Bill 29 impedes collective rights, targets women, Supreme Court told

Yesterday, April 16, our legal counsel finished arguing that Bill 29 — the Health and Social Services Delivery Improvement Act — is a breach of our constitutional right to freedom of association. This is the first of three sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that our case against Bill 29 is based upon.

Joseph Arvay, Q.C., contended that freedom of association is protected by section 2 of the Charter and that freedom of association not only means the right to join a union, but also means the right to make representations to employers, to reach agreements with employers and to have those agreements respected.

Bill 29 not only voids core provisions of our collective agreement but also prohibits unions and employers from negotiating those core provisions in the future. 

Later in the afternoon union counsel Catherine Parker commenced the argument that Bill 29 is a breach of the Charter’s section 15 — the right to equal treatment.

Ms. Parker began making the case that Bill 29 targets health care workers, who are a disadvantaged group under the Charter because they are predominantly female.

She then went on to argue that other characteristics of health care workers — such as the fact that the majority are over the age of 45 and a large portion are people from visible minorities — further shows that the legislation is discriminatory. Quoting from various Supreme Court of Canada decisions, Ms. Parker also contended that work is a central, defining feature of a person’s identity and place in society.

The case continues later today and through next week in Courtroom 33 in the BC Supreme Court at 800 Smithe Street in Vancouver.