Teachers’ union applauds SCOC decision

Supreme Court of Canada will hear appeal in bitter dispute between B.C. government and BCTF.

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear a case involving the B.C. government and the provincial teachers’ union dealing with collective bargaining rights.

Canada’s highest court announced last week it would hear an appeal from the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), which is arguing a lower court decision that ruled in favour of the province in April 2015.

At issue is the BCTF’s assertion that provincial legislation stripped the union of negotiating class sizes and composition, which they argued is a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Shelley Balfour, the president of the Cranbrook and District Teachers’ Association, says the SCOC decision is welcome news.

“This has been a very long struggle for teachers in our province and it affects each and every teacher, support staff and student in our schools,” Balfour said. “Class size and composition issues are felt daily in the classrooms.  While our District is consistent with keeping the class sizes to a maximum of 30 with the exception of Band and Drama classes, the composition of those classroom has a great impact on student’s learning environment and the teachers’ ability to reach every child.”

The SCOC decision is another step in a long-running battle between the two sides that began in 2002, when provincial legislation took away the right to bargain class size and composition. That legislation was struck down in 2011 by the B.C. Supreme Court and similar legislation was passed, however, that was also struck down in 2014.

Following a bitter strike that began at the end of the 2014 school year, the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned the 2014 ruling in April.

Balfour brought up her own experience with her children in battling the frustration with the legislation.

My own children started school under Christy Clark’s reign as Minister of Education and have now finished never knowing any different,” Balfour said. “They were in overcrowded classrooms with many students who needed extra support to be successful but were denied that right.

“That is disgraceful. I hope the future generations of students in BC’s public schools are treated with more respect than what we have seen for the past 14 years under Clark’s watch.”

A hearing date has yet to be set, but Jim Iker, the president of the BCTF, says it could be held in the fall, with a decision made next year.

With files from The Canadian Press