It is supposed to be a fundamental principle of criminal law that a person is presumed innocent until proven otherwise by the State (government). This is the ideology or the rhetoric (which much of the left have swallowed). The reality is otherwise. In reality, the administrative apparatus of various organizations of the government and semi-governmental organizations assume that you are guilty first and that you have to prove your innocence; otherwise, you suffer negative consequences.
An example is the requirements that the Ontario College of Teachers imposed on me in order for me to qualify as a teacher in the province of Ontario after I moved from the province of Manitoba. To qualify as a teacher in Ontario, you must gain the approval of the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT). The OCT website explains what this organization does:
ABOUT THE COLLEGE
The Ontario College of Teachers licenses, governs and regulates the Ontario teaching profession in the public interest.
Teachers who work in publicly funded schools in Ontario must be certified to teach in the province and be members of the College.
- sets ethical standards and standards of practice
- issues teaching certificates and may suspend or revoke them
- accredits teacher education programs and courses
- investigates and hears complaints about members
The College is accountable to the public for how it carries out its responsibilities.
You can find the qualifications, credentials and current status of every College member at Find a Teacher.
The College is governed by a 37-member Council.
- 23 members of the College are elected by their peers
- 14 members are appointed by the provincial government.
To qualify as a teacher in Ontario, among other things, you have to answer a questionnaire. On the questionnaire, there are questions concerning arrest–and since I was arrested by the RCMP (the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) (but never convicted), I was obliged to prove my innocence in various ways.
I needed to provide three references from professionals who knew of the circumstances surrounding my arrest and my teaching.
The following is a letter by one of my references to the Ontario College of Teachers.
From : Wyndstone Circle, East St Paul, MB R2E 0L8 , September 9, 2014
To: Linda Zaks-Walker , Director of Membership Services , Ontario College of Teachers
To Whom It May Concern:
This letter is written in reference to Dr. Fred Harris for whom I am pleased to provide a letter of recommendation. I have known Fred since 2008, the year we both signed permanent Lakeshore School Division contracts with assignments at Ashern Central School involving Fred as Senior French teacher and myself in Special Education with a focus on “At-Risk” high school students. During the period of time Fred was at Ashern, I also found myself teaching Senior Art in the classroom adjacent to Fred. During that period of time , we made a practice of going for tea afterschool once a week at the Bake Shop. That context together with occasional attendance at the same Professional Development workshops provides a basis for the requested response in areas beyond the normal scope of pedagogical reference, as does my general background in teaching, administration, and special education from 1965-1997 when I first retired after 32 years of teaching senior high, with 27 of those years as K-XII School Principal and the final 6 years involving K-XII Special Education as well.
As a person, Fred has always presented as one genuinely interested in the well-being of others. As a teacher, Fred worked diligently to provide appropriate learning activities for his students; he adapted and individualized work as needed; and his classroom was made available through noon hours for those wishing a quiet spot or extra help. His relationship with students and staff was professional in all contexts of which I am aware. He challenged students and staff alike to examine issues of importance and encouraged debate to the degree possible in their respective spheres. He is a temperate man and I have not know him to raise his voice or lose his temper. He displayed commendable patience with some of the more challenging students in our school, and this was especially so in the context of presenting French instruction to many students at ACS who historically had no interest in taking the course in the first place and tended to bemoan the fact that an easier non-french option was denied them by parental or administrative fiat.
As a teacher, Fred was intensely interested in the learning process and he came to understand it profoundly as to application of John Dewey precepts . This produced a teaching stance that involves reflecting on matters of educational importance through every planning process , seeking clarification from our “movers and shakers”, and presenting relevant issues for staff discussion. The fact that average teachers were on a different pedagogical page surprised Fred but did not discourage him. At all times, I found Fred thoughtful, open-minded, ready to share, temperate in his responses, unafraid to question , and welcoming of all thoughtful response.
While this writer intends the foregoing as commendation, it will come as no surprise to administrators that the pro-active professional attributes Fred displays are not universally admired. During Fred’s tenure at Ashern Central School , the Principalship changed three times in four years, bringing with it in each case truly dynamic change throughout the system and also within the subjective filters through which teacher performance may be viewed. It is fair to say that Fred’s current unemployment status relates in significant ways to that change. It no doubt relates also to the imposition of intensive supervision on Fred, even as he faced a life-threatening struggle to overcome cancer. During medical absences throughout this time, Fred’s preparation for substitutes was formidable, and at school on a daily basis, Fred demonstrated amazing resilience in fulfilling teacher duties .
Neither staff, students, nor the public-at-large have knowledge of the personal family problems Fred was facing during this time. During our once- weekly “tea” break over the years, I became privy to most of the circumstances that provided further grist for Fred’s stress mill. Then at the time when matters came to a head with SCFS and RCMP action occasioning Fred’s discreet absence from school, he shared with me antecedent documents that clarified for me the chronology of prior events and specific actions Fred had taken to have the WCFS recognize and address the incidents of Francesca’s physical abuse by her mother. Since then, my only contact with Fred has been via telephone and e-mail conversation but, on that basis, I consider myself reasonably up-to-speed on Francesca’s on-going relationship with her parents and the chronology of Fred’s dealings with WCFS and the RCMP.
Based on all of the foregoing, the following personal observations, questions, and recommendations accrue:
In all of the school contexts of which I am aware, Fred has presented himself as a very professional , hard-working teacher very much in command of whatever curriculum be put before him. He would not describe himself as a “ fun teacher ” and being liked was for him much less a priority than having students meet curriculum outcomes at the highest standard possible for each individual. At different times, both Fred and I had occasion to do some teaching at the Alf Cuthbert School in Moosehorn, a K-VIII facility with historically high levels of community support and outstanding student attainment. Teachers like Fred thrive in that kind of school environment and are well regarded by staff and students alike and at Ashern Central School ( the receiving school for Moosehorn high school students ), this relationship continues across all contexts. It should be noted that ACS presents unique challenges to all teachers as they endeavor to engage students from thirteen disparate communities, almost all of whom are at significant disconnect from the school. In the context of the French courses Fred found himself teaching, engagement of students and achieving home support proves most difficult and indeed nigh onto impossible if for any reason a teacher finds himself on what I call “the dumb list”. That is the general circumstance in which Fred found himself while facing a regime of clinical teacher evaluation at a time of extreme health vulnerability. His resignation was no doubt a personal health necessity. Given an opportunity to teach again elsewhere, do I believe Fred could be a worthy candidate? My considered opinion is “Yes” , and I profoundly hope he gets that opportunity.
Throughout the period of time I have known Fred, addressing daughter Francesca’s needs lay at the heart of Fred’s family focus. That he loved and cared for her was always clear. That Francesca carried emotional and behavioral baggage with her wherever she went was also clear, be it in the contexts of living separately with mum, dad, extended family including her mother’s aunt and cousin, or in foster home placement. From what I understand, events which explain Francesca’s behavior may include sexual abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend and the pattern of physical abuse by her mother which became cause for reference to WCFS by Fred. From what I also understand, systemic failure by WCFS and the RCMP to satisfactorily acknowledge and address Francesca’s abuse also occurred, and Fred’s written efforts to take these organizations to task through letters sent severally to The Minister of Justice, the Minister of Education, and the Premier himself no doubt proved counterproductive . Given Fred’s background as a Marxist scholar and his predisposition to characterize CFS actions as fascist, systemic responses by CFS and RCMP directed at Fred were immediate when Francesca indulged in what I would take to be learned behaviors which involve lashing out physically and playing abuse cards as a means of precipitating change in her home circumstance. Do I believe that Fred would act physically towards Francesca in any manner beyond necessary physical restraint? No. Do I believe there was any substance to the charges directed at Fred in the first instance and then while Francesca was living unhappily with Fred at Ashern? No, and the fact that charges only appear but to disappear confirms that opinion. Does an abusive father continue to express his love for his daughter? Not usually. Advocate that her need be met for a systemic admission that she has indeed been abused by her mother? Not forseeably. Follow with great interest Francesca’s progress while in foster care while she then completed high school at Morwena’s private school? No. As a relatively poor man, take his daughter on a two month trip to Guatemala? No. And finally, continue to follow with love and great interest as his daughter takes her place in the world of work and independence? No. Based on my background knowledge of Fred and every bit of gut instinct, my answer to all these questions is “No”. From everything I have been able to see and interpret, Fred actions towards Francesca are those of a loving , concerned, and responsible parent.
Surely, Fred’s present quest to return to teaching in Ontario needs to be given a fair opportunity. He has lots to offer and hopefully a long life ahead of him to contribute meaningfully towards student equity and a world where there is greater social justice for all.
My hope is that those adjudicating the case for Fred’s admission to teaching in Ontario will recognize from my words that the baggage with which Fred must presently travel in his career quest appears to have been packed prejudicially . This letter comes to you from one who retired for the second time in June ,2014 at the age of 71, having enjoyed almost every moment of what-has-been a distinguished 38 year career ! During the course of it, I have had occasion to both hire and fire teachers, and the views I offer herein represent , without prejudice, a deeply considered opinion in regard to Fred’s candidacy for consideration .