British Columbia

Timeline: Nearly 15 years of court battles between province and BCTF

Supreme Court of Canada rules in favour of B.C. teachers, ending a fight that started in 2002

Posted: November 10, 2016
Last Updated: November 11, 2016

Premier Christy Clark was the education minister in 2002, when the province first put in place legislation that banned bargaining on class size and composition.

The B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) and the provincial government have been battling in court for nearly 15 years. On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the BCTF, effectively closing the chapter on the ongoing fight. Here is a look at the timeline of the dispute.

January 2002: The newly elected B.C. Liberal government legislates a three-year labour deal for the BCTF that strips the union of class size and composition ratios. The legislation also bans the union from negotiating the issues in future contacts. The teachers' union files a challenge in BC Supreme Court against the legislation. As part of the contract, teachers receive a 7.5 per cent salary increase over the three years. Current Premier Christy Clark is the education minister at the time. The deal comes into effect in July 2002.

October 2005: Teachers vote 88 per cent to strike in early October and then vacate the classrooms for two weeks. The strike vote comes after the government once again legislates a contract, this one freezing teachers' wage increases for three years. The Labour Relations Board orders teachers to return to work. The BCTF defies the order and is found in contempt. About 77 per cent of teachers vote in favour of returning to work in late October after mediation. 


June 2006: The BCTF and the province sign a five-year negotiated contract.

November 2010: The teachers' union goes to B.C. Supreme Court to argue against the 2002 legislation that removed the union's right to negotiate class-size and composition. 

April 2011: The B.C. Supreme Court rules in the BCTF's favour, finding the legislation stripping teachers of the right to negotiate class size and composition is unconstitutional. 

April 2012: The province introduces Bill 22. The legislation replaces the 2002 legislation that was deemed unconstitutional. 

January 2014: The BCTF and the province are once again in court. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin rules that Bill 22 is unconstitutional. The province appeals the decision to the B.C. Court of Appeal. 

April 2015: The B.C. Court of Appeal sides with the government in its challenge of the 2014 Griffin court ruling. It overturns the Griffin decision. 

January 2016: The Supreme Court of Canada agrees to hear an appeal from the BCTF to restore language about class size, composition rules and specialist teacher ratios to the contract.

November 2016: The Supreme Court of Canada rules in a surprising verbal decision in favour of the BCTF. The 7 to 2 decision reinstates the 2014 B.C. Supreme Court decision. The province and the union will soon begin negotiations about restoring class size and composition to 2002 levels.