09/18/2014 04:15 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 00:57 EDT

The Conspiracy Of Silence In B.C. Schools Is Over

Well, here we are, with a deal to vote on. We're climbing up out of the trenches, dusting ourselves off, holding our noses against the stench of manipulation, and voting. We'll vote yes, but it won't be an overwhelming yes.

Daly and Newton via Getty Images

Well, here we are, with a deal to vote on. We're climbing up out of the trenches, dusting ourselves off, holding our noses against the stench of manipulation, and voting. We'll vote yes, but it won't be an overwhelming yes.

Throughout all of this, I've been tremendously optimistic. I'm an idealist -- always have been -- and I believe in the moral fight. The courageous stand. The battle for what is right and good. And this: this has been that fight. The question, of course, is, "Did we win?"

We didn't lose. We didn't see our union destroyed or our voices silenced. We didn't see our membership split and angry. We didn't get yet another series of zeroes in wage increases. We didn't have to picket into October. We didn't lose our homes or starve. And I guess that's good. None of those are things I wanted to see happen, and they didn't, so I guess that's good.

Why, then, I'm asking myself, do I feel so demoralized? I'm asking myself this, because when many were feeling discouraged, I was not, and now, here I am. Why do I feel like a beloved pet just died? And I think, slowly, I'm beginning to understand the answer.

The answer is, I was fighting for something that was bigger than this battle. I was fighting for children, democracy, and fairness. I was fighting against vilification, lies and poverty. I might as well have been fighting for world peace, and frankly, I'd've liked to have seen that, too. But this was a little fight, in a little province in a big country, in a big world, and I was never going to win world peace.

I was never going to get what I was fighting for -- not today, not tomorrow, and probably not in my lifetime. I wanted solutions. I wanted all of the pieces to be fitted together and neatly edged. I wanted to know I had achieved what I set out to achieve, and it turns out, that was never possible.

On Monday, or whenever I'm told to do so, I will go back to school and resume my role as a good little soldier in the war against ignorance. I'll bring "my" kids into class, and I'll welcome them, and I'll hear their stories of summer and travel, and I'll care about them, and together we'll learn and work and do and at the end of the year we'll have an exciting three day field trip, just the way we always do.

At the end of the year, they won't have had more space, smaller classes, or better equipment. They won't have had greater access to counselling or better support systems. They won't, in fact, notice any difference between the school they left, and the one to which they return. Down here on the ground, nothing much will change. And I was fighting for change, because change is desperately needed. So it should be no surprise that I'm feeling sad.

But one thing is new. The difference, now, is that we are talking about it. Parents know about it. Grandparents know about it. People in the streets and offices and shops know about it. They know, now, that we have been propping up a faltering system for years. They know that we have collectively purchased millions of dollars of the equipment and materials that they see on the school shelves.

They know that children can't get timely assessments, and can't get counselling, and aren't being provided EA time or technology that they urgently need. People know about it, and the conspiracy of silence is over. For that, I truly am deeply grateful.

So here's the thing: don't stop listening. Please, please, please don't forget. The outpouring of support from so very many people has been unprecedented, and amazing. And I am begging you, keep hearing, keep pushing, and keep helping, because what has happened here, has not solved the problem. It won't even change the face of the problem, unless the mothers, fathers, grandparents, business people and citizens continue to stand with us and help us to effect change.

We could, and we did, hold the line. But we cannot hold up the system. Not any more, not without help. We need the village to step in, and together, we will hold each other.

Citizens, you are needed. Each and every one of you is needed, to give the children a change they will notice. Please stand with us, and keep hearing us, and together we will raise our standards and our children.

Together we will raise the bar.