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

Glacier Gymnastics head coach Sandra Long says she doesn’t understand why her sport is currently shut down while others are allowed to operate. Photo: Tyler Harper
‘It is bewildering’: Nelson sports leaders call out provincial shut down

Indoor group classes for activities such as gymnastics and dance are on hold

A man wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
212 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

A total of 490 cases remain active; 15 in hospital

A city hall source said the grant will go toward Grand Forks’ budget for 2021. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Province, feds give Grand Forks ‘COVID Re-start’ grant

The funds come with spending directives, transparency requirements

Grand Forks’ Roly Russell met with The Gazette after he was named Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development Thursday, Nov. 26. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
NDP’s Roly Russell named secretary for rural development

Russell formerly represented rural Grand Forks on the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s elected board

RNG plant
Construction on ground-breaking RNG plant in Fruitvale set to go in spring 2021

REN Energy partners with Calgary engineering firm for innovative West Kootenay gas plant

From the left: Grand Forks sculptor David Seven Deers, Rotary Club President Grant Hill and Shinning Raven Woman Council member Regina Burrows pose for The Gazette at Seven Deers’ 9th Street studio Friday, Nov. 27. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks Rotarians raise money for Shining Raven Woman project

President Grant Hill said the Rotary Club “had to be a part of it”

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

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: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Still from a video surveillance camera of a man alleged to have stolen from several people at knife-point in Chilliwack (Rosedale) early on Nov. 28, 2020. (Facebook)
B.C. man defends his family against intruder, saves neighbour while wielding hockey stick

RCMP looking for footage that captures violent crime spree in Chilliwack

Most Read