Teacher at North York Catholic school fined by Ministry of Labour for failing to wear proper PPE
Published Wednesday, October 28, 2020 8:22AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 28, 2020 3:45PM EDT
A teacher at a North York Catholic school that was shut down earlier this month following an outbreak of COVID-19 has been fined after the Ministry of Labour says they failed to wear protective equipment required by their employer.
In a statement sent to CP24, a spokesperson for the ministry confirmed that health and safety inspectors were called to St. Charles Catholic School, located near Dufferin Street and Lawrence Avenue West, on Oct. 23 following a complaint.
After a field visit, one employee at the school was charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for "failing to use or wear protective devices or clothing that the worker’s employer requires to be used or worn," the spokesperson confirmed.
The employee is scheduled to make a first appearance in court on Feb. 2, 2021 and the maximum penalty that can be imposed if convicted is $1,000 plus a victim fine surcharge.
The Toronto Catholic District School Board is not facing any disciplinary action as a result of the incident.
In an email to CP24, a spokesperson for the school board said an investigation into the incident is now underway.
"The TCDSB takes seriously the safety and well-being of all students and staff," the statement read. "The teacher is on a leave pending (the) outcome of the investigation."
St. Charles was closed for one week on Oct. 5 after a staff member at the school tested positive for COVID-19.
At the time, the board confirmed that the employee who tested positive for the virus also worked at four other TCDSB schools.
According to a report in The Toronto Star, which first reported the story, the employee who tested positive for COVID-19 at the school is the same teacher who was fined by the ministry.
Liz Stuart, the president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA), said her members are well aware that they must follow proper protocols to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“We have been completely unambiguous in any statements that we’ve made to the members that we strongly advise them and tell them that mask wearing is absolutely… one of the protections that should be in place,” Stuart told CP24 on Wednesday.
“We will continue to promote mask wearing and advise all of our members, all 45,000 of them, that they should be wearing masks in the workplace.”
She said while she does not have any details about the case at St. Charles, the union will be watching the investigation “with interest.”
“I think the school board will do its investigation and we’ll certainly look at the processes that were in place and look to see if they were followed.”
Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said while the ministry will respond to complaints, employers and employees should try to resolve any issues internally before involving the province.
"I have always said workers should work with their employers to try to resolve the issue at that place of business... if that fails, call the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development."
Premier Doug Ford said he recently heard from an angry parent of a student who was taught by the teacher who was charged.
“I actually got a message from a mom that their kids were being taught by this teacher and talk about angry, oh my goodness. Not angry at us but angry that the teacher would not follow the proper protocols,” Ford said.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the province expects “absolute compliance” when it comes to wearing masks in schools.
“When there are these types of circumstances, it is obviously important for parents, for their accountability and for the safety of their kids, that the Ministry of Labour takes action, which they have done in this instance,” Lecce said.
“In these instances it is obviously totally unacceptable and I can appreciate why that parent would be very displeased and that is why we are continuing to step up training and making sure that the health protocols are well known to every staff member in our school boards.”
Horwath grills premier on 'double standard'
During Question Period at Queen’s Park on Wednesday morning, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath suggested that the incident at St. Charles Catholic School is evidence that the premier has a “double standard” when it comes to deciding who should be punished for not following the rules.
“The premier has been harsh with most people who ignore the rules. In fact he said, 'They are two fries short of a happy meal.' He's just fined a music teacher for failing to wear a mask but the premier has nothing but excuses for the assistant to his minister of education,” Horwath said on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, PC MPP Sam Oosterhoff, the parliamentary assistant to Education Minister Stephen Lecce, posted multiple photos of himself posing maskless beside dozens over other people inside a restaurant in Niagara Falls over the weekend.
In a Facebook post, the restaurant said staff reminded the group Oosterhoff was with several times to wear masks but they did not follow the rules.
Oosterhoff has since apologized for not wearing a mask while the group “took a quick pic.”
Ford confirmed Monday that the MPP will not be demoted or face any disciplinary action for the incident.
“He's a great representative, I am proud to have him on the team and he will continue to be the (parliamentary assistant) to the minister," Ford said. "He’s doing a great job."
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Ford indicated that he is satisfied Oosterhoff has learned his lesson.
“Sam acknowledged he made a mistake, he apologized, it's not going to happen again,” the premier said.
“I think we all have to do a better job, all of us.”