So much for
Campbell's 2002 contract shredding.
how far is the B.C. government willing to go to guard its secrets? A
great distance, if the 2012 health ministry firings are any
If winning cases before the Supreme
Court of Canada could be likened to the National Hockey League, the
B.C. government would be the Toronto Maple Leafs of litigants.
Perhaps the government is getting bad legal advice? Perhaps it's not
listening to good legal advice?
News last week that the government had lost its decade-long-plus
fight with the B.C. Teacher's Federation is just the latest in a
list of constitutional blowouts before Canada's highest court.
Back in 2007, the government lost its battle with the B.C. Hospital
Employees Union when the court ruled in a 6-1 decision that “the
collective bargaining process is protected by the Charter of Rights
So much for former Premier Gordon Campbell's 2002 contract
The government could take some solace in having won over one of the
seven justices, a rare feat for it before the court.
In 2012, the court ruled that the North Vancouver school board had
discriminated against children with learning disabilities through a
series of budget cuts that fell disproportionately on special-needs
The government had argued that the courts should not have a role in
setting education priorities.
The justices ruled unanimously (9-0) in favour of the students.
Madam Justice Rosalie Abella wrote: “Adequate special education is
not a dispensable luxury. For those with severe learning
disabilities, it is the ramp that provides access to the statutory
commitment to education made to all children in B.C.”
In 2014, the court overturned the B.C. Court of Appeal's decision in
regards to the Tsilhqot’in First Nation's claim to more than 1,700
square kilometres of land.
No split decision. The court ruled unanimously (8-0).
Later that year, it sided with the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C.
in its dispute with the government over a decision to impose court
hearing fees as a way to discourage the filings of frivolous matters
before the courts.
In a 6-1 decision the court ruled that the fees “were
unconstitutional because they impeded access to justice and
therefore jeopardized the rule of law itself.”
In April 2015, the court unanimously sided (7-0) with francophone
parents in Vancouver in their case against the Ministry of
Education, ruling that “francophone children have a right to the
same facilities as those in English-language schools.”
One month later the court ruled unanimously (7-0) that Ivan Henry
could sue the government over malicious prosecution.
Justice Moldaver wrote: "Proof of malice is not required to make out
a cause of action for Charter damages against the provincial Crown
in this case."
Not taking the hint – nor the double-barreled hint when the City of
Vancouver and the federal government settled with Mr. Henry – the
provincial government fought on to the bitter end.
Henry was awarded $8 million in damages for 27 years of wrongful
In June – overturning another decision of the B.C. Court of Appeal –
the court ruled (6-1) in favour of three Mission Memorial Hospital
health workers who had argued “they developed breast cancer as a
result of their jobs.”
In 2015, the court refused to hear the government's appeal over a
4.9 per cent pay hike for Provincial Court judges.
When the government did manage to notch a win it came with some
In 2015, the court upheld B.C.'s drunk-driving laws tempered by its
concerns over drivers' rights and police oversight.
Ten cases. In one, the court declined to hear the appeal, in another
the government won a qualified decision and in the other
A government that once promised to be the most open and transparent
in Canada, won't say how much all of this legal brilliance is
After its 2011 loss at the Supreme Court of B.C. to the Teachers
Federation, the government turned to Vancouver lawyer Howard Shapray
to handle the appeal.
While the billings may not all be related to the case, Shapray
Cramer Fiterman Lamer LLP was paid $333,086 by the government over
the last two fiscal years.
The government could have saved everyone a lot of time and trouble
in 2002 by simply referring the issues it had with the Teachers'
Federation to the B.C. Court of Appeal for a constitutional
Perhaps the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – the one ratified by
former Social Credit premier Bill Bennett's government – wasn't
foremost in their minds at the time.
Funny how politics can come full circle.
Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC
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