Nov 9 2012 President’s Update

Hi folks,

This is by way of an update.

Hope everything goes as well as it can for mid November.


This information was released to us earlier this week.

The pension story is a bit of a good news / bad news story. It sort of depends on your proximity to retirement. Our pension plan goes through a broad actuarial valuation every three years. The most recent results show the Teachers’ pension plan to be quite healthy, especially in comparison to other pension plans in the country. It was able to weather the ravages of 2008 better than most. However, there continues to be a small unfunded liability within the plan. This will result in 1% contribution hike for the employer and a 1% contribution hike for us. This contribution increase will take effect in July 2013.

It is always very informative to check out your account at the Teacher Pension Plan website.


Everyone’s favourite topic! We are actually scheduled to open another round of bargaining with BCPSEA by March 1st 2013. Our contract expires in June of 2013. With a little luck we may even have a decision on the retroactivity of benefits by then. There are also one or two significant events between now and June 2013.

One is the wee matter of an election in May. The other is this government’s on going determination and effort to annoy every teacher in the province – or at least that is how it seems. Much to the surprise of the government and BCPSEA, they were not able to accomplish any of their contract-stripping agenda last spring. We do need to remind ourselves that while we were not able to accomplish any large increases last spring we did withstand the government onslaught on our contract. The same cannot be said in many other jurisdictions in North America.

The most recent response by this government is to say they are going to look at ‘ teacher bargaining structures’. Christie was imagining a ten-year deal. Christie is also imagining winning the next election. Christie needs help!

They have called for submissions from all those folks who were so helpful with previous rounds of teacher bargaining – Pincipals and Vice Principals, BCPSEA, BCSTA and BCCPAC. And because they are so open and generous they have even asked teachers for a submission.

In all seriousness though, it is entirely likely there will be legislation in January or February of 2013. It is not clear what the legislation will contain, however it is likely to try and accomplish what they were not able to do last June. The only certainty is -we will not like it.

Last Saturday Shawn Gough, Richard Starr and I attended the BCTF Bargaining Conference. We were able to set the objectives for the (alleged) next round of bargaining. To no one’s surprise the objectives focus on improvements in class size and composition, salary increase for a cost of living allowance and catch-up to other provinces, improvements to benefits and an incremental increase to prep time. Also, there is an objective to return items such as post and fill to local bargaining.

We also discussed our submission to the province on bargaining structures.

I will forward a copy of the submission once it is complete.

Assessment meetings

Last year a number of people expressed concerns over some of the district mandated assessments. We began to meet with the district last June to discuss some of our concerns. From this came the ‘Thought Stream’ survey on assessment, to which many folks took the time to respond. The results of the survey have been discussed at the last meetings.

The meetings and the discussion around assessment are continuing. The next meeting is scheduled for the morning of Thursday November 27th. If you would like to take part with these discussions please contact the office. 250-949-8888

Supreme Court decision

The Supreme Court of Canada just released its ruling on the Moore case. This is the case where a parent sued the District of North Van. for not offering services for their child with special needs. They were ultimately successful in the Supreme Court of Canada. The decision could have a very real impact on school districts in B.C. We are all familiar with this government’s continuing under-funding of education. We have all seen erosions to services to students with special needs and the recent move to de-categorize many students.

The North Van teachers supported the family where they could throughout the process and the BCTF had intervenor status at the Supreme Court.

The following is a summary from Diane MacDonald, legal counsel for the BCTF:


The case before the Supreme Court of Canada was about Jeffrey Moore, a student with a severe learning disability who claimed that he was discriminated against because the intense remedial instruction he needed for his dyslexia was not available in the public school system.

Jeffrey had been receiving some special education programs but at the end of Grade 2, based on the recommendation of a school psychologist, he was placed in an intensive remedial program, the Diagnostic Centre. However right before he was to start the program, the North Vancouver School District closed the program for financial reasons. As a result, Jeffrey’s parents were forced to enroll him in a private school. The remedial instruction he received there was successful.

The issue for the Supreme Court of Canada was whether the school district discriminated against Jeffrey when it closed the Diagnostic Centre and did not offer an alternative intensive remediation for students like Jeffrey. There was also a claim against the government for not providing sufficient funding for all students with special needs.

The complaints were brought under Section 8 of the BC Human Rights Code. Because a claim of discrimination generally requires a comparative analysis, an issue was what is the service that is customarily available―special education or education generally. The court said that it could not compare Jeffrey only to other students with special needs as that could result in a “separate but equal” approach that has been rejected. The court held that it is not special education that is the service but the means by which students get meaningful access to general education. To compare what programs Jeffrey was provided against other special needs programs would allow the district to cut all such programs and be “immune from a claim of discrimination.” This risks perpetuating disadvantage. (This is what the BCTF argued and the court accepted our position.)

When examining Jeffrey’s access to general education, the court found that the remediation that was provided was insufficiently intense. The decision to close the diagnostic centre based on a budgetary crisis was prima facie discrimination.

Once prima facie discrimination is found the burden is on the district to justify its conduct. Here, the district failed to consider alternatives. Since it looked at no other options, it could not justify the closure of the Diagnostic Centre. In the end the district failed to deliver the mandate and objectives of public education to ensure that students were given meaningful access to education.

Although the court found that the “district’s budgetary crisis was created, at least in part, by the province’s funding shortfalls,” it did not find the government liable for the district’s discriminatory conduct.

In conclusion, there was a finding of discrimination against the school district. The remedies provided to the Moores were the cost of the private school education as well as damages.

Fred Robertson

Vancouver Island North Teachers’ Association