B.C. government points finger at BCTF in appeal court case

WATCH: The provincial government is appealing the BC Teachers’ Federation victory in January that found the province had violated educators’ charter rights. Grace Ke has more.

VANCOUVER – The battle over who controls educational policy in B.C. got underway in court today with the government’s lawyer telling an appeal court panel the province’s stand against restoring clauses over classroom size and composition is no more inflexible than the union’s refusal to offer any alternatives.

B.C. Court of Appeal, government lawyer Karen Horsman said good faith requires both parties to present alternatives, something the B.C. Teachers’ Federation hasn’t done for more than a decade.

The provincial government is appealing a judge’s ruling last January, which was in favour of the BCTF.

The court twice ruled it was illegal in 2002 for the province to legislate away hundreds of clauses related to class size and composition from the teachers’ collective agreement.

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During the lengthy strike that delayed the start of the school year by three weeks, teachers repeatedly raised their court victories as they decried the government’s unwillingness to bend.

“The issue with the deleted clauses, accordingly, is not simply how much money should be spent on K-12 education but how it is to be spent and who should make such decisions,” the government said in documents filed with the B.C. Court of Appeal.

One of the examples of what is at stake in the appeal is whether the union or the government should decide how much time teachers get to prep during the school day as the government could argue that the prep time should be part of teachers’ duties under the School Act.

In court, the government is arguing two legal points, one being can the government legislate away contract terms, and also, taking a look at bargaining structures of collective agreements.

WATCH: UBC professor emeritus Charles Ungerleider explains the issues.

Three days have been set aside for the case, with the BCTF up on Wednesday.

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“We know what was stripped out of our collective agreements, out of the education system, dating back to 2002, approximately $275,002,002,” said BCTF president Jim Iker. “So you compound that. It’s led to the underfunding of our public education system, so we’re here today. The appeal court will listen to the arguments on both sides and will make the decision.”

A decision will be months away with many predicting this case will go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

– With files from The Canadian Press



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