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)

B.C. 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

GIF
’90s rock band resurfaces with songs never properly recorded or released

Underwater Sunshine’s online reunion involves four guys who lost contact for years

Tim Siebert, one half of the partnership behind Citrus & Cane, says opening the Douglas Street cocktail lounge during a pandemic had challenges, but the bar is ready to adapt to whatever comes next. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
New Victoria tropical cocktail lounge designed with COVID-19 safety in mind

Citrus & Cane opens in site of former Copper Owl after eight-month delay

Kennedy Nikel, applied marine biologist at Cascadia Seaweed, here seen in late September, shows off bull kelp (in her left hand) and rock weed. The company is spear-heading an annual seaweed festival scheduled for May 13-21, 2021, with Sidney council have signed off in principle. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Cascadia hopes to see Sidney host seaweed festival in May 2021

Council supports the idea in principle following a presentation by Cascadia Seaweed

Trevor Davis, base manager of the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation in Sidney, stands in front of the Hecate Sentinal, an oil skimming vessel based at Sidney’s Van Isle Marina. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Oil spill response base taking shape on Saanich Peninsula

Enhanced base with elements in North Saanich and Sidney to be fully operational in fall 2022

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Most Read