Robyn Gervais / 2012
Robyn Gervais is a very junior lawyer, but that didn’t stop her from taking a strong stand to demand an end to injustices she saw happening at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. While Cameron Ward’s Reg Robson award recognizes a 25 year career in the law, Robyn’s recognition comes for her incredible bravery in delivering a 25 minute speech to the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry explaining why she was compelled to leave her work with the Inquiry.
Enduring months of testimony from police officers, and the absence of a single First Nations witness to speak about the issues First Nations women have in bringing information to the police, Robyn, who had been hired to ensure First Nations voices were heard, requested four days for First Nations witnesses she wanted called. In response, she says Commission staff told her that she could have only one day. For Robyn, it was the last straw.
“Given that these hearings are largely about missing and murdered aboriginal women, I didn’t think that I should have to fight to have their voices heard…As I leave this inquiry, I regret that I cannot find away to bring the voices of the missing and murdered Aboriginal women into the room.”
Robyn Gervais statement to the Missing and Murdered Women Commission of Inquiry, March 6, 2012.
With her departure, Robyn single-handedly raised the profile of the increasingly concerning conduct of the Inquiry to a national level. After she left, former Commission staff found the courage to come forward with allegations about what they believed to be racist and sexist activities behind the scenes at the Commission. These allegations are still being investigated. Robyn’s brave stand is symbolic of the many important concerns that have been raised about the troubled Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, but is also symbolic of the brave stand taken by Indigenous and Downtown Eastside women every February 14 as they march for justice for the murdered and missing women. It took incredible courage to point out to the Commissioner, in front of countless reporters and 25 of the most senior lawyers in B.C., that this Inquiry itself has come to embody the very exclusion of women it was called on to investigate.
For that courage, Robyn will receive her Reg Robson Award, in trust for all who have worked for justice for women on this issue.
Cameron Ward / 2012
Cameron Ward’s career has been defined by a commitment to rights and freedoms for all. Milestones include: representing students who protested APEC at UBC, (including a young Craig Jones,Q.C., who later become the President of the BCCLA), at the public inquiry into the policing tactics used at that event; the “riot” at the Hyatt where police on horseback charged into a crowd of demonstrators, and culminating in his own case, Ward v. Vancouver, where he established that people can be awarded monetary damages by Courts if their Charter rights are violated. Cameron’s life’s work has created a beacon of hope for those treated badly by authorities. As a lawyer Cameron contributed in a significant way to the end of police self-investigation in B.C. Participating in coroner’s inquests across the province, as well as civil suits against police for various allegations of misconduct, Cameron’s work with families like the family of Rodney Jackson, Jeff Berg, Kyle Tait and so many others helped raise public awareness of the need to end police self-investigation in BC.
Cameron is currently acting for family members at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, where his work with Neil Chantler, his junior, has resulted in many issues being canvassed that would have otherwise been ignored or brushed under the carpet. British Columbia and Canada have profited significantly from Cameron Ward’s work as lawyer and his unwavering commitment to justice.
While Grand Chief Stewart Phillip’s work on aboriginal title issues is exhaustive and remarkable, he has been selected for the Reg Robson Award because of his work on police accountability, equality and addiction issues and the profile he has brought to these critical issues nationally in both aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities.
Grand Chief Phillip is the elected Chief of the Pentiction Indian Band. In October 2006, the Okanagan Nation bestowed on him and his family the rare honour of the title of Grand Chief. He is currently President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC).
First coming onto the Association’s radar through his tireless and successful work with the community in pressuring government into holding a public inquiry into the death of Frank Paul, a homeless Mik’Maq man who died from hypothermia after being left in an alley by Vancouver Police, Grand Chief Phillip was recently instrumental in working with community to successfully demand another public inquiry on policing issues, this time into the murdered and missing women of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and northern B.C.’s highway of tears.
In the Paul inquiry, the Grand Chief’s leadership within UBCIC, the community, and in the media helped ensure strong recommendations around ending the system of police self-investigation in British Columbia. In the Murdered and Missing Women inquiry, his leadership will surely reform how policing is done by and for marginalized community members across B.C., both aboriginal and non-aboriginal.
It was Grand Chief Phillip who worked with community advocates to inform the public about the death of Curtis Brick, resulting in the City of Vancouver establishing public drinking fountains throughout the city and public “cooling off” locations for homeless and underhoused residents to avoid future tragedies. It was also Grand Chief Phillip who brought the Association’s and the public’s attention to the tragic, and ongoing unaddressed injustice that was the death of Clayton Alvin Willey in Prince George at the hands of the RCMP.
When the BCCLA held a forum on establishing sobering centres and managed alcohol programs for chronic, street-involved alcoholics, Grand Chief Phillip made the opening remarks and his prominent presence and endorsement encouraged the attendance of police chiefs and government leaders from across the province. On a practical level, UBCIC is hosting the first meeting of the steering committee to establish a civilian sobering centre in Vancouver, also thanks to the Grand Chief’s leadership.
Beyond raising the public profile of key civil liberties and human rights issues, Grand Chief Phillip has also helped ensure that the BCCLA is relevant to aboriginal communities whose rights are violated systemically and regularly. The BCCLA owes Grand Chief Phillip a major thank you for all he has done on the Association’s behalf. Awarding him our greatest honour is but a small token compared to the Grand Chief’s significant efforts on the public’s and his constituency’s behalf.
In 2006, Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ came to the BCCLA and Amnesty International with an idea—a legal challenge to the Canadian Forces’ transfers of Afghan detainees to a substantial risk of torture by applying the Charter to the actions of Canadian officials working abroad. Champ had troubling information that the use of torture was widespread in Afghan prisons. The BCCLA and Amnesty decided to commit to the litigation, seeing it as an opportunity for Canada to assist Afghanistan in reforming its notorious prison system and to play an important role in furthering the goal of eradicating torture worldwide.
Since then, Paul Champ has committed countless pro bono hours, in excess of 2,000 hours over several years, to representing the BCCLA in this groundbreaking work. The government sought to have the Federal Court application dismissed, and was successful in its argument that the protections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms did not apply to Canadian forces acting in Afghanistan. However, during the course of that litigation, Champ and the BCCLA learned important evidence of Canada’s knowledge of torture in the Afghan prison system and the risks faced by prisoners transferred by Canadian forces to Afghan custody.
Champ’s legal efforts for the Association directly led to a halt in the transfer of Afghan detainees to the Afghan authority by Canadian troops in 2007, and a new transfer agreement that provided increased protections for detainees. The documents that Champ uncovered in the course of the litigation paved the way for important advocacy work that Champ has tirelessly championed – the Military Police Complaints Commission’s Afghanistan Public Interest Hearings and the Parliamentary hearings into the issue of transfers to torture – and may yet lead to accountability for government officials who knew about potential torture but failed to act.
During the course of his work on the Afghan detainee issue, Champ has demonstrated extraordinary courage, integrity, tenacity and a profound commitment to justice. He is an impressive advocate and an outstanding model of public service and engaged citizenship.
Champ was recently interviewed by the BCCLA, and stated his reasons for working to protect Afghan detainees: “On a lot of issues, people won’t step forward. They’ll complain about it or talk about it, but they don’t necessarily take that next step of spearheading the issue. I was interested because the weight of the evidence that just made it so obvious to me that what Canada was doing was so wrong, and the novelty of the legal issues. I thought, ‘Here is an opportunity that I have to use the law to really make a difference on a very important issue.’”
Champ is a human rights and constitutional lawyer in Ottawa, where he runs a busy litigation practice with a focus on labour and employment law, often with human rights dimensions. A significant portion of his practice now is dedicated to public interest cases dealing with Afghanistan detainees, national security, and civil liberties. Champ represented the BCCLA in the Iacobucci Inquiry into the torture of three Canadians abroad, and before the Supreme Court of Canada in Canada v. Khadr. Champ will continue to represent the BCCLA at the Afghanistan Public Interest Hearings.
Two years ago, Lieutenant Commander Kuebler was appointed by the U.S. Navy to represent Canadian-citizen Omar Khadr before the U.S. military commissions at Guantanamo Bay. His advocacy continues to this day.
“Giving this award to Lieutenant Commander Kuebler is a departure from our tradition of awarding the Reg Robson award to a Canadian,” acknowledged BCCLA president Robert Holmes. “However, he has gone above and beyond the call of duty, including through his efforts to raise Canadians’ awareness of the lack of due process in the American proceedings involving Canadian child soldier Omar Khadr.”
Mr. Khadr was detained at the age of 15 in Afghanistan and subjected to prolonged sleep deprivation and other abuses that violated his fundamental human rights. In the course of defending him, Lieutenant Commander Kuebler conducted a Canadian speaking tour to encourage the Canadian government to intervene and prevent the flawed American military tribunal process from proceeding against a Canadian citizen.
“Lieutenant Commander Kuebler’s efforts are all the more remarkable given that he was defending a foreigner against a prosecution brought at the instance of his Commander in Chief, the President of the United States,” notes Holmes. “Lieutenant Commander Kuebler’s fearless advocacy for his client against the enormous resources of the state is an excellent example of the importance of having an independent bar. His obvious commitment to due process and the rule of law as essential components of democratic society deserves international recognition.”
Judy Graves has worked with Vancouver’s street population since 1974, and in the Downtown Eastside since 1979. She coordinates the Tenant Assistance Program at City Hall, serving low-income tenants and the literally homeless. The Program has focused on literal homelessness since 1995, when declining vacancy rates, increasing land values, service cutbacks, and inadequate welfare support combined to make homelessness very visible in the streets of Vancouver.
To understand the causes of homelessness, and to meet the needs of the people who live rough, Judy walks overnight in alleys, underground parking, stairwells and parks to meet the homeless “at home.” Here she wakes them and listens. This listening in the dark led to the design of the Outreach Pilot Project, which has now become a province-wide Program of BC Housing. For this Program, a person is woken where he or she sleeps at 6:00 am and is given a welfare income and a room of their own to live in the same afternoon. In one day, the person moves from absolute homelessness to permanent tenancy.
The Project has housed over 2,000 people in B.C. already. The Project succeeded because the Province and City worked together to do exactly what the homeless needed and wanted – to find them stable, safe and affordable homes.
Maher Arar has become one of Canada’s best known citizens, though not by choice. A father and husband with ambitions to establish a successful small business, Mr. Arar was plucked from obscurity in the fall of 2002 by U.S. border agents and rendered to Syria where he faced torture until his return to Canada a year later. Thanks to the work of Commissioner Dennis O’Connor and the Arar Inquiry, Canadians now know that Mr. Arar’s experience was due to errors by the RCMP and other Canadian officials who placed excessive emphasis on national security at the expense of the civil liberties and human rights of our own citizens. In living through this experience, Mr. Arar has demonstrated extraordinary attributes of citizenship: honesty, courage, fairness, integrity, tenacity and a commitment to make sure that changes occur to prevent torture.
Along this path, Mr. Arar has received the uncompromising advocacy and support of his wife Monia Mazigh. Without her efforts to free her husband, Mr. Arar may never have made it home. Together through their ordeal, Mr. Arar and Ms. Mazigh have become true Canadian heroes.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association wishes to acknowledge these two extraordinary Canadian citizens by bestowing the 2007 Reg Robson Civil Liberties Award on Maher Arar and Monia Mazigh. President and civil libertarian Reg Robson.
Without the rule of law, civil liberties are not possible. The men and women who serve in our police forces possess a unique commitment to the rule of law. In 2006, the BCCLA bestows the Reg Robson Award on two unique police officers who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the rule of law and civil liberties through their work in and on behalf of the community in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES).
Dave Dickson has spent most of his career working in the DTES and was an early influence in the Missing Women’s Taskforce. He has won numerous awards including Vancouver Police Officer of the Year in 2004.
Former Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell singled out Ken Frail for his compassion and commitment to his work and the people he served over his 27 year career, noting that Ken’s efforts have truly saved lives in the DTES.
The BCCLA is pleased to announce that the 2005 Reg Robson Civil Liberties Award goes to Joe Arvay, Q.C. Mr. Arvay has a long association with the BCCLA. He has been counsel to the BCCLA and Little Sisters for over 15 years in our ongoing battle with Canada Customs. He has appeared pro bono for the BCCLA in numerous interventions before the Supreme Court of Canada on a wide range of issues including the constitutionality of obscenity laws, marijuana possession prohibitions, Cabinet confidence privilege, and is currently counsel for the BCCLA in the Arar Inquiry.
In nominating Mr. Arvay for the Canadian Bar Association’s Equality and Diversity Award in 2004, an award he was granted, BCCLA Past President John Dixon wrote: “In my role as Senior Advisor to Mr. John Tait, when he was the Deputy Minister of Justice and Attorney General for Canada (1990 to 1992), and in the management of cases for the BCCLA, I have had working contact with many of the leading members of the Canadian legal culture.
I can think of very few of these women and men who, while not themselves a member of an equality-seeking group, has worked more ably, tenaciously, and selflessly for the equality and diversity rights of Canadians than has Joseph Arvay.”
Mr. Owen’s public life spans over two decades. He entered municipal politics in 1978 as a Vancouver Parks Board Commissioner and became a City Councillor in 1986. In 1993, he was elected the 42nd Mayor of Vancouver, an office he held for three terms until 2002 when he retired from municipal politics.
The distinguishing feature of Philip Owen’s public career for which the BCCLA wishes to pay tribute is his courageous and innovative approach to the drug problems in Vancouver. Working with local health authorities, the federal and provincial governments and with the support of a large majority of the population, he established the Four Pillars Approach to Drug Problems which integrates prevention, treatment, enforcement and harm reduction. His commitment to harm reduction in particular, the most controversial of these pillars, is most noteworthy to the BCCLA.
By staying on course with these reforms, Mr. Owen has been instrumental in refocusing Vancouver’s approach to treating drug addiction as a health problem rather than merely a criminal issue. In recognition of this achievement, Mr. Owen has also received the B.C. Provincial Health Officers Award, the first non-medical professional to receive this award. For his commitment to changing public policy in an area of ongoing concern to civil libertarians, Philip Owen is deserving of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association’s highest award in our 40th year.
The Reg Robson award for 2001 goes to Ron Churchill. Mr. Churchill’s victory against TransLink has that David-slays-Goliath quality. In the fall of 2000, Mr. Churchill, an accountant, was a campaign manager for an Alliance Party candidate. Distributing campaign literature at a local SkyTrain station, Mr. Churchill and others were ordered to leave the SkyTrain property by SkyTrain security, who cited TransLink’s safety rule that prohibited anyone from distributing pamphlets or leaflets on their property.
Mr. Churchill sought the assistance of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and together we pressured TransLink to change this rule. In the meantime, Mr. Churchill went to court to argue that the safety rule violated Canadians’ right to freedom of expression. To its credit, or perhaps fearing a loss in the impending lawsuit, TransLink changed its policy to permit not only election campaigning, but also all other forms of non-commercial expression on their property, as long as it does not occur in fare-paid zones or interfere with the use of the system.
Remarkably, Mr. Churchill represented himself in court and won a significant Charter victory. For his determination and willingness to stand up for his and all British Columbians’ freedom, Mr. Churchill is a deserving winner of this year’s Reg Robson award and an inspiration for us all.
Usually, when we think of journalists who put their life on the line, we assume they work in some far away country ruled by a despotic regime. Not so with Kim Bolan, a journalist who writes for the Vancouver Sun. Her writing, especially her reporting on the local Sikh community, has led to repeated death threats. Her coverage has included the assassination of Tara Singh Hayer, a past Reg Robson Award winner, the controversy over an independent school run by Sikh fundamentalists, and the Air India bombing investigation.
She has traveled to El Salvador, Guatemala, Afghanistan and northern India in her work with the Sun. Defying threats to her safety and life, Kim has continued to report on controversial local issues involving the Sikh community. She has won numerous awards, including the inaugural Press Freedom Award from the National Press Club, and the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation. The BCCLA wishes to salute Kim’s continued and fearless commitment to freedom of expression in B.C. with the Reg Robson Annual Civil Liberties Award for 2000.
Gil Puder was a veteran Vancouver police officer who truly believed that policingis an honourable profession. Though a “good cop” with a sterling 17-year service record as a patrol officer, Emergency Response Team member and use of force expert, Gil viewed his professional duties as subordinate to his responsibilities as a human being, a parent and a Canadian citizen. He came to believe that the American style “War on Drugs” has been not only an abject and expensive failure in Canada, but as well damaging to the larger community and to the profession of policing itself. Gil spoke from experience, having been a member of the drug squad, having had to kill an addicted bank robber, and having a friend, Sgt. Larry Young, killed by a cocaine dealer in a drug raid gone wrong. Gil expressed these views in a much-discussed article in the Vancouver Sun. He was then invited to present his views at an international forum on drug use, and prepared a paper entitled, “Recovering our Honour: Why Policing Must Reject the War on Drugs.” The paper contains a powerful account of the harm that drug enforcement has had on policing.
Among his comments were: n given the entrenched police culture that rewards arrests rather than community satisfaction, enforcement usually involves “trophy busts” and harassment of poor, hungry people on street corners and filth-strewn alleyways n drug arrests and arrests for property crimes committed to get money to buy drugs are very easy to make, and earn officers large overtime paycheques for court time. In response, (then) Chief Constable Chambers forbad Gil from expressing his views at the conference. When the time came, Gil courageously stood up and read the paper.
The BCCLA (and Gil, no doubt) was relieved that no disciplinary action followed. Information about important public policy issues is essential for a vibrant democracy, especially information about the inner workings of powerful state agencies such as the police. Gil put his career on the line to express his views on the impact of the War on Drugs on policing. These views are now a central part of the debate in the public forum, which is exactly where they deserve to be. Gil Puder recently died of cancer. He is survived by his wife Christine and two sons, Brendan and Jason.
Each year this award honours a person or persons who, in the opinion of the Board of Directors, made a substantial and long-lasting contribution to the cause of civil liberties in B.C. and in Canada. On November 17th of last year, Tara Singh Hayer was assassinated in his garage as he transferred himself from his van to a wheelchair. Hayer was a publisher with something to say, and he wielded his Surrey newspaper — the Indo-Canadian Times — as a strong voice for political moderation and nonviolence among Sikhs. A strident voice, some might say, since he was most definitely not “politically correct” or modest or gentle in his journalistic campaign against Sikh violence.
He was a passionate, outspoken, and tenacious journalist who sank his teeth deeply into his stories. He was very aware of the danger he ran in doing this — particularly after a series of assassination attempts had left him disabled and in constant pain — but ultimately fatalistic about his chances of survival. And, it might be said, of the relative importance of survival. He once said that it is a journalist’s job to tell the truth, no matter how many people do not wish to read it. It is hard to beat that pronouncement for straightforward sanity and integrity, and it would also be difficult to craft a better formulation of the civil libertarian’s often unpopular role. But Hayer did not die as a martyr for the idea or right of freedom of expression, any more than Gandhi himself died for that fundamental civil liberty.
He died, as Gandhi died, for what he actually said and taught: that the deadly reflex of violence must be replaced with the habit of reasoning together. It falls to less heroic types, such as civil libertarians, to draw out the full implications of that lesson, and to work toward its realization in our politics and laws. There can be no reasoning together without speech, and speech about public concerns that really matter is bound to cause hurt or offense. Violent and repressive reaction in the face of such pain is commonplace, and creates a demoralizing cycle. A free civil society cannot long exist when only popularity or indifference can shield a speaker from punishment for what he says. Tara Singh Hayer lived and continued his work in the face of such a threat. We are pleased to make him the recipient of the Third Annual Reg Robson Civil Liberties Award.
Murray and Peter are members of the Gay and Lesbian Educators of B.C. (GALE), a group dedicated to providing a safe and welcoming atmosphere for gays and lesbians in B.C.’s public schools. In April of last year, another member of GALE asked the Surrey School Trustees for approval to use in his classroom three books which depicted families with same-sex parents. The Trustees not only refused to approve this request, they passed a motion banning any resources recommended by GALE.
It was clear from the start that important equality and freedom of speech issues were raised by this decision, and it cried out for a legal challenge. The problem was who would challenge it and with what money. The BCCLA considered the idea, but since we were not directly affected by the decision we were not an appropriate plaintiff, and anyway we didn’t have the money. GALE could not be a plaintiff because it is not a registered society in B.C. Since neither Murray nor Peter teach nor reside in Surrey, they too were ruled out, although even at this early stage they agreed to commit $5,000 to the case from their own pockets.
They approached Joe Arvay (the BCCLA’s lawyer in the little Sister’s case), who agreed to take on the case provided Murray and Peter would commit to raising funds and arranging for appropriate plaintiffs.ver the summer and throughout the fall, hardly a public event in B.C. connected with the gay and lesbian community or education went by at which Peter and Murray were not present: handing out pamphlets and selling buttons and T-shirts (paid for out of their pickets), talking up the case, and urging concerned Surrey teachers, parents and students to consider joining the lawsuit.
They approached the BCCLA for help in publicizing the case and fund raising, which we were happy to give. With support from teachers’ locals, they spent enormous energy lobbying the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, which ultimately agreed to make a substantial donation. They held press conferences and appeared on talk shows. In short, their dedication to making this lawsuit happen took over their lives.
This case has important implications for the equality of gays and lesbians and for the quality of education here in B.C., And across Canada. It wouldn’t have happened without the commitment and energy of Murray Warren and Peter Cook. The BCCLA is pleased that they have agreed to accept this award.
Janine Fuller / 1997
We are very pleased to announce that Janine Fuller is the recipient of the first “Robson.” Ms. Fuller is the manager of Little Sister’s Book & Art Emporium, Vancouver’s West End gay and lesbian bookstore. She started work there in 1990, just when Little Sister’s and the BCCLA began their now-famous joint challenge to Canada Custom’s censorship of gay and lesbian books and magazines. As the lawsuit slowly wound its way through the maze of roadblocks set up by a government determined to keep the issue out of the courts, Janine took on the daunting task of raising both public consciousness about the case and the money to fund it. She travelled coast to coast in Canada and the U.S., talking about her experience as a bookseller and a reader grappling with Custom’s arbitrary and homophobic censorship. She rallied Canadian and international writers, readers and booksellers to the cause, pushing and cajoling when necessary, but most often showing the way by her enthusiasm and commitment.
When the case finally approached the trial date, Janine spent most of her waking hours making sure that we were prepared: contacting and arranging travel for and affidavits from witnesses across North America, putting together mounds of documents for our counsel Joe Arvay, keeping Joe up to date on the experience of Little Sister’s and other bookstores with Customs, and appearing on talk shows (even on Front Page Challenge!), at fund raisers and anywhere else there was an opportunity to gain support for the lawsuit and the principles which it expressed. She became, in the eyes of many, the symbol of the fight against unfair and discriminatory treatment of lesbians and gays by Canada Customs – the fight for equality and freedom of expression.
Throughout the storm of activity leading up to the trial, throughout the 42-day trial (at which she testified, and every session of which she attended), Janine radiated the quiet confidence, warmth and dedication that drew others to her, and therefore to her commitment to the principles of free expression and equality. Janine co-authored a book about the case, Restricted Entry, and edited Forbidden Passages, an anthology of excerpts from books and magazines denied entry to Canada by Customs officials.
Whatever the outcome of the current appeals of the trial decision, the time has passed when the heavy-handed and homophobic action of Canada Customs towards lesbian and gay books and magazines will be seen as acceptable, or remain unchallenged. To an extent larger than most people recognize, this is due to Janine Fuller.