A teachers’ union in Canada has decided that the votes of its Indigenous, black and racialized members will have additional weight in decision-making processes if there are not enough minority board delegates.
Since the start of the school year, the so-called weighted vote has been in effect in a local bargaining unit of the largest Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) in Halton Region, in Ontario, the National Post reported.
The unit, which represents some 1,400 teachers and school staff, voted on the controversial system last June – which would seek to improve minority representation. It was supported by 68% of the delegates at its annual general meeting.
The new system ensures that indigenous, black and racialized representatives will always have 50% of the vote, even if less than half attend the board meeting.
This means that if 20 people voted, five minority delegates would have the same weight as 15 others who do not consider themselves racialized.
When there is parity between the groups and 50% of the non-white members are present, the vote proceeds normally.
“I think this is a very positive step for equity”, Daryl LeBlanc, teacher and union chapter president, spoke to the newspaper about the measure.
Union documents on weighted voting distributed to members last month insisted that despite the idea of someone with a voice sounding fair, “Fair does not necessarily mean fair”.
“An equal chance to participate in the Federation does not mean treating all members in the same way”, the documents indicated. “In a democratic framework, promoting the engagement of members of equity-seeking groups is a valid and necessary approach to achieve equal results.
“Black, racialized and indigenous members do not feel safe or welcome at Union activities” and something needed to be done about it, the documents, seen by the National Post, suggested.
However, many members disagreed with the changes, calling them discriminatory. Delegates also reportedly expressed concerns that it could violate Ontario’s human rights code.
“If your school representative is racialized, you get a higher percentage of the vote. “ the teacher, who chose to remain anonymous, stressed.
When asked to comment on the National Post, Caitlin Clark, spokesperson for Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, wrote that “The teachers’ unions have once again missed the point. “
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