skip to content

Building a Just Society

ETFO is a catalyst for promoting dialogue and action on equity and social justice in classrooms, schools, and communities. Along with professional resources and training on human rights issues to assist members in building inclusive classrooms, ETFO publicly promotes social justice causes and supports coalitions and grassroots groups with similar aims. Its overseas programs advance education interests and the rights of all people, especially women and girls.

Statement on Social Justice and Equity

The objects of the Federation shall be: foster a climate of social justice in Ontario and continue a leadership role in such areas as anti-poverty, non-violence and equity. (ETFO Constitution, Article 3, Objects, 3.4)

A member shall:

  • strive to eliminate all forms of harassment between individuals in the educational system
  • endeavour to ensure equity and inclusiveness in the workplace.

(ETFO Constitution, Article VI, Code of Professional Conduct, 6.6 – 6.7)

It is the goal of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario to work with others to create schools, communities, and a society free from all forms of individual and systemic discrimination. To further this goal, ETFO defines equity as fairness achieved through proactive measures, which results in equality, promotes diversity, and fosters respect and dignity for all.

A Commitment to Social Justice and Equity

ETFO’s constitution clearly states its commitment to social justice and equity. In articulating this commitment in the following statement, ETFO is acting from an understanding of itself as an agent for social change.

ETFO is a union committed to protecting and furthering the interests of its members. We see these interests as all-encompassing, not narrowly economic. Teachers and education workers look to their union to support their learning, growth, personal identities, professionalism, working conditions, and livelihood.

ETFO is a union whose members, in their work with children in schools, can perpetuate the current organization of society, or can, by education and example, foster a positive social transformation. We choose to support each other in learning to change the beliefs, behaviours and systems that damage all of us by excluding and harming some of us.

1. ETFO recognizes that discrimination is a fundamental, defining feature of our society, and takes many forms.

Discrimination against particular groups of people is one of the central organizing principles by which resources and power are allocated in our society.

Individuals can and do consciously and unconsciously practice discrimination. Discriminatory practices will not be accepted within ETFO. ETFO’s Constitution sets out a complaint and discipline procedure in Article VII: Disciplinary Procedures.

Discrimination is also “systemic”, the result of seemingly neutral policies or practices that, because they are grounded in the understandings of the dominant group, exclude or otherwise disadvantage members of other groups.

ETFO’s members live and work within these discriminatory systems; some benefit from them, some are disadvantaged. As a union committed to social justice and equity, ETFO works actively to change these systems internally, in education, and in society.

2. Discrimination is experienced differently by different groups, each of which requires support designed to meet its particular needs.

Groups that experience discrimination in Ontario today include:

  • women,
  • racialized people,
  • Aboriginal peoples,
  • people with disabilities,
  • gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender people, and
  • people living in poverty.

3. Members of these groups are in the best position to identify and analyze the differences in issues and needs. ETFO commits to recognize and accommodate these differences between people and groups. ETFO will modify programs, and will develop and provide special programs for particular groups where necessary, since in an unequal world, ignoring differences perpetuates inequality.

4. Growth means change, and change is difficult.

Equity work requires planning, commitment and continual reflection. It is multifaceted and, to be effective, involves “walking the talk”, changing the self as well as the world.

It is controversial. Equity work is about fundamental change, which is often vigorously resisted. Those who benefit from the way society is currently organized, or who are unaware of the pervasiveness of discrimination, or who are simply comfortable with the status quo, are often reluctant to contemplate new ways of doing things.

ETFO embraces the need for change and is committed to moving forward on equity and social justice. Members and staff will be supported by ETFO in the learning that is necessary to effect change.

5. ETFO devotes time, staff and other resources to work for social justice and equity at all levels of the organization.

A belief in equity, supported by organizational structures, and expressed in actions are the components of social justice and equity within ETFO. 

April 2002

Eight Goals Supporting Implementation

ETFO has identified eight goals as part of an ongoing, long-range equity implementation plan:

ETFO must have a diverse staff, informed about and committed to social justice and equity.
ETFO’s own policies and practices must be exemplary, and as such will support our members’ own equity work as well as positively influencing the policies of other groups.
ETFO must develop clear indicators (for example, data on participation of members of equity-seeking groups in ETFO programs, leadership, and staff) by which our progress in equity can be measured, and report regularly on progress to the membership.
All ETFO publications must use inclusive language, represent diversity, recognize special needs, and include equity content. ETFO spokespersons must advocate for social justice and equity with members, governments, and the public.
ETFO must provide a variety of professional development opportunities and other forms of education in equity to members, staff and provincial and Local leadership.
ETFO must provide programs consistent with its commitment to equity. Programs are needed for member education on issues of social justice and equity, and to support the particular identified needs of members who belong to equity-seeking groups.
ETFO must continually seek to include, involve and promote members who belong to equity-seeking groups. ETFO must build alliances with labour, parents, community groups and other partners to counter discrimination and to advocate for social justice.
Equity and Women’s Services provides an operational focus for equity work: identification of equity issues, both internally and externally; making recommendations for action; and monitoring action in all the areas above.