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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 19, Number 1, September 2006

BCTF 90 years old

by Ken Novakowski

Ninety years ago on October 28,1916, teachers from Vancouver, North Vancouver, South Vancouver, Point Grey, and Victoria met at Dawson School in Vancouver to discuss organizing a union that would represent the interests of public school teachers in British Columbia. The meeting was organized by George Lister, a Vancouver teacher who went on to be the first president of the BC Teachers’ Federation. The new organization held its first annual meeting on January 4, 1917, at King Edward Secondary School in Vancouver. Prior to the formation of the BCTF, teachers had no organization to represent them or their interests as they were employed by 744 separate school districts.

With clear objectives of improving the economic welfare of teachers and dealing with their professional concerns, the new BCTF also assumed a mandate to promote the cause of public education. Those overarching goals still constitute the central core of BCTF work to this day, in spite of failed attempts by numerous provincial governments to split and divide us.

This year we will be celebrating the 90th birthday of the BCTF. In previous articles in the Teacher Newsmagazine over the past five or six years, and in my annual reports to delegates at the Annual General Meeting, I have recounted various aspects of our history in an attempt to relate our past experiences to our current struggles. I’m hoping to include an article in each issue of the newsmagazine this year that continues that pattern and provides members with a window on our organizational past.

Ken Novakowski is the BCTF’s executive director.

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