Teachers plan to appeal ruling on class composition

NANAIMO - Nanaimo teachers' union head says teachers plan to take the fight against the province to Canada's highest court.

Despite an unfavourable B.C. Court of Appeal ruling, Nanaimo teachers’ union president says teachers plan to take the fight with the B.C. government to Canada’s highest court.

On Thursday, the province won an appeal on a ruling that has its roots in 2002, when then education minister Christy Clark introduced legislation that took away negotiating rights related to class size and composition from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.

B.C. Supreme Court Judge Susan Griffin twice ruled against the province and ordered it to pay $2 million in damages.

But the five-judge appeal panel, which didn’t include Griffin, ruled 4-1 in the B.C. government’s favour.

Mike Ball, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said the union has 60 days to file an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. He said he expects grounds for appeal to be granted to the union, based on the dissenting opinion in the appeal from Judge Ian Donald.

The teachers’ union local leader said he was surprised with four judges in the ruling. The four said Griffin made errors in law, while Donald agreed with her judgment, according to Ball.

“The [appeal] court’s task is to take the facts and then look at the ruling, and comment on the ruling. But they actually went in and re-interpreted the facts, so that was a surprise. The one dissenting opinion from Justice Donald [was] very strongly written and obviously would be part of the basis of us to appeal using his arguments,” said Ball.

As far as a timeframe, Ball estimated it could take at least another 18 months and it will be status quo in the meantime.

B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender said the government was pleased with the decision and along with last September’s teachers’ strike settlement, the ruling gives the province “a unique opportunity to work with teachers to improve outcomes for students.”

A re-opener clause in the settlement would allow for discussion for class size and composition, but that would only come into effect when a final decision is rendered, said Ball. He said the appeal will be paid for through union dues.