B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Lawyers' Rights Watch chastise Mayor Sullivan for political interference
Vancouver – Mayor Sam Sullivan and the City of Vancouver legal staff have been engaged in a campaign since October 13, 2006 to cut Pivot Legal Society out of any discussions on housing issues in Vancouver, and punish the organization for bringing lawsuits on behalf of marginalized individuals against the city by severely restricting Pivot staff and volunteers’ access to city services.
“Immediately after I called the City to notify them of potential bylaw violations at two hotels in the downtown eastside, our office received a fax from the legal department of the city telling us that staff and volunteers of Pivot Legal Society had been cut off from direct access to services provided by the City of Vancouver,” recounts David Eby of Pivot Legal Society. “Following that letter, the City attempted to force my removal from the VANOC housing sectoral table, using the cover of misapplied law society rules. They then attempted to restrict my communications at the Urban Core Community Service Provider’s Coalition using the same justification.”
Shortly after Pivot was cut off from access to City services except through the legal department, the VP of Sustainability for VANOC, Linda Coady, contacted the Impact of the Olympics on Community Coalition (IOCC) and attempted to have David Eby removed from the VANOC Housing Sectoral table. Ms. Coady told the IOCC and David Eby that representatives for the City would refuse to participate in the table if Eby continued as the representative of the IOCC. When the IOCC refused to remove Eby as their representative, the City of Vancouver backed off. The restrictions on city services for Pivot staff and volunteers continue.
“We would enjoy an explanation for these shenanigans.” says Jason Gratl, president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. “The City is purporting to enforce a rule stating that if you sue the City, you lose access to City Hall. Such a rule either acts as a disincentive to sue the City or punishes people who do – both of which are undemocratic”
"The role of the civic government is to uphold the law for all citizens, not to violate it,” adds Gail Davidson, Executive Director of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada. “These restrictions violate the legal rights of Mr. Eby and his clients. LRWC is alarmed at what seems an attempt to prevent indigent people from enforcing their rights. Who is giving these instructions and why is the legal department acting on them?"
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About Pivot Legal Society
Pivot’s mandate is to take a strategic approach to social change, using the law to address the root causes that undermine the quality of life of those most on the margins. We believe that everyone, regardless of income, benefits from a healthy and inclusive community where values such opportunity, respect and equality are strongly rooted in the law.
So, not only is the City of Vancouver not living up to its promise to the IOC on housing commitments, now if you try to hold the City to its word, you're not allowed to point it out.
I hope 2007 sees more activists, not fewer. Check out the Pivot Legal Society to see how it's done!