Teachers union threatens Nipissing over Harris degree

Honourary degree for former premier causes outrage

The Ontario Teachers Federation can hardly be said to be known for its subtlety. In a recent letter sent to Nipissing University’s board of governors, OTF president Reno Melatti warned against plans to name a library after, and confer an honourary degree on, former Ontario premier Mike Harris. “The executive of the Ontario Teachers Federation would like you to know that both we and our members object, in the strongest possible terms to any intent Nipissing may have to pursue such a misguided action,” the letter read.

Melatti raised a number of grievances from Harris’ time in office. “We find it incongruous that a university that prides itself on being a school for future teachers and for aboriginal students would deem it appropriate to confer any honour on an individual who decimated the funding of K-12 and post-secondary education in Ontario,” the letter read. “Given the insidious treatment of the profession by former premier Mike Harris, and his total lack of respect for its members, we cannot predict how teachers may demonstrate their displeasure should the university choose to name a library after, or confer an honorary degree on, Mr. Harris.”

The union boss went so far as to suggest that OTF members may refuse the placement of Nipissing student teachers in their classrooms. “There’s a strong concern from various members that they may reconsider their assistance in providing for (Nipissing) student teachers,” Mellatti told the Ottawa Citizen. In a meeting scheduled for later this month the union executive will consider whether or not to recommend a boycott against Nipissing education students.

For its part, the university has shrugged off the complaint, with spokesman Bob Pipe telling the Citizen plans to honour Harris will proceed.