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

The District of Stewart has adopted a strategic plan for 2020/21 with six focus areas. (District of Stewart/Facebook)
Stewart adopts 2020 strategic plan

Economy, community areas of focus

Kendra Willems, seen here Nov. 5, created a Facebook page to help facilitate social supports such as clothing donations in an informal manner that supplements existing supports and charities. (Jake Wray/Terrace Standard)
Skeena Voices | ‘We could all use that kind of goodness’

Kendra Willems, new to Terrace, founds charitable Facebook page

Firefighters work to cool a semi truck engine that caught fire at the corner of Eby St. and Hwy 16 around 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 26
Semi truck engine catches fire in Terrace

Hwy 16 briefly closed between Sande Overpass and Eby St.

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross at his swearing in on Thursday (Nov. 26), with his wife, Tracey, left, mother, Frieda, and grandson, Parker. (Ellis Ross photo)
Ellis Ross sworn in as Skeena MLA

Ceremonies happening virtually rather than all in-person in Victoria

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

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 B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

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

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

More than 60 cm of snow has fallen at Ulkatcho First Nation near Anahim Lake in the Chilcotin since a snowfall warning went into effect Thursday, Nov. 26. (Graham West photo)
VIDEO: More than 60 cm of snowfall in Chilcotin since Thursday, Nov. 26

Graham West of Ulkatcho First Nation captures the scene on video

Most Read