Members of a coalition comprising teachers' organizations from Canada, the United States, and Mexico spoke with one voice Sunday, denouncing the government of Mexico for atrocious rights violations against teachers.
A strongly worded resolution was passed unanimously at the concluding plenary of the 12th biennial conference of the Tri-national Coalition in Defense of Public Education, held at UBC May 12-15, 2016. In it, delegates called on the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto to own up to the role of the state and police in the 2014 disappearances of 43 indigenous student teachers from the state of Guerrero.
The call comes just two weeks after release of a scathing report by a panel of forensic experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, who said that the Mexican government stonewalled their investigation into the students' apparent massacre, in effec granting impunity to those responsible.
The conference brought together teacher unionists from across the three countries, including BCTF President Jim Iker, Canadian Teachers' Federation President Heather Smith, as well as leaders of provincial teacher unions in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland. Iker said that the Canadian unionists shared a sense of admiration for their Mexican counterparts, who must sacrifice so much and take such serious personal risks in their work.
“As tourists, many of us enjoy the beauty of Mexico and the warmth of its people, but we don't see the terrible poverty and injustice there,” Iker said. “But through our work with the Tri-national Coalition over more than 20 years, we've learned how teachers across Mexico face repression just because they speak up for their labour rights and the rights of their students to a good education.”
Conference delegates also expressed support for the tens of thousands of Mexican teachers who are taking strike action beginning today. May 15 is Teachers' Day in Mexico. The strike has been launched in an effort to convince the government to repeal a sweeping series of constitutional changes and education reforms that are devastating public education.
Striking teachers from Mexico City, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Chiapas, Michoacán, and other states who are members of the teachers' union, CNTE, are demanding:
- freedom for political prisoners jailed for defending public education.
- an end to the repression of indigenous teachers.
- reinstatement of 3,360 teachers recently fired for protesting government reforms.
- an end to the criminalization of teachers' opposition to the reforms.
- cessation of attacks on labour rights.
The Tri-national Coalition also urged the Mexican government to respect the knowledge and professional expertise of its teachers and end the privatization of public education.