shamji served divorce papers, which was met by resistance from Shamji. In an argument shortly after, he struck Fric-Shamji “multiple times, causing her significant blunt force injuries all over her body, including a broken neck and broken ribs. He then choked her to death,” according to the statement of facts.

Fric-Shamji’s body was found on December 1, 2016. Shamji was arrested the following day and charged with murder by Toronto Police a few days after.

The charge of second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence, with no possibility of parole for 10 years.

According to the statement of facts, Shamji went about his day-to-day business, including performing surgeries, the day after the murder.

Shamji has been held in a GTA detention centre since the murder. He pleaded guilty two days before jury selection was to take place.

The couple met at the University of Ottawa where Fric-Shamji was attending medical school and Shamji was completing his residency. Two of their three children, now 11 and 14, were present at the pre-trial, along with numerous family and friends who all wore purple ribbons to bring attention to the issue of domestic violence. 

Jean DeMarco, the lawyer for the victim’s family, told reporters that his clients were “satisfied” and “pleased” with the result.

Shamji will return to court to face a sentencing hearing on May 8 in downtown Toronto.


If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the Assaulted Women’s Helpline’s 24-hour crisis line:

1-866-863-0511 (Toll Free)

1-866-863-7868 (TTY)

416-863-0511 (Toronto)