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June 23, 2016
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
Dear Prime Minister:
On May 13th and 14th of this year, I had the pleasure of meeting with teacher colleagues from the United States and Mexico at the 12th Conference of the Tri-National Coalition in Defense of Public Education. On June 19th, I was shocked to learn of the deaths of eight people including six teachers in Mexico–perhaps even some of those who I had been working with just over a month ago.
Since May 15th teachers in Mexico have been protesting changes to their education system that they believe will adversely impact the profession and the education of Mexican children. These changes include a requirement for teachers to regularly sit standardized written exams that could lead to dismissal; the elimination of Mexico’s national system of teacher training schools (that have traditionally been the vehicle for children from poor families to become trained educators); and, the removal of the requirement to be a certified teacher to teach in Mexico’s public system.
Canada has experience with disagreements between teachers and government policy makers over very similar issues. These have even, on occasion, led to protests. We believe that these disagreements should never lead to violence and can normally be resolved through dialogue or if necessary the courts.
As a teacher, you understand the frustration created when well-meaning individuals try to control our profession without consultation. While it may be agreed that both sides in this dispute believe they are acting in the best interest of the Mexican education system, the lessons taught over the last few weeks are not easily corrected.
It is our understanding that, since May 15, this wave of violence has included:
- The killing of six teachers and two parents;
- Wounding of a further 45 teachers and parents, by Mexican security forces;
- Abduction and imprisonment (in high security facilities) of 7 executive members of the democratic teachers’ movement,
- Firing of 8,000 teachers, for participating in the demonstrations or refusing to sit new standardized exams.
As you have so clearly demonstrated, governments must be open to consultation and compromise. It is only through this openness that citizens will experience the justice that is their right. As you meet with Mexico’s President next week, we are asking that you take the opportunity to address this human rights violation by encouraging dialogue at the national and local levels so that the voice of teachers is heard and listened to.
Thank you for your attention to this. We would be pleased to provide further support or information as it becomes available should you require it.
The Hon. Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Susan Hopgood, President, Education International
Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers
Lily Eskelsen Garcia, President, National Education Association