Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C. Teachers Say Government Didn't Comply with Court Order over Class Size

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C. Teachers Say Government Didn't Comply with Court Order over Class Size

Article excerpt

B.C. teachers take government back to court

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VANCOUVER - The B.C. government thumbed its nose at a court order and instituted only a "sham repeal" of legislation that the B.C. Supreme Court concluded violated teachers' rights to bargain, a lawyer representing the B.C. Teachers Federation argued in court Monday.

In April 2011, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin ruled the government violated teachers' constitutional rights in 2002 by passing legislation that stripped them of their right to bargain for issues such as class size, class composition, and teacher-student ratios.

The province was given a year to address the repercussions of the ruling. While the government introduced new legislation last year that it said repeals the legislation declared unconstitutional by Griffin, the BCTF has once again taken the government to court.

The union argues the Education Improvement Act, or Bill 22, is still unconstitutional because it restricted the negotiating of class sizes and class composition for 14 months.

"To merely purport to repeal invalid legislation, and then immediately establish it, is not true repeal, but a sham repeal," lawyer John Rogers told the court in his opening statement Monday.

"Instead of responding to the decision, the province, we say, has the audacity to merely continue the provisions that this court found to be unconstitutional and invalid."

Bill 22 also required the province to appoint a mediator, Charles Jago, to assist with setting the terms and conditions of a new collective agreement. But Rogers said Jago's appointment violated the teachers' right to have collective agreement terms protected from legislative interference.

The province's lawyer, Karen Horsman, disagreed, arguing that while the Charter of Rights and Freedoms obliges government to ensure that the BCTF has an opportunity to "engage in meaningful consultation," it does not restrict the legislature's freedom to act if an agreement cannot be reached through consultation. …

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