Supreme Court


Constitutional Law

Charter of Rights and Freedoms


Nature of rights and freedoms

Appeal by teachers’ union was allowed

Defendant Crown in Right of Province amended schools legislation (“Old Act”), barring plaintiff teachers’ union from collectively bargaining certain elements of their working conditions, including class sizes, with school boards. Plaintiffs brought successful application for declaration that Old Act amendments were unconstitutional as they impaired plaintiffs’ right to freedom of association. Crown took no action within mandated one-year period and amendments became inoperative. Legislature enacted substantially identical provisions to ones declared inoperative (“New Act”). New Act provisions were found by trial judge to be unconstitutional and of no force or effect from point of enactment. Crown appealed successfully. Majority of Court of Appeal found that legislation was constitutional. Court of Appeal found that trial judge’s finding that Province did not consult in good faith was based on legal error. Court of Appeal found that pre-legislative consultations were relevant at infringement stage of constitutional analysis in freedom-of-association cases, and that trial judge erred on this issue. Court of Appeal found that pre-legislative consultations were not required to be with government acting as employer, and that trial judge erred in finding otherwise. Court of Appeal found that Province consulted in good faith, and that consultations and collective bargaining undertaken were adequate. Dissenting judge for Court of Appeal found that trial judge’s finding that passage of the bill was unconstitutional should be upheld. Dissenting judge found that trial judge was entitled to consider substantive reasonableness of Province’s negotiating position. Dissenting judge found that pre-legislative consultation could be replacement for traditional collective bargaining process, but only where it was meaningful, and that parties had to negotiate from approximate equality. Dissenting judge found that trial judge made no appealable error in finding that government consulted in bad faith. Plaintiffs appealed decision of Court of Appeal. Appeal allowed, substantially for reasons of dissenting judge in Court of Appeal.

BCTF v. British Columbia (2016), 2016 CarswellBC 3739, 2016 CarswellBC 3740, 2016 SCC 49, 2016 CSC 49, McLachlin C.J.C., Abella J., Moldaver J., Karakatsanis J., Wagner J., Gascon J., Côté J., Brown J., and Rowe J. (S.C.C.); reversed (2015), 2015 CarswellBC 1113, 2015 BCCA 184, Bauman C.J.B.C., Donald J.A., Newbury J.A., Saunders J.A., and Harris J.A. (B.C. C.A.).

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