‘Stop it! You deliberately made it illegal': Ontario education minister Stephen Lecce faces backlash for call to end 'needless strike'

Amid thousands of Ontario education workers on the picket lines for Friday's walkout, the province's education minister Stephen Lecce continues to call on Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) members to "end the illegal strike."

What CUPE is doing, closing schools, causing further interruptions on families because they were, as of last Sunday, determined to increase wages and compensation by nearly 50 per cent I think is just, frankly, unacceptable. We stand with parents who insist that the schools are open.Stephen Lecce, Ontario Education Minister on CP24

"We know the impacts on mental, physical, social, emotional health, and we know that the strike is now illegal, and so we're urging the union to put our kids first, to come back to our classes, to help get these kids caught up... We shouldn't be here, families shouldn't be here, but we now have legislation that gives us tools and I want parents to hear us loud and clear, we will use every tool available to government to open these school, bring some end to this needless, illegal strike."

CUPE had initially demanded an increase of 11.7 per cent for yearly wages. The average salary for these education workers is $39,000 a year.

When Lecce shared a clip for his CP24 interview on Twitter, several people responded, condemning the education minister's statements.

During a press conference on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said "the proactive use"of the notwithstanding clause is "an attack on people's fundamental rights and in this case is an attack on one of the most basic rights available, one of collective bargaining."

"That's why when I spoke to premier Ford on Wednesday I asked him not to invoke the notwithstanding clause preemptively because suspending people's basic rights should never be something people enter into lightly, or without seriously weighing the consequences," Trudeau said. "I can tell you, all parents and all Canadians should be extremely worried about suspension of our most fundamental rights and freedoms."

"The federal government is looking at all options and we're considering what we can do."