The teachers of BC won a tremendous victory in the BC Supreme Court today, in a landmark decision that will have significant implications for classroom conditions across the province and for the current round of collective bargaining for 41,000 BC public school teachers.
Madame Justice Susan Griffin has ruled that Bills 27 and 28 are unconstitutional because they violate teachers’ rights to freedom of association under Section 2 (d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The bills stripped teachers’ collective agreements of class size limits and guarantees of support for students with special needs, with disastrous consequences for teaching and learning conditions in classrooms across the province.
BCTF President Susan Lambert said the significance of the win cannot be overstated. “Teachers once again have full and free collective bargaining rights and our collective agreements must be honoured,” she said. “Over the past decade, we have put tremendous effort and determination into the struggle to reassert our rights and regain the kind of teaching and learning conditions in our classrooms that we know students need and deserve, and today all those efforts are vindicated.”
Lambert said because of the offending legislation the government was able to underfund education and limit teachers’ ability to insist upon adequate resources. “Children who were in Kindergarten when these bills were imposed are now in Grade 10. Almost their entire school careers have been in a time when their teachers had to fight for the classroom conditions and learning resources to meet their needs,” Lambert said.
Bills 27 and 28 were rushed through the BC legislature over a weekend, sparking outraged teachers to walk off the job in a day of protest.
“I’ll never forget that weekend,” said Lambert. “It is vivid in my memory. The passage of these bills was devastating. They constituted a theft of 20 years of work and sacrifice of teachers to ensure adequate funding, smaller classes, and attention for kids with special needs. It was stolen by a government that violated our rights with impunity.”
Lambert noted that teachers used every tool possible to resist the legislation: political advocacy, costly and lengthy court proceedings, and even an appeal to the United Nations.
“The International Labour Organization found the government in violation of international law, but then-premier Campbell just shrugged off any obligation to bring BC back into compliance with international conventions we had signed,” Lambert recalled. “What does this tell you about our democracy under the BC Liberals?”
Lambert said the BCTF expects government to act promptly to rectify the situation.