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VANCOUVER—Today the BC Teachers’ Federation is back in BC Supreme Court to present its case that the BC government has not respected the landmark decision from 2011 that the province violated teachers’ constitutional rights. The BCTF is seeking restoration of provisions like class-size limits and specialist teacher guarantees that were unconstitutionally stripped from the collective agreement in 2002. The union is also seeking a declaration that the provincial government has failed to address the repercussions of the 2011 decision, and is requesting damages for losses.

“BC teachers are back in court looking for a remedy to the case we won more than two years ago,” said BCTF President Jim Iker. “The court has already ruled that the BC government violated teachers’ constitutional rights when it stripped our collective agreement and prevented us from bargaining class size, class composition, and staffing levels for specialist teachers. The BCTF is now seeking a remedy for our 2011 victory and will also argue that the government’s 2012 legislation, Bill 22, was unconstitutional.”

In describing the impact of the government’s actions, Iker pointed out that children who were in Kindergarten when these bills were imposed are now near graduation.  “For the past 12 years, BC students have been at a disadvantage compared to students who went through the public school system prior to 2002,” said Iker. “Our collective agreement used to ensure smaller class sizes and guaranteed adequate levels of support for students by specialists like teacher-librarians, counsellors, learning support and special education teachers. Since the government illegally stripped the agreement, class sizes have gone up, help for students with special needs has gone down, and all students have lost access to specialists who can give them extra support when they need it.”

Nineteen days have been set aside for both sides to present their arguments to Madam Justice Griffin, who also ruled on the 2011 decision.  The Judge will determine if the Federation’s interpretation is correct and, if so, what damages and/or remedies flow from the government’s actions.

Jim Iker will be available for comment at 9:30 a.m. at the Law Court steps located on the north east corner of Hornby and Nelson streets in Vancouver.  

Background 

On April 13, 2011, teachers won a constitutional challenge to legislation passed in 2002 and 2004 that deleted hundreds of provisions from the Provincial Collective Agreement and removed teachers’ right to bargain issues such as class size, class composition and teacher/student ratios in the future. Madam Justice Griffin gave the government 12 months to address the repercussions of the decision.

The BCTF will argue that the province did not repeal or amend the constitutionally invalid legislation during the period of suspension granted by the Court and did not address the repercussion of the decision.  Instead, it will argue the government re-enacted the constitutionally invalid legislation with Bill 22. The purported repeal of the legislation, followed by the enactment of identical legislation, simply continued the unconstitutional violations.

The BCTF will argue for a declaration that the government did not address the repercussions of the decision, a restoration of contract language and teachers’ bargaining rights, and compensation for the years of harm to teachers and the educational system.

The BCTF will also challenge Bill 22, the Education Improvement Act, and argue that the legislation infringes s. 2(d) of the Charter by not respecting the collective bargaining process. The Federation will seek a declaration that the legislation is unconstitutional, as well as damages.

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For more information, contact Rich Overgaard, BCTF media relations officer, at 604-871-1881 (office) or 604-340-1959 (cell).