BCTF Wins Supreme Court Battle Over Class Size and Composition

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BCTF wins Supreme Court battle over class size and composition

Supreme Court of Canada provides verbal ruling in favour of teachers

By Richard Zussman, CBC News Posted: Nov 10, 2016 10:45 AM PT Last Updated: Nov 10, 2016 11:29 AM PT


BCTF lawyers, staff, former staff and union leaders celebrate in Ottawa after surprise Supreme Court of Canada ruling. (Irene Lanzinger/Twitter)

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has won a landmark decision on negotiating class size and composition in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Canada’s top court provided a surprise verbal ruling a few hours after a hearing into the case started Thursday morning.

“It was sense of jubilation, there was cheering,” said BCTF President Glen Hansman, who was in the courtroom in Ottawa. “We are very happy for our members and to resolve this once and for all.”

Not expected until the spring

The BCTF was not expecting the court to rule until next spring.

The ongoing dispute dates back to 2002, when the province used legislation to strip teachers of their right to bargain class size and composition. The union says the province will now have to provide resources for class size and composition that date back to levels from when the legal dispute began.

“What that is going to look like in terms of timelines and operationally, we are going to have to talk about that. We were truly not expecting a decision here today,” said Hansman.

“We will definitely be in conversations with the province because … we need to get those teachers back into schools now.”

Legal battle ongoing for more than a decade

Bill 22, which the government passed in 2012, similarly blocked teachers from negotiating class size and composition.

The BCTF challenged the constitutionality of that legislation, saying it is “virtually identical to the legislation previously declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of British Columbia.”

The union won the case in B.C. Supreme Court, but it was overturned on appeal.

The Supreme Court of Canada is the definitive decision on the issue.

“We were right. Government should not have done that back in 2002 and it’s pretty amazing for the Supreme Court of Canada to agree with that and to issue that decision in the room right when we were sitting there,” added Hansman.


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