Do you remember when you were young, playing a game of Tag in the playground? Remember how much fun that was? At least it was fun until the playground bully decided to make up rules on the fly. Rules that only applied to him, like calling “time-out” just before you were about to tag him. Funny thing was when you tried to invoke the rule to your advantage, it didn’t count. Frustrating, juvenile, unfair, bullying.
Bill 22, also known as the “Education Improvement Act”, which was implemented by the British Columbia Liberal Government this March, removes the civil right of B.C. teachers to negotiate a new contract. It threatens to punish teachers and their union for taking job action in order to gain leverage in negotiations, something that has been done by unions, legally, for years. All the teachers want is a fair and just settlement, however, taking job action in the form of strike as a means to gain this fair and just settlement is now illegal. Bill 22 also makes a lockout of the teachers by the government illegal. However, why would the B.C. government lock out the teachers when Bill 22 and the net-zero mandate work hand-in-hand to give the government all of the negotiation leverage they need. If you can’t negotiate, legislate, right? It is like the playground bully saying, “I can tag you, but you can’t tag me.” We promote anti-bullying in schools, while we look to our elected officials for leadership by example. However, if our elected officials are the ones doing the bullying, then what example, exactly, are they leading by? I guess bullying is OK after all.
Bill 22, beyond all of its confusing lawyer-esque banter, is one thing: A violation of simple civil rights. Bill 22 takes away from teachers the simple, common rights that are afforded to all of us on a day-to-day basis. It is in contrast to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: The freedom of expression, the freedom to hold peaceful assembly, and the freedom of equality are all violated by Bill 22. For example, how is it that the members of the British Columbia Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) are treated differently than the members of any other union in British Columbia (or in Canada for that matter)? After all, according to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination…” What is next? Will Bill 22. state that teachers must surrender their bus seats to non-teachers, or that teachers cannot marry each other? Extreme examples, I know, but in principle, what is the difference?
In a world where bullying is condoned, and civil rights are ignored, I am sure that Bill 22 would also be tolerated, but these trails were blazed years ago. In essence, Bill 22 is spitting in the face of those that worked so hard and sacrificed so much to give us the freedoms that we sometimes take for granted. Regardless of whose side you stand on in this labour dispute, or if you have a side at all, you have to admit that Bill 22, at its very core, is a step backwards for British Columbia, Canada, and Civil Rights as a whole.