The Congress of the Centrale de syndicats du Québec highlighted the importance of education’ trade unions for workers, students and society as a whole, and acknowledged the work of two eminent union leaders, Louise Chabot and Daniel Lafrenière.
"It is a great pleasure for me to be with you today at this special Congress of the Centrale de syndicats du Québec. With a change of president and a change of treasurer, a new chapter is beginning! ", declared David Edwards, the General Secretary of Education International (EI), to the 42nd CSQ Congress, held from June 26 to 29 in Quebec City.
Trade unionism, a "profoundly human adventure"
Emphasising that "trade unionism in education is the struggle for the emancipation of people, for the advancement of the values of freedom, equality, democracy, and peace, a constant fight to get the budget to make high-quality public education possible, education that every child can benefit from, and for the qualifications of education professionals to be recognised", he also noted that trade unionism is also" a profoundly human adventure, shaped by people coming together, sharing their culture and vision, standing together in solidarity, and offering each other mutual support".
Edwards continued by thanking and making special mention of Daniel Lafrenière, "who, as the representative of the CSQ on the EI Executive Board, had shown a talent for contributing to debates, always constructively, and for asserting the priorities of his organisation. This subtle blend of diplomacy and perseverance had achieved some remarkable results, as exemplified by the first-ever EI conference for Education Support Personnel, held recently in Brussels".
He also told delegates to the CSQ Congress that EI and educators around the world knew they could count on their active contribution in many fields, from education in early childhood to support for the francophone community, through dialogue or development cooperation: "These themes resonate, I know, with your local concerns here in la Belle Province. This cross-fertilisation between the local and the international is quite an inspiring model! “
Universal access to education is an "indispensable and urgent” issue
Adding that EI acts, wherever it can, to promote free and high-quality education, he explained that, in the current geopolitical situation, where the economic and environmental crisis is affecting many parts of the world, with a rise in social, ethnic or religious tensions, universal access to education was more indispensable and urgent than ever, and this was one of the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals.
As well as universal access to education, Edwards emphasised that educators around the world were advocating an ambitious vision for the future of the education system and the subjects that would be taught. It was true that, "not everything was being given its proper value and what falls outside the obsessional culture of preparing for examinations can be crucial: critical thinking, listening to others, tolerance; the qualities that result in enlightened citizens and produce open and balanced societies".
Before concluding his speech, he wished the CSQ outgoing President, Louise Chabot, "a well-deserved break, after her brilliantly leadership of the CSQ during her years with the organisation, especially her work in the Common Front movement, a couple of years ago, which I recall made it possible for the organisation to achieve some very interesting outcomes. “
Louise Chabot: union solidarity and collective action for the benefit of all
Chabot echoed this sentiment in her opening speech, emphasising union solidarity and unity.
"Collective action has changed the face of society. Together, we have the power to change things. Everyone is a winner. The spirit of unionism is to care for others! Our solidarity is unconditional! Faced with an employer state that fixes the rules of the game, our most powerful weapon is collective action. “
In her strongly worded speech she was adamant that we had to stick together and "the only ones who would benefit from our lack of unity would be our adversaries. They know that we are the only ones standing in the way of their conservative revolution. “
Finally, she was very happy to add that, "in recent years, we have managed to transcend the present and chart our course into the future", and that, "I feel that I have given my very best but have received even more back from you in return. I want to tell you how proud I am to have represented you for all these years. “
EI would like to warmly thank Louise Chabot and Daniel Lafrenière, two prominent union leaders, for their many years of hard work in the service of workers in the education sector in Quebec, further afield in the province of Quebec, and around the world. They are to be succeeded by Sonia Ethier and Luc Beauregard. We wish them every success.