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Lambert: Court decision 'restores our faith in democracy'

Susan Lambert, president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, says today's Supreme Court decision "restores our faith in democracy," and she expects a prompt call from Premier Christy Clark with an offer to put things right.

Madame Justice Susan Griffin this afternoon ruled that Bills 27 and 28, passed early in the first Liberal government when Clark was minister of education, are unconstitutional. The bills unilaterally ended contracts and deprived teachers of the right to bargain the size and composition of their classes.

Lambert told The Tyee: "For me, when that was passed in 2002 our faith in democracy was shattered. It had to be illegal to tear up contracts and our right to bargain our working conditions.

"We took it to the International Labour Organization, which ruled that it violated international law. When we took that ruling to Gordon Campbell, he shrugged and said it didn't matter.

"This restores our faith in democracy. The government is not above the law."

The bills, Lambert said, "allowed government to de-fund schools year after year. We had a decade of education policy where the voice of the teacher, the expertise that should have been shaping education policy, was absent."

While Madame Justice Griffin granted a year for the government to respond to the implications of her judgment, Lambert said the response should come much sooner.

"I expect a phone call from the government," she said. "If I'm found in violation of the law today, my obligation is to rectify it tomorrow." Lambert cited paragraph 380 from the decision:

The legislation undoubtedly was seen by teachers as evidence that the government did not respect them or consider them to be valued contributors to the education system, having excluded them from any freedom to associate to influence their working conditions. This was a seriously deleterious effect of the legislation, one adversely disproportionate to any salutary effects revealed by the evidence.

"Christy Clark says she's learned to listen since she was last in government," Lambert said. "If she's learned to listen, she has to work with the profession."

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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