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Sam Hammond, CTF/FCE President

COVID-19, lockdowns, and emergency remote teaching and learning wreaked havoc on the public education community. In the pandemic’s wake, we have been left with a mental health crisis that has taken an enormous toll, threatening not only the lives and careers of teachers and educators, but Canada’s own publicly funded public education systems as well.

By the end of 2020, our research found that two-thirds of teachers had concerns about their mental health and well-being. A follow-up survey months later revealed that teachers and educators were experiencing long-term anxiety, stress, and depression due to increased expectations from work and the blurred realities of work and home life. But the pandemic didn’t create the teacher mental health crisis, it made it worse and made it public for all to see. Now we must work to address it.

Now, with the financial support of the federal government, and specifically the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF/FCE) has launched a pilot project focused on improving the mental health of teachers and education workers.

By working with mental health experts, including our partners at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine, we hope to focus on topics ranging from trauma, resilience, compassion fatigue, psychological safety, and well-being, to name but a few. Once we begin, mental health experts will lead monthly online sessions with teachers and education workers to guide them to dive deeper on the specific areas.

This pilot program is unique because it’s being tailored to the needs and day-to-day realities of teachers and education workers. Also, the last thing teachers need is another task added to their long lists, which is why the program will be structured within their workday. It’s based on the collegial model, so it’s familiar and proven to be effective.

By the completion of the pilot project, the CTF/FCE hopes to understand more about how programming for whole-school mental illness prevention and mental health promotion can support educators in post-pandemic recovery and beyond.

With the collaboration of CTF/FCE Member Organizations, we have selected three K-12 schools in three jurisdictions that represent the vast diversity of schools and communities across Canada. They include English and French speaking populations, urban and rural settings, elementary and secondary schools, as well as small and large student and teacher populations.

This project, which is set to run from September 2023 to February 2024, is a step in the right direction to ensure teachers and educators have the necessary tools to address mental illness and trauma through the next phases of pandemic recovery.

The Canadian Teachers’ Federation

Founded in 1920, the CTF/FCE is a national alliance of provincial and territorial teachers’ organizations that represent over 365,000 teachers and education workers across Canada. The CTF/FCE is also an affiliate of Education International, which represents more than 32-million educators.

Media contact

Andrew King,
Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF/FCE)
Mobile: 819-213-7847

The 2023 federal budget titled A Made-in-Canada Plan: Strong Middle Class, Affordable Economy, Healthy Future focused on a few key themes: addressing the affordability crisis, taking some further action on climate change, and trying to offset new spending with new revenue sources. However, none of the main items that the CTF/FCE was keeping a watchful eye for materialized in this year’s budget.

Given a $5.7 billion dollar drop in revenue this year, the government has sought to slash spending over the next five years on travel, the use of consultants, and the use of professional services to the tune of $15.4 billion. However, due to increased spending on big ticket items – such as dental care, the government will be operating at a deficit again. The Minister of Finance’s budget projects the deficit will be $40.1 billion in 2023-24 — a significant increase from the projection of $30.6 billion in the fall.

Below the CTF/FCE has highlighted some items of interest to the Federation as well as to Member and Associate Organizations. We will continue to monitor these commitments, advocating for the items highlighted below that we see as lacking in current federal financial planning.

Dental Care

The federal government is following-through on their promise to the New Democratic Party of Canada to improve healthcare for Canadians with dental care support as part of the Supply and Confidence Agreement signed in 2022. Moving into the next phase of dental care support from children to low-income Canadians the federal government has made the following commitment:

Budget 2023 proposes to provide $13.0 billion over five years, starting in 2023-24, and $4.4 billion ongoing to Health Canada to implement the Canadian Dental Care Plan. The plan will provide dental coverage for uninsured Canadians with annual family income of less than $90,000, with no co-pays for those with family incomes under $70,000. The plan would begin providing coverage by the end of 2023 and will be administered by Health Canada, with support from a third-party benefits administrator. Details on eligible coverage will be released later this year.

Cost of Living

While the top-up of the Canada Housing Benefit is not getting renewed in this budget (and the last day to apply is March 31, 2023!), where the federal government provided a one-time payment for rent relief to low-income Canadians ($20,000 for individuals, $35,000 for families), they are introducing a one-time grocery rebate costed at $2.5 billion:

For 11 million low- and modest-income Canadians and families, the Grocery Rebate will provide eligible couples with two children with up to an extra $467; single Canadians without children with up to an extra $234; and seniors with an extra $225 on average. This will be delivered through the Goods and Services Tax Credit (GST Credit) mechanism.

Also, the federal government has confirmed that on April 1, 2023, the Tax-Free First Home Savings Account program will be offered by financial institutions. Canadians saving for their first home can save $40,000 ($8,000 a year) for their first home tax-free. Like a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), contributions will be tax-deductible, and withdrawals to purchase a first home—including from investment income—will be non-taxable, like a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). Tax-free in; tax-free out.

Concert goers rejoice – the federal government has, among some small changes aimed at making life more affordable, alluded to possibly finally taking on Ticketmaster with this commitment:

Budget 2023 announces the government’s intention to work with regulatory agencies, provinces, and territories to reduce junk fees for Canadians. This could include higher telecom roaming charges, event and concert fees, excessive baggage fees, and unjustified shipping and freight fees.


The CTF/FCE applauded MP Alexandre Boulerice’s private member’s bill, Bill C-302, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers) when it was introduced last fall, and we are applauding the federal government now in committing to prohibit replacement workers. In Budget 2023, the following commitment was included:

The ability to form a union, bargain collectively, and strike is essential to a healthy democracy. These important rights can be undermined when an employer brings in replacement workers to temporarily do the work of unionized workers during a strike or lockout. Budget 2023 proposes to table amendments to the Canada Labour Code, before the end of 2023, that would prohibit the use of replacement workers during a strike or lockout, and improve the process to review activities that must be maintained to ensure the health and safety of the public during a work stoppage.


The CTF/FCE has been following Bill C-13, An Act for the Substantive Equality of Canada’s Official Languages due to commitments regarding federal support for minority language learners. We are appreciative of the funding already put forth regarding minority language support across Canada, and particularly pleased to see the federal government making further commitments on this front; the federal government made the following commitment in Budget 2023:

Budget 2023 also proposes to provide $679.2 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, for the Department of Canadian Heritage to support equal access to services of equal quality in education by working with provinces and territories to make high-quality minority-language education, opportunities for second-language learning, and bilingual government services more readily available across Canada.


While there is no money for publicly funded public K-12 education initiatives, Canada has promised more support for post-secondary students. See some of the commitments made below:

Budget 2023 proposes to provide $813.6 million in 2023-24 to enhance student financial assistance for the school year starting August 1, 2023. This includes:

  • Increasing Canada Student Grants by 40 per cent—providing up to $4,200 for full-time students.
  • Raising the interest-free Canada Student Loan limit from $210 to $300 per week of study.
  • Waiving the requirement for mature students, aged 22 years or older, to undergo credit screening in order to qualify for federal student grants and loans for the first time. This will allow up to 1,000 additional students to benefit from federal aid in the coming year.

Tax Reform

Finally, we can talk about everyone’s favourite topic, taxes. The federal government is looking to change the way the wealthiest Canadians pay taxes while also providing tax relief for middle-class Canadians. See below:

To ensure the wealthiest Canadians pay their fair share of tax, Budget 2023 proposes legislative amendments to raise the Alternative Minimum Tax rate from 15 per cent to 20.5 per cent and further limit the excessive use of tax preferences. Under the proposed reforms, the basic AMT exemption would increase more than fourfold, from $40,000 to $173,000, significantly increasing the income level necessary to pay the AMT. This would result in a tax cut for tens of thousands of middle-class Canadians, while the AMT will more precisely target the very wealthy.

What’s missing?

The CTF/FCE, in their 2023 pre-budget submission, asked for four main items. Unfortunately, most of those items go relatively unsupported in this federal budget. In October 2022, we asked for:

  • Targeted long-term and sustainable funding for a National Advisory Council on Publicly Funded Public Education (NACE) to deal with these issues impacting all families across Canada.
    • While funding for this was not included in budget 2023, the CTF/FCE is positive that our advocacy and momentum regarding the NACE may see federal support next budget.

  • The federal government to ensure that funding the provinces and territories receive from the Canada Mental Health Transfer is linked to the establishment of publicly funded in-school K-12 mental health support programming.
    • We know this issue is a high-priority issue for Canadians and we will continue to press the federal government (and encourage our member organizations to press their Premiers too) to have more funding to support student mental health programming in schools. The CTF/FCE has seen the federal government invest in teacher mental health through a pilot in 3 schools across Canada, in collaboration with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and University of Ottawa. We want to see more support such as this for both students and teachers.
    • We do acknowledge there is money in budget 2023 for youth mental health – in the form of $20.2 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, to the Public Health Agency of Canada for a new community-based program to prevent substance use among young people – but this isn’t enough to address the issue.

  • Targeted long-term and sustainable funding for a National School Nutrition Program in conjunction with provinces, territories, and Indigenous organizations that is sustainable and locally sourced where possible.
    • The CTF/FCE is very disappointed that the federal government has not taken the opportunity to support Canadian families with a National School Nutrition Program, especially at a time when they at least in part recognize that the cost of groceries and cost of living expenses are going up. In Budget 2022, the federal government committed to working with partners to establish a National School Food Policy and they held consultations in late 2022 (which CTF/FCE was a part of) but no money for the roll-out has been included in Budget 2023. We remain hopeful that money for this vitally important initiative will come but are shocked it wasn’t in the budget announcement for 2023.

  • Targeted long-term and sustainable funding for an increase in staff to process and expedite refugee applications and an increase in supports for individuals and their families who seek refuge within Canada.
    • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $43.5 million in 2023-24 to Justice Canada to maintain federal support for immigration and refugee legal aid services. This money is welcome but considering the backlogs experienced by Canadians following significant increases to Service Canada budgets to address passport processing, we are not confident this money will make a significant difference in processing refugee claims.


Overall, the federal government has introduced some niche ways to make life a bit more affordable for Canadians. Unfortunately, the economic outlook and increased spending means that despite belt-tightening in other areas the federal deficit stands to increase again.

The CTF/FCE will continue to keep watch of legislation that implements these commitments and advocate for the supports we hope to see in the next federal budget be it the NACE or a National School Nutrition Program.

International Development Week (IDW) aims to draw attention to international development and shine a spotlight on the important contributions that Canadians are making through partnerships around the world. IDW 2023 highlights Canadian contributions in key sectors, including education and gender equality. This IDW takes place from February 5 to 11, 2023.

“No one will have power over me. I will have power over myself…Through education I can overcome all that and achieve my goal of becoming medical doctor.”

For 16-year-old Jessica*, living in Uganda’s Serere, in the country’s eastern Teso region, education is the gateway to the life she wants. Until recently, that opportunity was out of reach because of one simple but challenging fact: she is a girl.

Most girls in Uganda face countless barriers to pursuing an education, a career, and self-empowerment. Too often, girls are destined to stay home, take care of the family, and raise one of their own. Slowly, through collective action, in recent years, this was beginning to change. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought that progress to a sudden halt in the spring of 2020. Only now, nearly three years later, the work towards gender equity is finally beginning again.

Pandemic struggle

In Uganda, pandemic measures put education on hold, leaving over 15 million Ugandan students out of school. In fact, Uganda set the world record for the longest school closures, lasting nearly two years.

A lack of Internet connectivity meant that online learning was not an option, leaving teachers and students to depend on radio to deliver and receive lessons. But even when a radio was available, most students were unable to tune in to class. Many had to support their families financially by getting jobs, while others were counted on to care for siblings at home.

For some girls and young women, school closures led to life-changing events that education was helping to prevent, as was the case with Patricia*, who became pregnant during the pandemic. As a new mother, the 18-year-old from Ngora district, also in the eastern Teso region, believed a return to school was impossible. But her outlook and reality changed because of the Simameni project.

Simameni: Stand Up

The Simameni project, launched in early 2020, aims to not only show the benefits and advantages of secondary school education for girls in Uganda, but to also improve the conditions in schools to make them safer, welcoming, and gender-inclusive.

Simameni, which means ‘Stand up’ in Swahili, is active in 24 schools in Uganda’s Western and Teso regions. Supported by Global Affairs Canada, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF/FCE) has been collaborating with long-time partner, the Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) to make the Simameni project a key driver for change within the communities, and that begins with attitudes towards girls in school.

Group photo with Sandy and UNATU.
Sandy Plamondon, CTF/FCE Project Officer, is pictured with colleagues from UNATU at their office in Kampala, Uganda.

Although the 5-year project was launched nearly three years ago, due to pandemic restrictions, it wasn’t until September 2022 that CTF/FCE program officer Sandy Plamondon, was able to return to Uganda. With colleagues from UNATU, Sandy visited half of the Simameni schools to monitor and evaluate the progress of the project. Together, they worked to restart the project by planning and delivering activities and teacher trainings on preventing gender-based violence in schools and strategies for gender-sensitive classrooms and schools.

The school visits affirmed that, even with the challenges posed by the pandemic, progress has been made. “The school visits allowed the Simameni team to witness the students and staff’s pride in sharing their school’s improvements,” recounted Sandy. “To hear their stories of change, and to see with our own eyes the remaining challenges, it was truly humbling.”

Throughout the schools, the improvements are as welcomed as they are varied.

“Our school’s infrastructure has improved because of training offered by Simameni,” explained teacher Lydia Nakirya. Her Secondary School in the Western region now has better access to water, improved hygiene, and overall enhanced facilities.

Elsewhere, strategies have been developed to change school culture.

In the Teso region, teachers at one high school have implemented a gender equity strategy to improve the safety and well-being of students, both in and out of school. Some of the initiatives include the creation of leadership opportunities for girls and an increase of female staff to foster gender balance.

“Simameni is sending ripples of positive change throughout our communities. Although there is still work to be done, we are looking forward to seeing even more progress,” said Filbert Baguma, General Secretary of UNATU.

Jumping Hurdles to Overcome Barriers 

Even with Simameni moving ahead, students and staff say they continue to face barriers. Easy access to water remains a challenge and a security concern as many students are forced to walk long distances alone to and from community wells. Due to the high poverty rates in the Teso and Western regions, many girls must stay at home to support family. At times, some girls engage in dangerous relationships with older men in exchange for food. Even while in school, where girls should be safe, gender-based violence persists. And, as seen during the school closures, teenage pregnancies and early marriages have increased.

To meet these challenges head on, some schools are providing boarding facilities to save students from long commutes. Other schools have developed alternative ways of raising funds to pay for school fees, boarding facilities, and lunches. Some schools have begun sharing the knowledge gained during menstrual hygiene management workshops with students and even to the nearby primary schools. Others have prioritized access to water over any other need, by installing a pump on school grounds to improve hygiene in the school’s bathrooms, washrooms, and dormitories.

“Although we still struggle, and despite how modest some of the progress is, it is still progress that empowers our community”, shared a head teacher. 

With the Simameni project slated to continue until the end of 2025, there remains time to continue the progress, one girl at a time.

For more information and updates, please contact Sandy Plamondon.

*names changed to protect privacy.

The Canadian Teachers’ Federation

Founded in 1920, the CTF/FCE is a national alliance of provincial and territorial teachers’ organizations that represent over 365,000 teachers and education workers across Canada. The CTF/FCE is also an affiliate of Education International, which represents more than 32-million educators.

Media contact

Andrew King,
Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF/FCE)
Mobile: 819-213-7847