Teachers have scored yet another win in their challenge to Bill 42, the infamous “gag law” which the provincial government enacted the spring of 2008.
That bill limited third party advertising prior to provincial election campaigns and defined election advertising very broadly to include transmitting to the public, by any means, a message that takes a position on any issue with which a party or candidate is associated. The law imposed severe restrictions on such advertising and threatened harsh penalties.
The BCTF maintained that this legislation was unconstitutional and no more than a cynical attempt to restrict freedom of expression during the lead up at the provincial election, it was designed to silence any effective criticism of government.
In December 2008 the BCTF and three other public sector unions lodged a challenge to Bill 42. In his judgment, BC Supreme Court Justice Cole ruled in favour of the unions and said that these restrictions could not be upheld as a demonstrably justified limit in a free and democratic society.
Government attempted to overturn this decision in the Appeal Court of British Columbia but the court dismissed the appeal upholding the original ruling of Justice Cole.
This represents a significant victory for the union, and indeed all British Columbians, in exposing, once again, the disregard this government has shown for charter rights, its abuse of power, and the lengths to which it will go to limit the participation of citizens in a free, democratic society.
To read an analysis of the supreme court decision go to: http://www.bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Public/Issues/Bill42/2011-BCCA-408.pdf.