A B.C. high school sports commissioner says he has been stunned by the 11th-hour discovery of what he characterizes as a gross misrepresentation in the lead-up to Saturday’s pivotal vote on B.C. School Sports new governance proposal.
Walter van Halst, commissioner of the B.C. Secondary Schools Rugby Union, called it “absolutely shocking” when it was discovered Thursday that B.C. School Sports had never contacted the B.C. Teachers Federation, the labour union which represents all public school teachers in this province, yet in its package to eligible voters had listed the 45,000-member group as one of 10 key stakeholder organizations which would occupy voting seats within the proposed governance’s 54-member legislative assembly.
Varsity Letters reached out to B.C. School Sports for a response, and it was their choice to provide an exclusive statement via its Board of Directors.
Advance voting among the 460-plus athletic directors had already been completed when BCTF executive director Amber Mitchell confirmed in an e-mail Thursday morning that her organization had never been approached by B.C. School Sports. Mitchell was responding to an e-mail of inquiry from BCTF member and B.C. High School Girls basketball president Brett Westcott.
“At this time I can confirm for you that the BCTF has not been involved or received communication from BCSS regarding their governance model proposal,” wrote Mitchell. “We have reached out to the BCSS with the request for further discussion as the BCTF has quite a specific process for approval of any representation request of this kind and that would need to be undertaken prior to any agreements of federation participation in representation.”
If passed Saturday by a two-thirds majority plus-one, all 20 of BCSS’ member sports — including football, wrestling, boys rugby, and boys and girls basketball, volleyball, track and field, cross-country and soccer — would be brought together wholly under the umbrella of the association’s administration.
As we wrote this past March in an expansive piece explaining the new structure, B.C. School Sports has trumpeted the governance as a way to bring uniformity to its ranks. If you have or haven’t read it, it’s the perfect primer to bring you up to date on all of the issues. Click here to read.
Yet as we also wrote, the BCSS proposal would mean the immediate extinction of all of the various high school sports commissions in B.C., many of which are not simply collections of individuals but rather committed groups of coaches, teachers and administrators who have passed the torch through multiple generations while serving as the unpaid caretakers of their sport at the high school level in this province.
“It was absolutely shocking,” van Halst said Thursday upon learning the latest news. “I can’t believe that 460 member schools are voting on a package for new governance and the package they are voting on isn’t even real because at least one of the groups listed as a stakeholder in the new legislative assembly hasn’t even been invited to participate.”
And van Halst stressed his distress in the fact that early voting had already been conducted, with various athletic directors casting their ballots with the belief of the vast majority, that their union had put a stamp of approval on the governance package.
“I am not a lawyer, but I think that a lawyer or judge might have to look at this and decide whether this is false representation because if you claim something has been endorsed by an official agency and it hasn’t, I think that agency would have the right to seek redress,” said van Halst.
“The other part is, while there are many independent schools voting, most of the athletic directors in the province would be members of that union (BCTF), and they had been led to believe that their union was supporting that package and would be participating in the new governance proposal when they weren’t even consulted. It’s not that they were opposed, they weren’t even asked.”
The result of the vote is expected to be announced at some point on Saturday.
Whichever way it winds up going, van Halst says that the commissioners will be asking for answers.
“I don’t believe this new governance package will pass but if for some strange reason it did, there would clearly be ample grounds for challenges because the people doing the (early) voting on the package weren’t voting on the package they thought they were.
“One also has to wonder… there were 10 specific stakeholders groups listed in the package for new governance but how many of them were actually consulted?” van Halst wondered.
“The great injustice here is, right from the start there have been 20 member sports staffed by volunteers who have invested enormous amounts of time, passion and energy in their respective sports and they were not invited to be a part of this new legislative assembly, despite all of their years of service and knowledge.”
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