BREAKING: B.C. Court of Appeal upholds ruling on CBA case

Journal of Commerce | Russell Hixson | August 28, 2020

The B.C. Court of Appeal has halted a legal Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge by several construction industry groups to the province’s Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs).

Justice Mary Newbury, who authored the court’s decision, was not swayed by the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA), the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) and other groups who asked the courts to determine if the CBAs’ union membership requirement violates workers’ freedom of association.

The ruling upholds a decision by the B.C. Supreme Court earlier this year that decided the charter case did not belong before the court and should instead be arbitrated by B.C.’s Labour Relations Board.

“We are certainly reviewing our options with the Labour Relations Board and will be talking with our partners,” said Jordan Bateman, vice–president of communications and marketing for the ICBA.“The key in this case is that none of the merits of it have been examined in it yet. It was purely jurisdictional. Of course, we disagree with the court and believe the courts are the right place to challenge ministers’ decisions.”

Bateman also argued that the drawn–out legal process is by design.

“This process has taken two years to get to purely because the B.C. government has been dragging the puck and have delayed things at every turn, talking about who should actually hear the case. But that is just typical of this government.”

The BC Building Trades noted the ruling marks the third time a charter challenge of the CBA framework has been struck down by the judicial system and higher courts have repeatedly dismissed charter challenges to similar labour agreements across Canada.

“Community Benefits Agreements are here to stay,” said Andrew Mercier, executive director of the BC Building Trades. “It has been made clear by all levels of the courts in B.C. that the proper course of action for the ICBA and their friends is to file their claim with the B.C. Labour Relations Board. They have consistently declined doing that. This is not an issue that rises to the level of the courts.”

Here is the full decision: https://www.bccourts.ca/jdb-txt/ca/20/02/2020BCCA0243.htm

The Journal of Commerce will have more industry reaction in an upcoming article.