01/27/2014 06:30 EST | Updated 03/29/2014 05:59 EDT

B.C. Teachers' Federation wins $2M in damages from province

A B.C. Supreme court justice has ordered the province to pay $2 million in damages for stripping teachers of their collective bargaining rights and failing to reinstate them when ordered by the court.

The decision follows the court's ruling in April 2013 that provincial legislation interfering with teachers' bargaining rights was unconstitutional and a breach of of Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of association.

At the time, the court found the legislation deleted certain bargaining terms and prohibited bargaining having to do with a wide range of working conditions, including class size and composition and support for special needs students.

"The freedom of workers to associate has long been recognized internationally and in Canada as an important aspect of a fair and democratic society. Collective action by workers helps protect individuals from unfairness in one of the most fundamental aspect of their lives, their employment," writes B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin.

Griffin says usually when legislation is declared unconstitutional by the court, it is struck down. But the court decided to give the government 12 months to address the repercussions of its decision.

Instead, Griffin says, the government brought in Bill 22 — virtually identical legislation involving "the deletion and prohibition of hundreds of collective agreement terms on working conditions."

However, Griffin writes, the legislation deleted by government is not deleted at all and is, in fact, a part of the collective agreement.

"This means that the legislatively deleted terms in the teachers' collective agreement have been restored retroactively and can also be the subject of future bargaining," she writes.

"It is appropriate and just to award damages against the government, pursuant to Section 24 of the Charter," Griffin concludes. 

"In order to provide an effective remedy in relation to the government's unlawful action, the government must pay the BCTF damages of $2 million."