In 1973, per diem reporters were guaranteed ten days of reporting courts each month. Only full-time staff had office space; others worked out of their homes. All reporters provided their own paper and other supplies. At that time the management structure was much simpler. There was a chief reporter in Vancouver and four regional reporters who supervised the reporting staff in each of five regions. Dennis Pearce, now retired, was the regional reporter in Victoria.
In the 1973/74 period, Court Services was formed and its management structure. The director of Court Services was Dennis Shepherd, later Mr. Justice Shepherd. His deputy director was David Warren. Reporters were lobbying for an increase in transcript rates, but rather than increase the rates, the Ministry offered instead to provide all supplies. Xeroxing was at that time not widespread, and exam work was done mostly using carbons. Appeals work, at least in Victoria, was typed on Multilith plates that were then printed on a Multilith press owned by Pearce. He later made arrangements to rent the equipment to the Ministry, which also assumed payment of the part-time printer’s salary.
In 1974 the government decided that it would be responsible for all the provincial courts, which had until then been operated by the municipalities, and they absorbed all of the provincial court staff. It also decided to hire as permanent staff all the auxiliaries.
Per diem reporters became full-time staff and were eventually provided office space. They were entitled to one typewriter, one filing cabinet, desk and chair. They provided their own dictation and other equipment. Personal computers were then, of course, unheard of and CAT was only a dream! They were also required to become members of the BCGEU, a fact that didn’t sit well with many. However, in 1975/76 legislation was enacted specifically removing reporters from the union, and reporters were designated Schedule A excluded. Perhaps the reasons for this change were, among others, they earned extra income (their fees), and also they were considered an essential service and not allowed to strike.
Birth of the BCSRA
In 1975, the Victoria staff, being somewhat disenchanted with lack of movement on such things as rate increases, decided that what was needed was an association. With that aim, reporters in Victoria - Judy Ramsden, Barbara Poole, and Brenda Pearson - canvassed the island, and as a result the Vancouver Island Reporters Association came into being. There were one or two members from the mainland, and one from as far away as Nelson, Jeff Cairns.
But they were then spurred on to form a provincial association. It had been tried in the past but had never gotten beyond drafting of articles of association. However, the Victoria court reporters tackled the job and were successful in calling the inaugural meeting in Kelowna during a long vacation in 1976. The Vancouver office, having previously drafted articles, were entrusted the job of getting them into proper shape for registration. Ms. Pearson, and a few others, attached her name to the documentation as a founding member, and she took it to be registered at the Companies Office.
In fall of 1976 the first annual general meeting of the British Columbia Shorthand Reporters Association was held in Kamloops, and Brenda Pearson was elected as the first president. She served two terms in that capacity and later became a director. They were exciting years, she says, requiring much hard work, but she had the satisfaction of seeing the organization grow and provide the speaking voice for all reporters in BC.
At that time, all reporting work was done by the "officials". There was only one firm of freelance reporters headed by a man named Bemister who had once been an Official. Both Court Services directors Shepherd and Warren told members repeatedly at conventions how highly they regarded the reporting service, how efficient it was, and that theirs was one of the best on the North American continent.
In 1978, Brenda Pearson replaced Dennis Pearce as manager of the integrated Reporting and Recording Services in Victoria as part of another administrative reorganization. There were eight reporters and six recorders. The numbers fluctuated over time, but by spring 1982 when she stepped down as manager, there were eleven reporters and eight recorders, plus two reporters and a recorder in Duncan, and one, sometimes two, recorders in Family Court, Victoria.
Ms. Pearson reports that the integrated system worked very well and was extremely efficient. When court recorders were overwhelmed with transcript, the reporters were allowed to report preliminary hearings, where of course there was always plenty of transcript. Recorders were allowed to record chambers where there was little requirement for transcript in order to free up reporters for the heavier transcript courts. They all shared one large suite of offices and worked amicably together.
The BCSRA continued to grow and increase in membership to the point where the Vancouver Island Association was disbanded in favour of one association representing all reporters in the province.
On August 22, 1983, reporters in Victoria were asked to attend a meeting with regional manager, Mr. Hack, and the consultant, Sandra Van Horne. They were shocked when they were told that they would be privatized and would in future work as individual contractors.
Phone lines around the province were humming. Promises of help to set up private offices were made by the government, none of which were ultimately kept. One or two of the most senior reporters who were close to retirement were given the option of remaining in service. Naturally the reporters retained lawyers, and negotiations with the Ministry dragged on. Finally the Ministry decided to retain a core of senior reporters, approximately 35 in all, and those who lost positions were guaranteed a sufficient number of days in court at a rate that would ensure that they would earn not less than their previous salary.
Reporters with more than ten years, service were retained. Those who wished could become contractors and would be paid $250 per day for eight days. Reporters with between five and ten years were guaranteed nine days at $225, and those with less than five years were guaranteed ten days at $200. The fee schedule was increased in 1984, of course, it has not changed since!
Core staff salaries remained at their previous level, just under $2,000 per month, for which they were required to provide eight days reporting in court, but it increased over the years by whatever small increases the union gained for its members.
Pearson says, "I was once told that government policy changes regularly and that things come full circle every ten years. How right that's proven to be! In 1994 we were back to staff reporters again, albeit part-time, but staff nonetheless."