Since the provincial teachers’ union signed a six-year contract with the B.C. government in September, and with the union’s case against the government not being heard by the Supreme Court of Canada until November, things have been relatively quiet on the British Columbia Federation of Teacher (BCTF)’s front — the eye of the storm.
During this respite, the BCTF has elected a new president. Out goes Jim Iker and his famous mullet and handlebar moustache and in comes Glen Hansman. Hansman, 42, is an elementary special education teacher and was the anti-homophobia consultant for the Vancouver School Board. He holds an honours B.A. from Carleton, a B.Ed. from McGill, and a M.A. from the University of British Columbia. He is the chair of the K-12 Aboriginal Education Partners Table. He was President of the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association from 2007 through 2009, and has been a Vice-President of the BCTF since 2010. Hansman has said the Supreme Court case is one of his priorities. It’s been 14 years since the BC Liberal government used legislation to strip classroom size and composition from the teachers’ collective agreement. A BC Supreme Court judge then ruled the legislation unconstitutional, but the BC Court of Appeals overturned that decision. The highest court in the country agreed to hear the case back in January, presenting the BCTF with its last kick at the bucket in terms of winning back classroom size and composition as important working conditions for B.C. teachers.
“It’s not an inconsequential decision one way or another… it means any government anywhere across Canada can rip up a collective agreement as they see fit after the fact,” Hansman told a Vancouver radio station, referring to the national precedent the case could set if the Supreme Court doesn’t side with the union. Given the national consequences of the Supreme Court ruling on this matter, and the initial ruling of the BC Supreme Court, it’s not unreasonable to predict the BCTF will come out the victors in this dispute. And if they don’t, then rolling out the new B.C. curriculum in the context of increasingly larger classroom sizes and fewer supports from learning-specialist teachers could be the next battle to besiege public education in B.C.