John Rogers

Interviewed by Carmela Allevato

John Rogers was raised in Kamloops, BC. His father was the local welfare officer and John remembers some of the cases his dad was involved in. He also recalls the First Nations community on the other side of the river. He describes playing basketball against the boys from the Indian Residential School team, who disappeared at age 15 when they could finally escape the residential school.

John went to McGill on a scholarship but failed and came back to B.C. to woo Brenda, his teenage sweetheart – now wife of many years. He then went to Simon Fraser in 1967, working his way through school. He was exposed to radical politics and was active in all the causes even though he was more attracted to social democracy than revolution.

After a few years spent traveling the world and working in manual labour, John started law school at UBC. At law school, he especially enjoyed dealing with policy issues. He worked in the summers for the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and worked with the organization after graduation for a year representing it before the B.C. Royal Commission on Uranium Mining.

He articled with the Baigent Jackson law firm, a labour-side firm, and then was hired as an associate. When John Baigent and Marguerite Jackson moved to the interior to form an office, he and some fellow colleagues decided to form their own firm, calling it Victory Square Law Office in honour of their physical location and the Great Depression labour struggles that had occurred on that spot.

One highlight in a career full of them was John’s involvement in the Charter case British Columbia Teachers’ Federation v. British Columbia. Rogers and his colleagues argued that the provincial Liberal government’s Bill 22 limiting the right of teachers on class size violated the teachers’ rights to collective bargaining. The Supreme Court, as Rogers recounts, ruled 7¬–2 on the same day as the hearing.

John discusses how the practice of law has changed – both for the better and for the worse. He stresses the importance of labour history, as it allows us to understand the power that employers have and the constant threat that unions are under. He worries that more widespread use of the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause means that protections like the ones he fought for can be eliminated.



Victoria; Manitoba; Kamloops; Phil Gaglardi, W.A.C. (Wacky) Bennett; Secwepemc First Nation; Kamloops Indian Residential School; McGill University; Simon Fraser University (SFU); campus radicalism; Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs; Royal Commission on uranium mining; Baigent, Jackson, Blair law firm; John Baigent; Marguerite Jackson; BC Government Employees’ Union (BCGEU); BC Labour Relations Board; Catherine Wedge; John Hodgins; Vancouver Municipal and Regional Employees’ Union (VMREU); Charter of Rights and Freedoms; Bill 29; Joe Arvay; BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF); Steven Rogers; technology in legal practice; work-life balance; Port Alice; union consolidation; women in law; International Woodworkers of America (IWA); Madam Justice Mary Southin; Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin; women in the labour movement; importance of labour history

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Further information on court cases mentioned:

HEU case

BCTF case