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BC Supreme Court upholds BCTF in major case

The B.C. Supreme Court today overturned the 2002 laws that stripped teachers of their right to bargain class size.

In the conclusion of her 103-page decision, Madame Justice Susan Griffin said:

[381] I conclude:

a) In enacting ss. 8, 9 and 15 of PEFCA, and s. 5 of the Amendment Act, the government infringed teachers' freedom of association guaranteed by s. 2 (d) of the Charter.

b) This infringement was not a reasonable limit demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society under s. 1 of the Charter

[382] I declare ss. 8 and 15 of PEFCA and s. 5 of the Amendment Act to be unconstitutional and invalid. I suspend the declaration of invalidity for a period of twelve months to allow the government time to address the repercussions of this decision.

[383] Section 9 of PEFCA is no longer in force. The teachers have reserved their right to argue any additional remedies and they may seek a further hearing in this regard.

In a news release issued this afternoon, the BCTF called it "a tremendous victory... a landmark decision that will have significant implications for classroom conditions across the province and for the current round of collective bargaining for 41,000 B.C. public school teachers." The release also quoted BCTF President Susan Lambert:

"Teachers once again have full and free collective bargaining rights and our collective agreements must be honoured. Over the past decade, we have put tremendous effort and determination into the struggle to reassert our rights and regain the kind of teaching and learning conditions in our classrooms that we know students need and deserve, and today all those efforts are vindicated."

...Children who were in Kindergarten when these bills were imposed are now in Grade 10. Almost their entire school careers have been in a time when their teachers had to fight for the classroom conditions and learning resources to meet their needs."

Minister of Education George Abbott this afternoon issued a brief response to the decision: "We've just received the Supreme Court's ruling. It's still early days, this is a complicated judgment and one we will be looking at very closely in the coming weeks before we determine next steps."

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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