Solidarity work abroad
OSSTF/FEESO has a strong history of international solidarity and coalition building in various parts of the world. These coalitions have developed through a variety of means. Some were developed because of our work with the Common Threads project, an international solidarity program that offers Members the opportunity to travel abroad and conduct research resulting in the creation of new progressive curriculum on critical issues. Other relationships have developed in consultation with other education unions, including the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), or with global solidarity organizations in Canada such as Common Frontiers, of which OSSTF/FEESO is a member. Our recent reaffiliation with the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) has brought us access to Education International (EI) and its international solidarity partners.
Our international relationships take on many different forms. They include formal membership in organized coalitions, supporting specific programs and projects, financial support to coalition partners, and less formal relationships where we continue to dialogue with partner organizations.
What follows is a small sampling of some of the international coalitions and work in which OSSTF/FEESO is engaged.
Trinational Coalition for the Defense of Public Education
Established after the creation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the 1990s, education unions from Canada, the United States, and Mexico formed the coalition in response to the potential threats that NAFTA posed to public education. OSSTF/FEESO is part of the organizing committee of the Trinational Coalition and helps to plan a conference biennially. Education unions and student organizations from other countries are invited to participate in Trinational activities, including groups from Puerto Rico, Colombia, Bolivia, Guatemala, Peru, and the United Kingdom to name a few. The most recent Trinational conference was held in Oaxaca, Mexico in October 2022, and OSSTF/FEESO was proud to be able to deliver a presentation on community organizing and building connections between communities and public education.
The Initiative for Democratic Education in the Americas (IDEA) Network
The IDEA Network was created in 1998 and carries out research, establishes communication networks, publishes documents, and organizes conferences and seminars related to the defense of public education. It encompasses two other regional networks: an Education Researchers’ Network (RIE) and an Indigenous Educators’ Network (REI) created in 2006. OSSTF/FEESO is part of the international coordinating committee and has participated in many IDEA Network meetings and events. The IDEA Network produces a publication in English and Spanish called Intercambio, to which OSSTF/FEESO contributes articles on a regular basis. The IDEA Network is a frequent participant in the Trinational Coalition.
CoDevelopment Canada (CoDev) is a British Columbia-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that works for social change and global education in the Americas. Founded in 1985, the organization’s aim is to go beyond just offering financial aid to Latin American countries, and instead build partnerships between like-minded organizations in Canada and Latin America to support learning, social change, and community empowerment. The Board of Directors of CoDev includes many BC union representatives, including BCTF, CUPE, and BC General Employees’ Union. CoDev works with other various unions and organizations beyond BC to connect them with Latin American partners to support learning projects. OSSTF/FEESO has developed a strong connection with unions in Central and South America through CoDev, including an ongoing partnership with the Federación Colombiana de Educadores (FECODE)—a major education union in Colombia.
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA) is a worldwide federation of more than 1,700 organizations from over 160 countries and territories that campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex human rights. OSSTF/FEESO joined the organization in 2021 and sent a delegation to the ILGA World Conference in May 2022.
Education International (EI) is a global federation of unions that brings together organizations of teachers and other education employees from around the world. There are 383 member organizations, representing over 32 million educators in 178 countries. OSSTF/FEESO’s connection to EI is through our membership in the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF). EI is a global voice for teachers and education workers calling for free, quality, publicly funded education for every student in every country.
FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR SPECIFIC INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS
Foundation for Development and Education—Bolivia
In 2006, OSSTF/FEESO and the BCTF began co-sponsoring the establishment of The School of Political and Trade Union Training—the Foundation for Development and Education/ Fundación para el desarrollo y la educación (FUNDE/FDE). Working with various teacher federations, the union training school expanded to provide professional learning for teachers in Bolivia to support their ability to increase their salaries and meet government requirements. The program received political support from President Evo Morales (2006-2019), trade union organizer and activist, and Bolivia’s first Indigenous president. The programs expanded to include a master’s degree in higher education and many other training opportunities for educators across the country.
Schools as Territories of Peace —Colombia
In 2017, OSSTF/FEESO provided financial support through CoDevelopment Canada to a project in Colombia called Schools as Territories of Peace. As Colombia emerged out of a period of significant civil conflict and unrest, The Colombian Teachers’ Federation (FECODE) wanted to develop pedagogical alternatives for schools in a post-conflict environment, and to democratize public schools through education for peace, social justice, and respect for human rights. The program is active at a national level in both urban and rural settings. Education unions in Quebec and British Columbia are also funding this project.
Bangladesh Center for Workers’ Solidarity—Bangladesh
The Bangladesh Center for Workers’ Solidarity (BCWS) was founded in 2001 by three former garment workers. They are a labour rights advocacy organization that emphasizes the rights of women workers, gender equality, participation of women workers in bargaining, and protecting the human rights of women and children. Shortly after the Rana Plaza factory collapse in in 2013 in Dhaka, Canadian unions came together to offer financial support to the BCWS to help in its efforts to change labour laws in Bangladesh. OSSTF/FEESO has been a co-sponsor of BCWS for six years and was able to participate in a Canadian union coalition trip to work with the organization in spring 2019.
International Assistance Program
OSSTF/FEESO receives applications for funding from various programs and organizations annually through the International Assistance Program (IAP). The applications are reviewed by the provincial Human Rights Committee with recommendations for funding approved by the Provincial Executive. Some of the IAP applications come from organizations with whom we have established relationships, or through some of our existing international coalitions. This program has a mandate to support projects that support education, women’s rights, and labour solidarity.
It is through our various and ever-evolving partnerships that OSSTF/FEESO can continue to play an active role in enhancing and promoting human rights, public education, and the rights of workers. These partnerships often yield reciprocal benefits, including solidarity, lobbying, and resource sharing with our Federation, truly making these relationships valuable assets to the Members of OSSTF/FEESO.
Gary Fenn is the Director of Comunications/Political Action at OSSTF/FEESO Provincial Office.