Teachers attending the spring provincial Representative Assembly of the BCTF unanimously endorsed executive recommendations that would see teachers working with other community groups and unions to undertake whatever legal and political actions necessary to restore the right of free speech limited in Bill 42.
“We will oppose this bill in whatever way we can,” says Irene Lanzinger. ”Teachers are going to be as effective in the upcoming election campaign as we have been in the past and nothing is going to stop us.”
The Gordon Campbell government introduced two pieces of legislation in an attempt to stifle free speech for an unprecedented full three months before the provincial elections and to put a damper on community organizing between local government elections. Yet the legislation does not limit contributions to political parties or limit self-congratulatory government advertising, which can be expected to increase considerably as the province heads towards an election.
Bill 42, the Election Amendment Act, also disenfranchises the homeless, who have greatly increased in numbers since 2001, by introducing new proof of residence requirements.
This legislation has met with opposition from a very broad range of groups and organizations, including CanWest Global media, the Trial Lawyers Association, the BC Civil Liberties Association, the BC Federation of Labour, political commentators, public sector unions, and the Independent Business and Contractors Association. In fact, Gordon Campbell himself was a very vocal opponent of this type of “gag” legislation when he was in Opposition.
Lanzinger wonders what Gordon Campbell’s government is afraid of. She added, “We all benefit from full, democratic participation and active engagement as citizens in the issues that matter to us.”
Teacher representatives at the meeting also committed to engage members in discussions on Bill 42 and its limitations on free speech and to organize public events that demonstrate the negative impact of this legislation on free speech.