BC Teachers are currently deciding whether they should challenge the government and walk out in defiance of Bill 22 and the fines it imposes.
I say, yes, they should. In fact they should not return until the Government agrees to repeal Bill 22 and fully comply with the Supreme Courts decision.
No action would so clearly show what they are actually railing against.
That is, an autocratic government that has under funded schools for decades and taken away fundamental, constitutional rights not only from the labour union to negotiate its own working conditions (class sizes, composition, etc) but that also threatens the fundamental right of every person and child to an education. It does this through lack of resources, and support and the encouragement of a two tier system where those who can afford it, put their kids in private school (where class sizes are often no more than 15 with no special needs children!) leaving those who can’t behind.
How can it be breaking the law when the law itself (Bill 22) is breaking the law of the land (the Charter of Rights and Freedoms) as interpreted by the Supreme Court?
The Supreme Court, through the Charter, has final say on any Act of Parliament. That is the final check on our democracy, and that is what the BC Liberals have chosen to ignore.
Should our children not know the difference between right and wrong, especially when that difference is more complex than some might have you to believe?
Would our children not benefit from seeing our teachers risk thousands of dollars in personal fines by walking out to show them that their education and rights are worth the risk.
And if we, the public, stand behind the teachers then those children will see that when the cause is just, and truly threatens our democratic and human rights, then it is worth a little pain because the government will listen, and will change, if only to preserve itself.
That means we as a public have a responsibility to support the teachers to the fullest extent possible. If we do not, we give government a free pass to trod on our rights and ignore our highest judges and courts.
If instead the BCTF chooses limited action like suspending all extra curricular activities, then it will have shown that it really is just about that 15% raise, and not much else. And that would be a far more tragic outcome.
People are dying around the world because their basic human rights have been denied to them for decades. Here, teachers have a chance to truly stand up for the rights that we all expect and perhaps have taken for granted while they are whittled away by a government that knows what it can get away with.
Stand up Teachers. For us, and for our children. I, and I believe most others, will stand with you.
*full disclosure: I am not a member of the BCTF or anyone else involved in this dispute. However, I am a public employee and a member of the faculty union at VIU which stood up against much the same attitude during a month long strike at VIU last year.