Photo of Ed Lavalle. Text: In Memoriam Ed Lavalle. FPSE logo.

This month, our federation received some sad news. Ed Lavalle, former president of our organization (see footnote), passed away on Friday August 7. Ed is survived by his partner Susan and daughter Michelle.

Former FPSE President George Davison wrote about Ed’s long history as a labour activist and political educator in the piece below.

In Memoriam: Ed Lavalle

Ed’s career as a post-secondary educator and union activist spanned 44 years, from his hiring as a Political Studies instructor at Capilano College in September 1973 to his retirement from Capilano University at the end of April 2017. Ed’s achievements were many, primarily at the local and provincial level, but they also set the stage for our provincial federation to take a prominent place amongst our union and post-secondary allies provincially and nationally. 

Ed was involved in just about every round of bargaining at his local since he started – 15 rounds by my count. He was a moving force in the 1970s within the College Faculties Federation[1], a provincial organization of newly-organized faculty unions that had eight locals, 709 members, a volunteer executive and a budget of $11,000. At Capilano, he set up the Labour Studies Programme, a college-based worker education program developed in cooperation with trade unions. Through this program, Ed led workshops on how arbitrations and strikes could be used to defend collective agreements. In the late 70s, Ed was the driving force to create a provincial union, the College-Institute Educators’ Association, which was established in May 1980.

Ed used to say that bargaining was everything, whether it was with your colleagues, the employer, union allies, or the government. Bargaining was also a continuum: one needs goals to attain and the patience to work towards those goals over time. Ed helped mould CIEA into an effective provincial federation in the 1980s and ‘90s. A provincial defence fund was established in 1986 to support striking locals, and CIEA set up new standing committees for women and non-regulars, our contract academic staff, who had just been organized into what had been full-time faculty unions. Ed was elected Vice-President in 1987, was re-elected in 1988, and became President in 1989. He served as president for 7 terms, from 1989-92, and again from 1995-99.

In the 1990s, Ed oversaw the process to get legislative changes to the Colleges and Institutes Act that resulted in the establishment of Education Councils and constituency (faculty, support staff and students) representatives on institutional Boards of Governors. He was one of the key stakeholders who worked with representatives of institutional presidents, ministry officials, students and the B.C. Government & Service Employees’ Union: in September 1996 they produced Charting A New Course: A Strategic Plan for the Future of British Columbia’s College, Institute and Agency System that involved setting up a number of system agencies to support post-secondary education. These were designed to make post-secondary education better for students, for faculty and staff, for institutions, for the government, and for British Columbians.

Ed’s goal of coordinated bargaining was finally achieved in 1998, when the entire post-secondary system outside the research universities and BCIT came together to bargain.  After almost three months of bargaining in the spring, a summer hiatus and strike vote in September, the provincial negotiating committee achieved a tentative agreement hours before a province-wide strike was set for late October. The agreement included clauses on harassment, one-quarter release for union-employer relations, prior learning assessment, copyright and intellectual property, regularization, leaves, benefits and a joint committee on benefits administration, pensions (the first joint-trusteed pension plan amongst public sector plans in BC), early retirement incentives, a provincial salary scale and secondary scale adjustment, and a clause protecting superior benefits in a local agreement.

Ed became Provincial Secretary to the BC NDP from 1999 to 2003. He returned to Capilano College after that, and continued to teach labour studies and political studies. He developed an exchange program with the European Parliament that saw Canadian students travel to the Hague, and European students come to Canada.

Former BC Minister of Education, Skills and Training (and former CIEA president) Paul Ramsay said “"Ed was a force and (for me) a mentor. He did so much to strengthen education, unionism, and government in B.C. Few have done as much. I will deeply miss his intelligence and wit."

In short, Ed was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the collective agreements we all enjoy today, and for building the federation into what it is today: an organization with two full-time officers and 12 staff, 20 locals, 10,000 members, affiliated to the BC Federation of Labour, the Canadian Association of University Teachers and the Canadian Labour Congress through the National Union of CAUT.

As one of Ed’s colleagues wrote to me, “it would take a book to document the full history of his contribution. At the level of Cap College/University…[he demonstrated] patience, acumen, knowledge, strategic vision and determination to serve the best interests of the faculty [and] inspired in all of us a cheerful courage to achieve success…[He] always kept his own ego in check, suffered the occasional slings and arrows flung his way with equanimity and without rancour, and soldiered on…[He was] An exemplary comrade-in-arms, a wise and dedicated and selfless leader.”

He will be missed.


[1] The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC has been re-named multiple times over 50 years, motivated both by changes to post-secondary institutions, as well as the membership of the organization. In 1970, the organization consisted entirely of college faculty associations, thus was created under the name College Faculties Federation (CFF). The CFF was re-constituted as the College and Institute Educators’ Association (CIEA) in 1980, largely in response to the SoCreds introduction of Bill 82, the Colleges and Provincial Institutes Act. Finally, CIEA became the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC in 2004 when the BC Liberals changed the University-College of the Cariboo into Thompson Rivers University.

About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 4 private sector institutions.