Nova Scotia

Dad considers lawsuit if work-to-rule cancels daughter's $3.5K history trip

The father of a high school student in Windsor says he'll consider a lawsuit if his daughter's upcoming "trip of a lifetime" to Europe is cancelled because of work-to-rule.

Robert Patenaude could lose entire cost of trip if decision isn't made soon

Robert Patenaude says his daughter's trip to Europe shouldn't be cancelled during work-to-rule because it's educational and similar to professional development for teachers. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

The father of a Nova Scotia high school student is considering launching a lawsuit if his daughter's upcoming trip to Europe is cancelled because of work-to-rule.

Robert Patenaude's daughter, Jessica, has spent more than a year saving up for a $3,500 March trip to tour Holocaust sites with her classmates at Avon View High School in Windsor.

But with no end in sight to the contract dispute between the province's teachers and the provincial government, Patenaude said he fears his daughter's "trip of a lifetime" will be a casualty of job action.

"I feel somebody should be responsible for the loss of these kids trying to further their educational growth through a program that the school is providing," he said.

'Last resort'

Patenaude recently emailed other parents whose children are signed up for the trip, suggesting the possibility of a lawsuit. 

He said he doesn't know if a lawsuit would be directed at the school, the government or the union. But with thousands of dollars on the line, he said it's something parents need to consider.

"It's not that I want to go that route. But this may be the last resort avenue that we have to look at in order to recoup some of that money so we can help our daughter with her education in the future."

Patenaude was upset to hear that the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is allowing members to attend professional development conferences because they were booked before work-to-rule began. 

Double Standard

He said it's a double standard, considering his daughter's trip was also paid for before the job action began.

"I just don't see how they can justify not letting the teachers take them on this [trip]," he said.

The NSTU has not responded to questions from CBC about the decision to allow professional development trips to move forward, while student trips are being cancelled. It has said it will not do interviews as long as contract negotiations are ongoing. 

However, in a statement last week, the union said school boards made it known to teachers they have the right to professional development, including attending approved conferences and receiving reimbursement.

1,000 students affected

The European trip was organized by a history teacher at Avon View through the company EF Educational Tours.

The Toronto-based tour company said it estimates about 1,000 Nova Scotia students who've booked trips through the end of the school year with multiple tour companies could be affected by work-to-rule.

In an email, EF spokesman Adam Bickelman said the company is reaching out to students affected by the job action in hopes of identifying "a solution that best protects families' investments in our educational travel programs."

He said that may include travel vouchers or a change in departure date.

"We are aware of the ongoing negotiations ... and we are hoping for a swift resolution between the two parties."

Both sides were expected to meet Monday with a conciliation officer under a media blackout until the new round of talks is concluded.

No refunds

Patenaude said his family is set to lose thousands of dollars if the contract dispute isn't resolved soon.

The family's insurance policy doesn't apply if they back out, he said.

Insurance also doesn't apply if the school cancels the trip after Feb. 6 — 30 days before the students are set to depart.

The family could, however, receive a portion of its money back if the trip is cancelled before then. Patenaude said that money could be used for university next year.

Patenaude said it would be ideal if some parents could step in and chaperone the trips, but is quick to point out that would be difficult to arrange.

He's personally unable to go on the trip, and interested chaperones would still need the money for the trip and time off work. They would also have to be approved by the school and parents. 

For now, he and his daughter will just have to wait and see what comes out of the latest round of talks between the province and the teachers.

"It's very disappointing that they can't provide us an answer to bring some sort of comfort to know whether or not it's going to be cancelled," he said.

About the Author

Carolyn Ray

Videojournalist

Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at Carolyn.Ray@cbc.ca

With files from Stephanie Blanchet

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