One high school track-and-field meet has already been cancelled, and a handful more spring sports seasons are hanging in the balance, casualties of the labour dispute between B.C. teachers and the province.
Already the Surrey track-and-field championships – set for May 4 – have been axed, with the Fraser Valleys still on the schedule, but tenuously, according to just-retired Semiahmoo Secondary track coach Maureen de St. Croix.
All spring sports – which also include rugby, soccer and golf – are on the verge of being cancelled for the remainder of the year, as teachers pull back volunteer services.
Earl Marriott Secondary’s rugby season “is on thin ice, for sure,” according to athletic director coach Adam Roberts, who volunteers as a rugby coach, and a handful of schools throughout the Fraser Valley have already cancelled seasons, including Sullivan Heights in Surrey.
Abbotsford, Roberts said, only has three teams left in its junior league, “but we’re still OK (in Surrey).”
A final decision on the fate of the seasons won’t be known until an April 16 BC Teachers Federation vote on whether to withdraw all volunteer services, de St. Croix said.
And though he didn’t want to wade too far into the debate, Roberts said he hoped school sports would be given the go-ahead.
“I’m not a political dude. I just love coaching the kids – a lot of them I’ve had for five years. I will be completely devastated if the vote favours pulling extracurriculars.”
In a statement issued last month, BCTF president Susan Lambert said that withdrawal of volunteer activities is one of the only arrows teachers have left in the quiver in their fight with the provincial government after the passing of Bill 22, which prevents teachers from walkouts and forced them to end limited job action.
“This government has repeatedly demonstrated such profound disrespect for the work we do that members felt they had to take a stand,” Lambert said. “It’s one of the only options left open under Bill 22.”
De St. Croix is not optimistic anything will be resolved in time.
“Huge numbers are dropping out (of track and field),” she said, adding that just six Surrey schools have registered for the spring season.
“It’s bad on all sides… but most (teachers) realize that this isn’t the way to do things.
“(Cancelling sports) kills schools, and it’s not good for the kids. This kind of thing never works as a bargaining chip.”
De St. Croix, whose last day teaching was March 30, said there are still plenty of teachers willing to volunteer, but they have been put in a no-win situation, choosing between the union’s stand and their students.
“It’s very, very difficult for teachers, because they want to coach. They’re between a rock and a hard place. It’s just a personal decision that each teacher has to make – do you take a stand, or not?”
De St. Croix said she’s helping guide the Semiahmoo track-and-field program for the rest of the season, but will soon hand off the coaching reins to someone within the school.
In the absence of school-sanctioned meets, de St. Croix said a handful of “all comers” meets will be held instead. The first took place Thursday at South Surrey Athletic Park.
She was unsure how participants would be chosen for the provincial championships – if the labour dispute is settled in time – considering the two qualifying meets will likely have been cancelled.
“Yeah, I don’t really know how that will work. It’s just a mess.”
Fraser Valley championships are still slated for May 15 and 17 in Langley, but rather than the usual junior (Grade 9-10), senior (Grade 11-12) and Grade 8 divisions, the event will be split into two categories, with Grades 8-9 in one and Grades 10-12 in another. The Grade 8-9 meet will act as a B.C. Summer Games trial for the Fraser Valley zone.