After a rare Sunday hearing, Madam Justice Brenda Brown of the B.C. Supreme Court said citizens do not have the right to choose which court orders to obey and which to flout.
"If one may breach a court order, so may another . . . and anarchy cannot be far behind," Judge Brown told the court.
The contempt application was made by the province's school boards, which had earlier filed a cease-and-desist order from the B.C. Labour Relations Board in the Supreme Court, giving it the legal effect of a court order.
After she found the teachers guilty of contempt, however, Judge Brown delayed a hearing until Thursday to determine what penalties should be handed out.
The delay, which was strongly opposed by lawyers for the school boards, gives the teachers a few more days to consider how far they want to continue their defiance before being punished.
It also virtually guarantees no school for more than 600,000 elementary and high-school students tomorrow and Wednesday.
What exactly prompted British Columbia teachers to pull a wildcat strike?
Did the B.C. government send Pinkertons strikebreakers with truncheons into the classrooms to bust the heads of union leaders?
More than 42,000 teachers began an indefinite strike last Friday to protest against Bill 12, a government bill imposing a two-year contract extension on them, with no wage increase and no improvement in their working conditions.
The bitter dispute seems certain to produce the most prolonged shutdown of the province's public schools in more than 20 years.
Before Judge Brown issued her ruling, BCTF lawyer John Rogers argued that there was a history to the current dispute, which had seen the Liberal government restrict teachers' right to strike by designating education as an essential service and strip them of the ability to negotiate working conditions.
"In 3½ years, the teachers have gone from full collective bargaining to no collective bargaining rights," he said. "It's important to understand why they determined it was necessary to take a stand."
Mr. Rogers said the teachers' illegal strike is in the tradition of civil disobedience against unjust laws.
"This is not a defence, but civil disobedience does exist."
Two more years of some of the most envied working conditions anywhere and being declared an essential service hardly equate with being denied the right to vote or sit at the front of the bus.
In any event, the students of British Columbia are being taught some valuable lessons.
First lesson: teachers' unions are out for thir members only, despite all their rhetoric about putting students' interests and good education first.
Second lesson: you can defy legitimate authority for a bad cause and suffer very little penalty.
Third lesson: the students are probably more mature than the teachers.
Source: Globe and Mail