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B.C. appeal court puts brakes on pro-teacher ruling

By David P. Ball, 24 hours Vancouver

British Columbia Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker.

British Columbia Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)

A judge has temporarily stayed a court case involving class sizes and composition — at least until the government can finish appealing a ruling that favoured the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.

On Jan. 27, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin ruled the government had violated union rights and negotiated in bad faith to deliberately provoke a strike.

Until the appeal is completed, likely this summer, B.C. Appeal Court Justice David Harris agreed implementation would cause “irreparable harm to the public interest of unprecedented magnitude.”

“To implement the judgment would ... entail very significant disruption to the provision of education services in large parts of the province,” Harris wrote.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender applauded the decision to delay the orders, saying his focus is on returning to the bargaining table. Despite the BCTF's strike vote March 4-6, the union said it plans to return to negotiations next week.

“We think the ruling is appropriate in light of the legal issues the government brought forward,” Fassbender told reporters Wednesday. “All of the pieces are in place for our appeal — having the stay granted provides us with the opportunity to let it take its full course.”

BCTF president Jim Iker wasn’t surprised by the decision.

“We respect the judge's decision,” he said. “It's also clear the decision doesn't reflect on the merits of the appeal.”

He added the union is looking forward to the appeal hearing, “sooner rather than later.”

Harris also paused the ordered release of documents which B.C. said contained confidential cabinet information.

Iker said the documents should be released “if the government has nothing to hide.”

“We reserve the right for the confidentiality of cabinet in order to do our work,” Fassbender responded.

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