Editor’s Note: This letter is addressed to Chatham-Kent Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls.
Sir: I am writing to express my concern regarding a Facebook post that you made. This post was about those protesting the announced cuts to education outside of Queen’s Park on April 6.
To quote your Facebook message in its entirety:
“Just watching those students and teachers in the video clips is very disappointing. Their signs, their shouting and chanting to a Premier and Government in authority over them is totally disrespectful. That’s not how you get things done. Disrespect is what the teachers and their unions are teaching kids. No wonder there is an apparent lack of respect in the classroom. What goes around comes around, teachers and unions.”
First, please direct me to the videos you saw that made you disappointed. It is important that if there was behaviour that was unbecoming of teachers and students we all see these. Being respectful is important when trying to explain your position on an issue, so I urge you to make available the videos you saw.
I was able to watch videos from various news outlets and what I saw was a well-organized, peaceful protest. Many held signs with such slogans as “Cuts hurt kids,” “Class Size Matters,” “Don’t Make Me Use My Teacher Voice,” and “Accessible Education For All.”
I didn’t see signs with vulgar language or disrespecting comments. I listened to the chants and it was a typical protest tune: “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Doug Ford has got to go!” I heard interviews with students, who were articulate on the issues. None of the students were rude, or stated anything that I would find disappointing.
I saw interviews with teachers who welcomed the opportunity to speak with officials. To me, none of those behaviours are disappointing or unbecoming. I implore you show the videos you saw of disappointing behaviour by teachers and students.
The second issue I would like to address is the part that reads, “…to a Premier and Government in authority over them is totally disrespectful.” This comment is where my main concerns and questions arise. In the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, everyone has the fundamental freedom of: (a) conscience and religion, (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication, (c) freedom of peaceful assembly, and (d) freedom of association.
In its simplest form, the gathering at Queen’s Park was a group of citizens exercising their rights. This wasn’t disrespectful. You don’t have to like what they were saying, but you should respect that they exercised their rights.
A major concern I have with that statement is that you say the premier and government have authority over them. I’m assuming by the word “them,” you mean all Ontarians. Quite frankly, you have no authority over me. Authority is defined as the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience. The Conservatives may be in power in Ontario, yet it is not you and your fellow members that make me follow the rules or laws. I do that of my own free will.
Neither you nor any political party can enforce my obedience. That is mine to give.
Your constituents voted you into the role of MPP to represent them. You are a public servant. You work specifically for those in Chatham-Kent Leamington. Remember your constituents are your boss; you work for ALL of us.
My final issue with that statement is it is leaning closely to something an autocrat would say. The word conjures up images of Stalin, Pinochet, and Franco. I’m by no means suggesting you meant anything similar to these individuals and their horrific actions, yet you suggested the government has complete authority and that is a scary thought. I argue that what is disrespectful is your statement. Canada (including Ontario) is a democratic country. We have the right to protest the government. It is disrespectful to those in the armed services who have fought for us to have these rights, civilians worldwide who’ve died fighting to gain/regain those rights, and it is disrespectful to civilians worldwide still fighting to gain/regain those rights.
Your last statement, “What goes around comes around, teachers and unions” is concerning. It reads as a poorly veiled threat. You seem not to like what teachers and the unions are fighting for. You have that right, I fully respect that. I do not respect political public servants who threaten citizens.
Use better words to express your dislike.
I do question what you mean by that statement. Is it that you want to punish teachers for fighting for their students? Isn’t that what we want in educators? What is going to come around for teachers and unions?
Mr. Nicholls, your whole Facebook post talks about disrespect and disappointing behaviour. I am disappointed in you. Please act with integrity and respect to not only your constituents, but also all Ontarians. When you make statements on social media, remember they are there forever. It not only reflects on you and your character, but on those in your riding. Please be more mindful in your statements.