Legal News

Arbitrator Concludes Teachers Have a Constitutional Right to Disseminate Union Information to Parents

In a decision issued May 7, 2004, Arbitrator Don Munroe determined that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”) applies to BC school boards. The Arbitrator further concluded that restricting teachers from posting information on school bulletin boards or distributing materials to parents relating to class size or collective bargaining issues violate a teacher’s constitutional right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Section 2(b) of the Charter.

In this case the BC Teachers’ Federation alleged that a number of school boards had acted in an unconstitutional manner by advising teachers not to post certain materials on teacher bulletin boards located in areas of the school accessible by students and their parents, and by prohibiting discussion or distribution of documents relating to collective bargaining or class size to parents during parent/teacher interviews.

The BC Public School Employers’ Association (“BCPSEA”) argued that the Charter did not apply to public school boards because they are not “governmental” in nature. The Arbitrator disagreed with BCPSEA and ruled that, because school boards possess only the powers granted to them by the Provincial Legislature through the School Act, they are properly characterized as performing “governmental functions” (rather than “public functions”) and are, therefore, subject to the Charter. The Arbitrator went on to conclude that by prohibiting teachers from distributing the information at issue, the school boards had violated the teachers’ constitutional right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Section 2(b) of the Charter.

The Arbitrator’s decision is being appealed by BCPSEA to the BC Court of Appeal.

British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association and British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, May 7, 2004 (Munroe)