Court orders release of cabinet documents in legal fight against Campbell’s contract-breaking law, Bill 29

News release

B.C.’s health care unions have won an important early legal round in their Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge of the Campbell government’s contract-breaking legislation Bill 29, which stripped longstanding legal protections from collective agreements for more than 110,000 care workers.

In an important B.C. Supreme Court ruling, Mr. Justice Burnyeat ordered Victoria to disclose to health care unions a number of confidential Cabinet documents that the controversial legislation is based on.

In the lead up to the court ruling, the Campbell government had been fighting to suppress the documents, claiming that disclosing many of them would be harmful to the public interest. The Court ruled that in fact, the public interest requires that the documents be available to lawyers for the unions, to ensure a fair hearing for the union’s Bill 29 Charter challenge set for April 2003.

“Before the election, Gordon Campbell promised the most open and accountable government in Canada,” says HEU spokesperson Chris Allnutt. “But we had to go to Court to force open the doors to the Cabinet room, behind which the Liberals are trying to hide from public scrutiny.

“The government thinks it is immune from accountability. With this ruling we have proven them wrong.”

HEU, along with other health care unions including the B.C. Nurses Union and the B.C Government and Service Employees’ Union, launched the Charter challenge soon after the Campbell government rammed Bill 29 through the legislature in late January. That challenge will be heard in B.C Supreme Court for eight days starting April 14.

-30- Contact: Mike Old, communications officer 604-828-6771