The BC Teachers Federation, which represents 41,000 public school teachers, says last week’s win in the Supreme Court of Canada is a massive victory for their rights and vindication of all the years they have spent fighting the provincial government’s unconstitutional legislation.
“It’s also a very emotional day,” BCTF President Glen Hansman said in a statement. “We came to Ottawa (on Wednesday, November 20) for a hearing and instead got a surprise ruling from the bench. Those of us there in the courtroom couldn’t help but cheer and I know there are thousands of teachers back home in BC doing the same.”
This was the final step in a very long legal process, in which the BCTF has consistently argued that the government’s actions in stripping teachers’ collective agreements in 2002, and their further refusal to address the situation, was unconstitutional, he said.
He said the unconstitutional legislation allowed the BC government to underfund education. As a result, he said, BC has fallen behind the rest of Canada and an entire generation of BC students has lost out. According to the most recent Statistics Canada data, BC is last on seven key measures of education funding. BC’s funding is currently $1,000 less per-student than the national average. Only PEI is worse than BC in terms of per-student funding and it was the government’s action in 2002 that allowed it to happen. This is completely unacceptable for a province as prosperous as BC.
But now, there is hope that those students coming up through the system will start to see classroom conditions and support levels improve.
We know the BC government has the funds available to make this situation right. There is a $1.9 billion surplus and the government has continuously acknowledged our potential court victory as a cost against the province’s contingency fund. The money is there and the government should take action now to improve teaching and learning conditions across BC. Given everything that this government has done and forced teachers to endure, it is the only responsible and ethical action for them to take.