A long legal struggle by six Cranbrook teachers is one step closer to a just resolution after Tuesday’s BC Supreme Court ruling in their favour.
In 2004 and 2005, six teachers at Mount Baker Secondary School applied to the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) for benefits on the basis of having been poisoned by long-term exposure to mercury in science labs in the school. The mercury levels in their blood were elevated far above normal and they experienced classic symptoms of mercury poisoning including: profound fatigue, headaches, joint pain, respiratory problems, tremors, weight loss, memory loss, insomnia, and irritability.
Nonetheless, the WCB, the WCB Review Division, and the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT) dismissed all six claims. In June 2012, the teachers went to BC Supreme Court seeking a judicial review of the WCAT ruling. Yesterday, in a strongly worded decision, Justice Anthony Saunders ruled that the WCAT failed to properly weigh the evidence and set an unreasonably high diagnostic criterion in determining whether the teachers suffered mercury poisoning due to their employment.
“It was manifestly unfair to the petitioners. The panel’s conclusion was patently unreasonable,” Judge Saunders wrote. He ordered the case back to the WCAT for rehearing and redetermination in accordance with his reasons.
BCTF President Susan Lambert hailed the ruling, and praised the teachers for their tenacity and determination in continuing to seek a fair outcome despite so many setbacks over the years.
“All school staff and students deserve to have safe environments for teaching and learning,” Lambert said. “It’s a terrible shame it has taken so long for these teachers to get a fair consideration of the evidence, especially considering the devastating impacts on their health, careers, and lives.”