While many immigrants choose the Peel region as their first home, there have been dramatic cuts to the English classes offered to assist them with the transition. Peel English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers want to know why the Peel District School Board (PDSB) is targeting ESL classes with these cuts.
Acquiring English language skills is essential to improving the lives of new Canadians. ESL training allows them to access education and work opportunities, and become integrated into Canadian life.
"Why is Ontario cutting ESL classes for new Canadians?" asked OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. "If this government is truly committed to ensuring immigrants are able to get decent jobs, these classes must be made a priority."
Since 2011, the number of Peel ESL classes has been cut by close to 50 per cent. While 127 teachers were employed by the Peel District School Board to deliver ESL classes in 2011, only 67 have been hired this year. Many full-time teaching positions have been reduced to part-time, and class size requirements have increased meaning it is more likely they will be cancelled.
The majority of Peel District ESL teachers are women and many are originally immigrants themselves. This makes these teachers vulnerable to job cuts and reduction of hours to part-time work.
According to the Peel Census of 2006, 48.3 per cent of Peel residents are immigrants. This number continues to grow, and serves as a clear indication of the need for immigrant services such as ESL classes in this region.
"With smaller numbers of courses offered, it is getting more and more difficult for new Canadians to attend ESL classes. And the problem is compounded by the PDSB doing little to ensure immigrants know that classes are available," said Marco Costa, President of OPSEU Local 283.
"We are all committed to providing a service that meets the demands of our communities, however good communication is needed to address expected changes," said Costa.
"We want these issues resolved as soon as possible so that we can continue to do what we love to do — teach second language learners and assist them in moving on to further education or meaningful employment."
Marco Costa, President, Local 283: firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily Visser, OPSEU Communications: 416-557-7936