The BCCLA is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Joe Arvay, O.C., O.B.C., Q.C. Joe was a tireless and brilliant advocate, fighting for justice throughout his legal career. He fearlessly represented the BCCLA on a pro bono basis for three decades in many ground-breaking cases in Canadian legal history.
Joe represented the BCCLA in Little Sisters Book Emporium, a long battle against censorship and LGBTQ2S+ discrimination by customs officials which resulted in two Supreme Court of Canada decisions. He was counsel with the BCCLA for the plaintiffs in Carter, the Supreme Court of Canada case establishing the constitutional right to physician-assisted dying. Joe also represented the BCCLA in its successful constitutional challenge to prolonged, indefinite solitary confinement in federal prisons.
In addition, Joe represented the BCCLA in numerous interventions at the Supreme Court of Canada, on issues including the detention of Omar Khadr, obscenity legislation, and marijuana possession.
Many of the BCCLA’s greatest achievements would not have been possible without Joe’s contributions. He was a fierce lawyer, a generous mentor, and a loyal friend. In 2005, Joe was awarded the BCCLA’s Reg Robson Liberty Award.
Joe taught us so much and words fail to express how much he will be missed by the BCCLA. We know many others are also grieving the loss of Joe, one of this country’s greatest constitutional litigators and fighters for civil liberties and human rights. We extend our condolences to his family and his many friends, colleagues and clients.
In keeping with the wishes of his family, the BCCLA is available to comment on Joe’s profound contributions to the legal profession and his legacy advancing civil liberties through his work with the BCCLA: