The British Columbia Court of Appeal has ruled that 2012 legislation addressing class size and composition terms is constitutional.
The history behind this decision began in 2002 when the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) challenged the constitutionality of Bill 28, a piece of provincial legislation. Bill 28 deleted class size and composition terms from the collective agreement and prohibited collective bargaining on issues related to class size and composition.
In a 2011 decision, the BC Supreme Court decided that Bill 28 had infringed upon the teachers’ freedom of association under s. 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the Province had failed in its duty to consult with the BCTF in order to allow them a meaningful opportunity to influence their working conditions. The Court suspended the declaration for one year to grant the Province time to address the decision.
Before the suspension period expired, the Province made efforts to consult with the BCTF and achieve agreement on an alternative to Bill 28. The parties were not successful.
In 2012, the Province enacted Bill 22 which maintained the class size and composition deletions from the collective agreement, but also allowed for bargaining on those issues to occur in the future. The BCTF brought a Charter challenge against Bill 22.
At trial, the BCTF successfully challenged the constitutionality of Bill 22. The trial judge held that the legislation unjustifiably infringed upon the teachers’ freedom of association under s. 2(d) of the Charter and that the Province had failed to consult with the BCTF in good faith.
The Court of Appeal has now overturned the trial decision. It found that teachers were afforded a meaningful process to participate in and advance their collective aspirations through the consultations leading up to Bill 22. As a result, there was no violation of the teachers’ freedom of association under the Charter.
A copy of this decision can be found here.