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B.C. Supreme Court tosses parents' challenge of province's school reopening plans

Last Updated Oct 14, 2020 at 7:19 pm PST

FILE - Rear view of elementary age boy waiting to get on school bus. His classmates are loading the bus in the background. (iStock)
Summary

An application by parents who wanted tougher COVID-19 safety measures before schools reopened has been dismissed

Justice Basran satisfied the advice of public health officials in B.C. is based on the best available science

The application filed in late August on behalf of Bernard Trest of White Rock and Gary Shuster of Vancouver

NEW WESTMINSTER (NEWS 1130) — A B.C. Supreme Court judge has dismissed an application by two parents who wanted the province to implement tougher COVID-19 safety measures before schools reopened last month.

Justice Jasvinder Basran says in an oral decision posted online on Wednesday he is satisfied that the advice of public health officials in B.C. is based on the best available scientific knowledge.

He says evidence shows the officials considered the use of masks in schools, while the creation of learning groups of up to 60 or 120 students was also based on “sound scientific advice” balanced with the need to provide children with an education.

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The application filed in late August on behalf of Bernard Trest of White Rock and Gary Shuster of Vancouver, both fathers of school-age kids, named the ministers of health and education as respondents.

They sought an injunction restraining the ministries from moving into the current phase of the province’s school restart plan without a mandatory mask policy in classrooms and an order compelling physical distancing among students in the same learning group in classroom settings.

Shuster explains he may file a complaint since he and his wife have compromised immune systems, their daughters are currently learning from home.

“If I were to catch COVID, I would be at least hospitalized, probably something worse. My wife is awaiting results now from her lymph node biopsy. She had breast cancer and she just had a partial mastectomy and you know, we don’t know if she’s going to be on chemo, so this is undue risk,” he says.

“The courts here just don’t seem set up to deal with something that’s a true emergency like this. There’s not really a rapid option that I’m aware of and I’m also considering whether the Human Rights Tribunal is a more appropriate venue,” Shuster adds.

But Shuster says he and another dad from White Rock wouldn’t have tried to sue if masks were mandatory.

“If they had made masks mandatory in schools, yeah, there would have been no need because that would have hit the level of risk that I would have found acceptable.”

Basran ruled the public interest is best served by continuing to rely on COVID-19 guidance issued by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and the health minister.