B.C. Teachers Win Landmark Ruling At The Supreme Court

In a decision released on November 10, 2016, the British Columbia Teachers' Federation ("BCTF") won a landmark ruling on negotiating class size and composition against the B.C. Government in the Supreme Court of Canada.

In a rare move, the Supreme Court ruled from the bench 7-2 in favour of the BCTF about their collective bargaining rights.

The BCTF was asking the high court to reconsider the British Columbia Court of Appeal's decision finding that the province did not violate teachers' constitutional rights when it introduced Bill 22 in April 2012. The Bill had the effect of limiting teacher bargaining rights on class size and composition.

In British Columbia Teachers' Federation v. British Columbia, 2016 SCC 49, the majority of the Court allowed the appeal, "substantially for the reasons of Justice Donald", who provided the dissenting opinion at the B.C. Court of Appeal. No further analysis was provided by the Supreme Court of Canada.


This case relates to the B.C. government's attempts to alter teachers' working conditions through legislation rather than through collective bargaining. In 2002, the B.C. government enacted legislation — Bill 28 — to declare void certain terms of the collective agreement between the British Columbia Teachers' Federation ("BCTF") and the British Columbia Public School Employers' Association ("BCPSEA"). The effect of Bill 28 was to remove the BCTF's ability to negotiate class size and class composition as part of their working conditions.

In 2011, the BCTF successfully challenged Bill 28. It was found unconstitutional because it not only declared void the terms of an existing collective agreement, but it also prohibited collective bargaining on those terms in the future. The declaration of invalidity was suspended for a year while the government drafted remedial legislation to address these issues.

In the year after the 2011 decision, the B.C. government and BCTF engaged in consultations relating to the overturned legislation and options going forward. Teachers and school boards also engaged in collective bargaining, but, unable to reach an agreement, the BCTF went on strike.

Ultimately, at the expiry of the one-year period following the 2011 decision, the B.C. government passed Bill 22 - the Education Improvement Act, S.B.C. 2012, c. 3 in April 2012. Bill 22 was virtually identical to the earlier Bill 28. The only difference was that the new Bill 22 placed a time limit on its provisions, such that...

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