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Local 237 & 238 On City News - Kitchener Discussing President's Derogatory Public Remarks

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Local 237 & 238 Response to President's Derogatory Public Remarks

Dear Chair Boutzis and Board of Governors members,


We are writing on behalf of OPSEU Locals 238 & 237 to express our condemnation of the president’s recent public derogatory comments about sex workers and international students. An apology and investigation are only the first steps to re-establishing Conestoga’s values of inclusivity and respect; we are also calling for John Tibbits to consider retirement.


The president’s recent public remarks contravened the College’s own employee code of conduct, causing harm to employees, their families, and our institution’s reputation. His use of language derogatory to sex workers was deeply sexist, reinforcing the stigmatization of both women and sex workers. Equally disturbing was his claim that international students are "choosing to live the way they do to avoid paying more than $400" which contains an insidious form of racism and anti-immigrant sentiment that implies international students have problematic motivations and needs in comparison to domestic students. Further, these ignorant, hurtful, and untrue remarks undermine our work to support students who are at the financial breaking point, precariously housed, frustrated, and under massive pressure.


Retiring will signal that he is taking responsibility for his actions, and it will give him space to reflect on the harm these comments have wrought. In retirement, he will have the time he needs to educate himself on the damaging effect of sexist language and narratives that stigmatize sex workers and international students. In our joint responsibility to champion equity, diversity, and inclusion, we ask the president to take responsibility for his actions and make space for more diversity in Conestoga’s leadership.





Vikki-Lee Poirier        Leopold Koff

President Local 238     President Local 237 

OPSEU/SEFPO's statement in the issue is forthcoming, as an increasing number of members work in different capacities in Colleges and Universities, provincewide.  


But when asked for our input, the DivEx communicated the following overarching points:

  • We stand together with international and domestic students, and believe that they deserve quality education and the supports that they need to benefit from that education, including housing

  • Like OCUFA, we believe that the primary issue is not international students, but provincial underfunding.  Ontario famously has the lowest per-capita postsecondary student funding in Canada.  If Colleges and Universities were funded appropriately, Colleges would base international student targets on educational priorities, not fiscal ones.

We note that some College Presidents and senior administrators have wasted no time in turning to the language of scarcity and austerity, predicting program closures and layoffs if Ottawa carries through with its plans.  We believe that this is irresponsible, and not supported by their record-setting profits in recent years.


We urge you to find ways to inoculate your membership against these scare tactics, which are designed to whip up public support for an exploitative status quo, and to prepare our members for hardship.  To that end, we are sharing with you the publicly-available data (compiled by Ravi Ramkissoonsingh), showing that the 24 Colleges reported surpluses of almost $4 billion in the last 19 years, of which $2.66 billion was earned in the last eight years.


The second thing to consider is the explosive growth in International students recently.  This year, Ontario reports approximately 500,000 international students in its postsecondary institutions.  Preliminary research suggests that a reduction of 50% in the number of new permits provided over the next two years would merely have the effect of returning the number of international students in Ontario Colleges to roughly what we saw in 2018 or 2020.  You can look at your own college's 2018 surpluses, to determine whether it is reasonable or appropriate for your College President to sound the alarm about your College's financial health if International students returned to those numbers.


Lastly, you may yourself be asked to join in the call to oppose the federal government's new policy.  We would instead encourage you to consider asking your College's managers to join in the call for increased provincial funding, so that our College's do not need to rely on international students and privatization.


As Locals begin demand-setting meetings, we're happy to provide whatever information and support that we can to help members feel confident in the importance of their own priorities at their workplace.


Yours in Solidarity,

Your CAAT-A Divisional Executive

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