Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)

White Rock dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

A White Rock parent whose court challenge of the province’s back-to-school plan was dismissed last week says too much remains unknown about COVID-19 and its long-term complications to concede defeat on the issue.

READ MORE: B.C. Supreme Court tosses White Rock dad’s challenge of province’s school reopening plans

“You can see what’s happening in the countries that haven’t studied the science and that’s the direction we’re heading in,” Bernard Trest told Peace Arch News Tuesday (Oct. 20).

“We just feel there are legal errors with respect to the decision and I intend to appeal it.”

Trest and Vancouver resident Gary Shuster filed an application in Chilliwack court in August in an effort to force B.C.’s health and education ministries to implement tougher COVID-19 safety measures in schools. Among other things, they called for smaller class sizes, mandatory masks and more physical distancing; measures they felt would better-protect students and teachers from the virus.

The science around COVID-19, Trest told Peace Arch News at the time, did not back the return-to-school plan, and was putting students at too great a risk.

READ MORE: White Rock dad files suit against health, education ministries over back-to-school COVID plan

In ruling against the application, however, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Jasvinder Basran said he is satisfied that the advice of public health officials in the province is based on the best available scientific knowledge.

In an oral decision posted online Oct. 14, Basran said 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.

Trest, whose son Max has asthma, disagrees that the advice is sound, pointing as example to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s recent appeal to parents to reduce the amount of sports activities their kids are involved in due to exposure concerns.

“These kids (playing sports) aren’t in close contact,” Trest said. “So, that transmits COVID, but according to (Henry), school situations where kids up to 120 are beside each other in classrooms is fine. It’s ridiculous.”

Trest also cited scientific studies that he said are being ignored, including one out of SFU that shows mask mandates “drastically reduce” the spread of COVID-19. Another study concluded it’s not possible to properly distance students if class sizes are bigger than 12 to 15 students, he said.

While Basran ruled the public interest is best served by continuing to rely on COVID-19 guidance issued by the province – finding the fact that some of that advice is not universally accepted “insufficient to conclude that the government has clearly chosen the wrong approach in terms of the public interest” – Trest said that the guidance is “flawed.”

“And now we have a second wave,” he said.

“That begs the question: is this second wave, has it been caused by children returning to school? Most likely, yes.”

Other findings Basran made included that the application from Trest and Shuster did not clearly identify any statutory authority that would permit the two ministries to make the orders the parents’ were seeking. The power to make orders under the Public Health Act is granted only to health officers, medical health officers and the provincial health officer, he said.

Basran added that Trest and Shuster expressed preferences for sending their children to school in person but felt it wasn’t safe. But he said they did not cite any evidence on remote options available to their children and the province has reasonably accommodated parents who have chosen homeschooling or remote learning options.

– with files from The Canadian Press

CoronavirusEducationSchools

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Surrey RCMP investigating death threat against councillor Hundial

‘On Monday morning I received a threat on messenger that basically said to put a bullet in me,’ Councillor Jack Hundial told the Now-Leader

Surrey City Councillor Linda Annis and her dog Randi (foreground) bring toy donations to Saverio Lattanzio of Surrey Firefighters Association (holding toy) and fellow firefighters. (submitted photo: Pace Group)
Firefighters’ ‘Drive-by toy drive’ for Surrey Christmas Bureau, as SuperChefs cooks up kits

‘It’s been a particularly tough year for so many of our Surrey families’

Fentanyl test strips are designed to work in seconds and give a person a negative or positive sign that fentanyl is present in a substance. It also works with other analogues such as carfentanil. (Photo: ASHLEY WADHWANI)
21 people died of overdoses in Surrey in October

Provincewide, more than five people dying a day from overdoses

Crew works to remove the Toys ‘R’ Us sign from the North Surrey store in late October, in video posted to Facebook by Scott Dombrowski.
Closure of Toys ‘R’ Us store in Surrey a step forward for ‘Georgetown’ development

Video of toy store sign’s removal stirs memories on Facebook group

The City of White Rock is posting signage at popular outdoor public spaces to encourage mask-wearing when social distancing is a challenge. (City of White Rock image)
White Rock encourages mask-wearing at outdoor public spaces

Signage erected in parks and along the waterfront

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

Barrels pictured outside Oliver winery, Quinta Ferreira, in May. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
B.C. Master of Wine reflects on industry’s teetering economic state

Pandemic, for some wine makers, has been a blessing in disguise. For others, not so much.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A fentanyl test strip is used at Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver, Tuesday, January, 21, 2020. The test strips will be made available to drug users to ensure that their drugs are safe and free of Fentanyl. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Drug overdoses lead to 5 deaths each day in October; drug toxicity continues to increase

COVID-19 crisis continues to exacerbate the overdose crisis

An employee of the Adventure Hotel was taken to hospital on Nov. 20 after she confronted a customer of Empire Coffee about not wearing a mask. File photo.
Nelson hotel employee suffers heart attack after being assaulted in anti-mask incident

An accountant at the Adventure Hotel is in hospital in Kelowna

Damien Smith, with father Thomas Smith, is “frozen” with joy as he watches a special message Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds recorded for Damien’s 9th birthday on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. (Contributed)
Shuswap boy celebrates 9th birthday with family, community and Ryan Reynolds

People from around the world send birthday cards showing young Canoe resident he’s not alone

Most Read