Tracy Johns. Teacher.

This is a moving, intelligent concise post from the battles lines to preserve educational values in BC. Thank you, Tracy Johns.


Teaching in 2014.   September 3rd, 2014.

I am a teacher in B.C. and I have been quiet (for the most part) about the ongoing conflict and subsequent job action. Quiet even when reading comments online and in the papers attacking me as being selfish, lazy and greedy. Quiet even when the guy in the white SUV drove past me on the picket line yesterday screaming at me to “get back to work #$%^ing lazy…” There are a lot of statistics and ‘facts’ being put forth by the government but these are my facts, my reality.

1. I taught Grade 4 last year with 29 students. 6 students were on an Individual Education Plan and at least 10 more required a lot of support. More than I could give.

2. I had an amazing Education Assistant that worked tirelessly to help as many students as possible but was often required to follow and keep safe, the one student that had such high learning needs and anxiety that he would run from the class, building and even the school grounds.

3. I had students that would hit, punch, kick, swear, yell, cry, throw chairs etc. Students that were in and out of foster care, students that came to school hungry. With all these needs I often did not get to those who were not acting out. Consequently I found out months after it happened that one of my student’s parents had gotten divorced. She certainly could have used some extra attention and support.

4. You would think that this was a very unusual case and that most classes are not like this wouldn’t you? Unfortunately this is becoming the norm.

5. Despite the challenges, I LOVE my job. I genuinely care about all of my students and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

6. B.C. has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the country, are funded $1000 each per year less than the national average while one of the wealthiest provinces. $1000 less? How is that OK? (This makes me furious as a parent and as a teacher)

I have run the full gamut of emotions about this over the summer. Panic about how to feed my family (despite the stats being put forth- at 7 years of teaching without yet getting a continuing contract I make less as a teacher than I did at Starbucks), fear about the future for all our children, and finally anger. I have had enough. If you still think this is about a pay raise or better benefits then you really need to educate yourself. We will never, not ever, get back the money that we lost since this job action started.

Teachers, and everyone that works in a caring profession, go out of their way to make sure those in their care get what they need. After more than a decade of cuts,we can no longer stretch to cover what is not being funded. I can’t continue to buy supplies for students and the classroom that should be covered, parents should not have to hold bake sales, poinsettia sales, chocolate fundraisers etc., to cover what should be funded by our tax dollars. (Yes, teachers pay those taxes too). Children deserve classrooms that are not overcrowded, with enough support and textbooks- ones that you didn’t use yourself when you were in school.

At this point we need to ask ourselves what kind of society we want to live in. Are we so afraid of not being able to afford the latest gadgets and fancy cars/clothes/houses that we buy into the fear that the government is putting forth about affordability? I want to live in a society where children are well educated and taught to think critically, have empathy and learn to care about each other and our environment. I don’t want to see B.C. sold off to the highest bidder at the expense of our environment and our children. School is not a business to produce mindless masses ready for the workforce. Everyone should be standing up together and saying that this is not right. This is not just the teachers’ fight, this is a fight for everyone who values an educated society.

Inaction is no longer an option. If you aren’t standing up for what is right in this world you are just as guilty as those in power who are making the wrong decisions. Instead of clucking your tongue at the madness or burying your head in the sand hoping it will all sort itself out (or worse blaming the teachers) I challenge you to look at what is really going on and take a stand. I am fighting for your children and mine. If you aren’t standing up and doing the same, why aren’t you?


October 22nd, 2013. Harper Government Falls

Stephen Harper sits down and Mike Duffy stands up


by Aaron Wherry  on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 6:52pm –

Senators arriving to work on Tuesday afternoon had first to get past a small band of photographers huddled outside in the cold October air around the brass doors that serve as the official front door to Parliament’s Centre Block for members of the red chamber. Inside, and up the 26 steps that senators must climb to get to the Senate foyer, the press gallery had set up a second line, some nine television cameras and more than a dozen reporters, standing in wait on the marble floor, flanked by sandstone pillars and surrounded by the grand portraits of kings and queens. One by one, senators would proceed through the doors, up the steps and, escorted by Senate security, into the mob, which would encircle and pester them with questions. Only once they set feet on the red carpet that marks the exclusive domain of the Senate, were senators safe from their press gallery tormentors.

“Brazeau!” a reporter called when Patrick Brazeau arrived and the mob closed in and attempted, without success, to coax a comment from him. The officially independent and variously beleaguered senator was preceded by Pamela Wallin and followed by Mike Duffy, each appearing on Parliament Hill to stand trial, accused of “gross negligence” in the management of their parliamentary resources and facing the possibility of suspension from the upper chamber of Parliament. The government that appointed them to the Senate was moving now to have them banned from this place.


Down the hall, the members of the House of Commons were convening for Question Period. And while the Senate prepared to puts three of its members on trial, the opposition in the House would now cross-examine the Prime Minister as a hostile (and ultimately uncooperative) witness.

Thomas “Ironside” Mulcair stood tall and stared directly at Stephen Harper, the NDP leader revisiting the prosecutorial air that he adopted in questioning the Prime Minister this spring. “Mr. Speaker, does the Prime Minister regret any of his actions?” Mr. Mulcair wondered. “Not Nigel Wright’s actions, not Mike Duffy’s actions, but does the Prime Minister regret any of his own actions in the Senate scandal?”

Mr. Harper stood and said only that his government expected the rules to be followed and that those who failed to follow the rules should be held accountable. He then assured the House that the government would focus on “the real priorities of Canadians, and that is jobs, growth and making sure we have opportunity for future generations.”

All the same perhaps Mr. Harper might regret telling the House last June that Mr. Wright’s decision to cover Mr. Duffy’s bill had not been communicated to any other member of the Prime Minister’s Office. “Mr. Speaker, on June 5, the Prime Minister said that no one else in his office knew about Nigel Wright’s $90,000 payment to Mike Duffy. Was that true?” Mr. Mulcair asked with his second question.

Mr. Harper pleaded that he had already answered this question and indeed he has, claiming that what he said in June was based on the information he had at the time, a response that, unfortunately, only begs more questions about the basis on which Mr. Harper spoke. “Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Mulcair asked with his fifth opportunity, “how are Canadians supposed to know if the Prime Minister is telling the truth if he does not know himself?”

Mr. Harper hesitated and then responded by suggesting the NDP had offered contradictory accounts of its position on the free trade deal with Europe. “So what are Canadians to believe?” Mr. Harper asked himself. “They are to believe that the only party that is focused on the real needs, focused on the economy and doing things for Canada is this government.”

The Conservatives stood and applauded, the official policy now seeming to be that this matter of Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright and perhaps the government’s general ability to explain itself does not (or perhaps should not) amount to a real concern.

Mr. Harper took three questions from Liberal leader Justin Trudeau—”We do not assure Canadians that everything will be perfect, but we do assure Canadians that when anything goes wrong, people will be held accountable,” Mr. Harper told the House—and then Mr. Mulcair returned to his feet and Mr. Harper decided he was mostly done with standing.

The NDP leader asked the Prime Minister to explain the allegation, conveyed by Mr. Duffy’s lawyers, that someone—”we”—was developing “lines” for Mr. Duffy as part of a “scenario” to repay the questionable expenses. Government House leader Peter Van Loan motioned for the Prime Minister’s parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, to stand and take this. The New Democrats were unimpressed. “You want to be the big leader, answer the questions,” David Christopherson shouted across the aisle at the Prime Minister.

Mr. Mulcair, reminding the House that only the Prime Minister could answer these questions and venturing that the public would “severely judge the Prime Minister’s silence,” kept on. Had Nigel Wright been present when the Prime Minister spoke to Mike Duffy on February 13? What was in the binder that Mr. Wright provided to the RCMP? Did the Prime Minister or anyone else in his office threaten Mike Duffy with expulsion from the Senate? Had other senators received similar deals? And what about the audit of Ms. Wallin’s expenses?

Mr. Harper twice shook his head dismissively at the NDP leader’s question and once was compelled to stand and respond—receiving a a mocking ovation from the NDP for doing so—but otherwise remained seated as his parliamentary secretary stood to take seven questions from the leader of the opposition.


In the Senate, Ms. Wallin, Mr. Duffy and Mr. Brazeau sat side-by-side-by-side along the back row of the opposition’s side of the chamber, surrounded to their immediate left, right and front by empty chairs.

Around three o’clock, after the Senate had finished with its own Question Period and various procedural matters and voted to co-sign with the House a message of congratulations to the Queen on the occasion of Prince George’s birth, the upper chamber moved to the consideration of Messrs Duffy and Brazeau and Ms. Wallin. Reading from a small stack of paper held in his left hand, Senator Claude Carignan, government leader in the Senate, took an hour to review the cases of the three senators and to explain why the Senate both could and must act to remove the trio from its midst forthwith. The manner and frequency of their errors amounted to “wilful contempt of the institution” and to protect the Senate and preserve the public’s trust, he explained, senators should act. For awhile, the NDP’s Charlie Angus and Pat Martin sat beside each other in the gallery above, like Statler and Waldorf observing the Muppet Show.

Liberal senators, but also Conservative senator Hugh Segal, probed the soundness of Senator Carignan’s argument and then Liberal Senate leader James Cowan took the floor. What the three senators had done was “wrong,” Cowan said. He had, he would say, “no sympathy” for them. But the three senators were entitled to due process, and this was not due process. Cowan recalled how Winston Churchill had, during the blitz, described parliamentary customs and traditions as “the splendour of our moral and political inheritance.” “If Churchill could be determined to uphold our parliamentary ‘moral and political inheritance’ while bombs were falling, surely the challenges we face today merit nothing less,” Senator Cowan declared. “Let’s be very clear:  political bombshells must not be allowed to justify trampling on basic rights under our Canadian system of justice.” Senators Duffy and Wallin applauded.

At half past five, Mike Duffy stood in his spot along the back row in the far left corner and the Speaker gave him the floor.

A lot of questions needed answers, he said, and he would seek now to defend his “good name.” The senator for Prince Edward Island proceed then to scorch the earth, or at least to singe the carpet.

“I allowed myself to be intimidated to do what I knew in my heart was wrong,” he explained.

Glasses perched on the end of his nose, his fists pumping and his left index finger wagging and jabbing, gesturing to individuals on the other side of the chamber, Duffy delivered his remarks with aplomb, seeming here to be a reporter who had found the greatest story of his career.

  • A senator who was told his expense claims were in order by the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, a man who had violated no laws and broken no rules, but who was pressured into accepting guilt and allowing that chief of staff to settle his tab under threat of expulsion from the Senate.
  • And now still the Senate was threatening him with suspension.
  • A man who had come to the Senate to make the country a better place, now he worried that he wouldn’t be able to get the heart medication he needs.
  • This was the stuff of Iraq or Iran or Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
  • He harkened to the days of Diefenbaker and Trudeau.
  • He named various names. The words “bribery” and “extortion” were uttered.
  • He wished he had the “courage” to refuse to take part in this “monstrous political scheme.”
  • He dismissed the boys in short pants at the PMO and Pat Martin, now seated in the front of the gallery, leaning over the railing on his elbow, smiled.

When Mr. Duffy was finally done, the Liberal senators applauded.

Mr. Brazeau went next and though he could not hope to have matched the performance that preceded him, he gave a good effort, lecturing the Senate on its ethics and standing, speaking emotionally and wagging his finger and demanding due process. “If this is the Harper government’s way of believing in democracy and exercising democracy, I think we should all be very fearful,” he told the Senate. “This is a complete joke, a complete farce. And Stephen Harper, you lost my vote.”

And with that the Senate decided that it had heard enough for the day and voted to adjourn.

Gareth (Gary) Shearman


Gareth Shearman, after a lengthy battle with cancer, died, October 14, 2013. He spent much of the last year working to ensure that Victoria Free-Net could continue in his absence.

There will be a Memorial Service in Victoria, but he would have been pleased to see his memory and accomplishments respected in electronic media of all forms.

Gareth was an educator and community network practitioner with over 40 years experience in local, national and international arenas. For much of his career he worked as an educator in the pubic school system and in educational administration. His early involvement with computing was in research in Computer Assisted Instruction and the development of education networks. He was involved with the founding of a number of educational and community computing organizations in BC. He held a BEd degree from the University of British Columbia and an MSc (Ed) degree from Simon Fraser University.

In 1992, he was instrumental in establishing the Victoria Free-Net Association – Canada’s first Free-Net – which fostered a sense of electronic community and introduced people to the internet. Gareth was also founding president of Pacific Community Networks Association, president of Telecommunities Canada since 1998, and active in the British Columbia Community Connectivity Cooperative (BC3), the Global Community Networks Partnership (GCNP), and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). These organizations continue their work as supporters of his deep commitment to all aspects of community development and digital inclusion through the uses of information and communications technologies.

He and Mae were co-recipients of an Industry Canada Information Highway Leadership Recognition Award.

The local, national and international regard in which he was held are reflected in the following condolences we have received at Victoria Freenet.

It hurts a lot. I’m really sad. Please, send my deepest condolences to his wife and friend, Mae. Gareth was a great, humane and persistent innovator. I still remember their trip to Barcelona during our global congress and the visit I made to Vancouver years after. We will always remember him as the best of Canadian community spirit.


Gareth has been an acquaintance of mind since the early 1990s when I began meeting him at conferences. Over the last 10 years or so I’ve had the pleasure of working more closely with him. Gareth will be missed! He gave freely of his time and added constructively to many community projects, not only those related to the Internet. He has left a good legacy to build upon.


This very sad news. I first met Gareth and Mae in Barcelona back in 1999 and in 2009 we had the pleasure of hosting them at our place in Myrtleford after the Sydney ICANN meeting. Gareth was a true gentleman in all of the senses of that expression. Please pass onto Mae our deepest condolences.


Our thoughts and hearts too. Such sad and unexpected news. We have happy memories of their stay with us here in Australia as well as all those good GCNP times. Gary was a lovely kind unassuming man with a real passion and vocation for his lifelong community networking work.


A Mentor to us all. An example to follow.


Sincere condolences to Mae, family members and friends. Gareth was truly a kind hearted and humble person. Yes we are lucky to have known him and to have shared in his passion to make a difference in the lives of many…. Saskatchewan remembers.


Gareth will be missed. He was a great innovator, a man of honor and a true friend to all who were lucky enough to be know him. My condolences to Mae and all his family and friends.


I am sad to convey the news that our colleague, friend and guide Gareth (Garry) Shearman has passed away. He has been ill for some time but bore it with very

considerable strength. My very best wishes to his wife and partner Mae in the various enterprises that helped to build community networking in Canada. RIP Garry.


A passionate pioneer for a fully connected Canada for all – he inspired so many. My heart goes out to friends, family and of course, all of you.


My heart and thoughts are with everyone as we remember and celebrate a life well lived. Gareth’s work and love is felt and to be thought of as so very important in all our lives. My one hope is that we each will honour Gareth in every way possible by continuing the struggle and using the tools and relationships he worked so hard to establish and sustain. Knowing that Gareth is with each of us today and each day forth will hopefully help us as we continue to do the work he pioneered and shouldered over the years. He truly is a hero to be honoured!


It was amazing to work with Gary who was such a champion and community builder. He changed the face of community networking in the Pacific Region and across Canada.”


My thoughts and heart go out to Mae. Gareth will always be a light.


I am very upset to hear this. Gary was one of a kind. Godspeed Garry.


He was and will always be a credit to humanity.


I just wanted to pass on my condolences to you on the loss of your friend and colleague, Gareth. He was a remarkable man who made a valuable contribution to our collective access to technology in this region and beyond. I’m sure that you and your Freenet friends and colleagues will miss him a great deal.


It was with great sadness that I heard of Gareth’s passing. He had been a long serving member of the ICANN At-Large community. He will be missed by the At-Large community and staff. … Could you please send us his mailing address? We would like to send Mae our condolences. There are also some members of the North American Regional At-Large Organization who would like to send him flowers.


I am truly saddened by Gareth’s passing. He was an inspiration to our work for over 20 years beginning, for me, in Summer 1993 at Carleton University where the first Community Net conference was held. … Since then he has been a gentle pillar of strength and encouragement. … Please pass along my heartfelt condolences on the loss of Gareth. My thoughts are especially with Mae.


I’ll never forget first time I ever saw Gareth. I was speaking at the 1993 (4?) community networking conference at Carleton University. Gareth was seriously fast asleep in the front row! “Hmm, who is that?” I wondered. Asking around a bit, I discovered that this was the already legendary (in the community networking world) Gareth Shearman, who, along with his wife Mae, had founded Victoria Freenet, the very first Canadian community network in Canada. I figured it must have been jet lag, not my less than stellar speaking skills that were to blame for the public 40 winks. I later realized that Gareth had that rare ability to quickly catch some sleep when he needed to and then just carry on, not having missed a thing. Oh, it is a rare person who has that gift! That was many years ago, and all this time, Gareth and Mae never waivered in their commitment to community in general, to the community project they founded and all the things that flowed from it, including numerous organizations at the national and international level. It was a lifetime commitment that leaves huge footprint that touches a lot of people.

Now we must bid goodbye part of this team. Gareth was a leader who guided with a gentle, thoughtful hand — kind, humble, never out for personal benefit. He was in it for the long haul and he was in it for the community. My deepest condolences go out to Mae to whom I wish to give a big, long hug. I am so sad that Gareth is no longer going to be guiding us in person. But he did leave all of us with wonderful memories and great paths to follow. These will continue to be part of our lives and our work and we will carry on. But for a few moments, I would like to stop and acknowledge a deep sense of loss.