Tomorrow marks two years since the BC Supreme Court’s landmark decision ruling that legislation the BC Liberals enacted in 2002 violated teachers’ Charter rights, and therefore is unconstitutional and invalid.
On April 13, 2011 the BC Teachers’ Federation won a major victory in its decade-long court battle to overturn legislation which stripped teachers’ collective agreements of protections for class sizes, as well as guarantees of support for students with special needs. The bills had disastrous consequences for teaching and learning conditions across the province because they enabled government to make severe cuts to the public education budget. Government documents introduced as evidence in court calculated those cuts to be more than $275 million per year in 2001 dollars, an estimated $330 million annually in current dollars.
The Supreme Court gave government one year to deal with the repercussions of its ruling but now—two years later—the BC Liberals have still done nothing to redress the breach. As a result, the BCTF has been compelled to go back to court seeking a fair remedy.
“The Supreme Court affirmed our collective bargaining rights and gave us hope that a decade of struggling to meet our students’ needs might be coming to an end,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert. “Two years later, we are still urging the government to act on this important ruling and restore the services our students need and deserve.”
Then-Education Minister Christy Clark brought in the unconstitutional bills in 2002. During her tenure as premier, the BCTF has repeatedly appealed to her not to make students wait yet another year in underfunded schools and overcrowded classes.
“This generation of students has really suffered the negative impacts of this unconstitutional legislation,” Lambert said. “Children who were in Kindergarten when these bills were imposed are now in Grade 12. Throughout their entire school careers their teachers have had to fight for the classroom conditions and learning resources to meet their needs, and their parents have had to raise more and more funds to bridge the gap between children’s needs and inadequate ministry funding.”
The BCTF is seeking restoration of the contractual provisions that were unconstitutionally deleted from the teachers’ collective agreement, a declaration that the provincial government has failed to address the repercussions of the decision, and damages for losses suffered. The case will be heard in BC Supreme Court beginning September 2013.