Saskatchewan students rally at the legislature in support of extracurriculars, teachers

Students from all corners of Saskatchewan gathered on the steps of the legislature Wednesday morning, showcasing the fact that they’ve become caught in the middle of the ongoing labour dispute between their teachers and the provincial government.

The rally cry came from Indian Head High School student Hunter Watson, 17,  who posted an open invitation to her peers on Facebook after learning the Saskatchewan High Schools Athletic Association (SHSAA) was cancelling basketball playoffs if the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation did not lift sanctions by Wednesday afternoon.

“I was really emotional at the time. I had just been told that these things were being taken away,” Watson said. “Me and my team just got together and decided we can either stand back and let this happen or try and do something about it.”

The STF announced sanctions Monday after contract talks between the federation and the government came to a standstill. The parties have been embroiled in a contract dispute for 10 months.

As of Thursday, teachers will be withdrawing from extracurriculars. The SHSAA said playoffs rely heavily on teacher involvement and won’t be able to operate without them.

“… therefore, it is with regret that all remaining SHSAA sanctioned baskeball events for the 2019-20 high school season of play are cancelled,” states a media release sent out by the SHSAA later Wednesday.

The organization said it’s aware of “the disappointment that exists amongst our student athletes and coaches” and that in recent days students “have demonstrated many of the qualities that their coaches have tried to nurture in an educational athletic setting.”

From Humboldt to Foam Lake to Assiniboia, hundreds of students  — many wearing high school team jerseys  —  chanted: “Let us play.”

The group was largely comprised of basketball teams, but included football and hockey players as well as drama students.

“It shows the true community that high school extracurriculars are,” Watson said. “We never could have dreamed that it would have gotten this huge.”

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