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< class="what-entry-title">Speak Back Against Racism and Islamophobia>
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This weekend a horrific attack by a white nationalist during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, left one anti-racist counter-protestor dead and 19 injured.

Across the border, we cannot remain complacent. We have seen a resurgence in white supremacist rhetoric here in Canada, emboldening those who hold racist, Islamophobic, and anti-immigrant views. We have seen violent attacks on some of the most marginalized members of our communities, including a despicable act of terrorism perpetrated at a Quebec City mosque earlier this year, which took the lives of six Muslim men.

This Saturday, here in Vancouver, we are faced with a continuance of this hateful rhetoric.

On the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, on lands where the BCCLA is a guest, a group of people organizing under the “Worldwide Coalition Against Islam” plan to gather at Vancouver’s City Hall.

An anti-racist rally organized by the group “Stand Up to Racism Metro Vancouver” is planned to counter the white supremacist protest. Members of the BCCLA will be in attendance, and we encourage members of our community to speak back against ideologies that seek to dominate, oppress, and destroy people because of their race, religion, or identity.

Silence cannot be our option. Those who promote hateful racist, Islamophobic, and anti-immigrant ideologies could take muteness as indifference or even approval. We have seen how inaction has allowed hateful rhetoric to grow.

We will not stand by quietly as others speak hate; we too will exercise our right to protest.

We want to uplift calls from Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour who have asked that those planning to attend the counter-protest, work to centre the voices and safety of marginalized individuals and vulnerable attendees. As you exercise your right to protest, please be aware that directly engaging with any antagonizers can put vulnerable people in danger.

Check the counter-protest event page for updated information on the logistics of the rally, as well as plans for participant safety: https://www.facebook.com/events/1234145256731732/.

As this protest is intended to specifically target Muslim members of our communities, we wish to remind people of the existence of the Islamophobia Legal Assistance Hotline (604-343-3828), a resource phone line in BC providing free confidential legal advice to people who have been discriminated against, harassed, or faced violence because they are Muslim or are perceived to be Muslim. If you are in need of this kind of resource, please find more information about the Islamophobia Legal Assistance hotline here. The BCCLA and other legal organizations established the hotline, hosted by Access Pro Bono BC. Any other people who have been victims of hate crimes can speak to a Victim Service Worker by calling VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808 (confidential and multilingual).

Protest is a critical part of our Charter-protected rights to free expression and assembly. For more information about your right to protest, tips for being prepared, and information on how to hold police accountable if your rights are violated, check out this resource: https://bccla.org/our_work/know-protest-rights/

< class="what-entry-title">Timeline: Solitary Confinement Trial>
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Day 1: July 4, 2017 – Opening Arguments in Solitary Confinement Trial Day 2: July 5, 2017 – Testimony from Glenn Patterson, former Indigenous cultural advisor; and Rob Roy, whose son killed himself while being held in solitary confinement in 2015. Day 3: July 6, 2017 – Professor Michael Jackson called as expert witness, author of Justice Behind the Walls (2001). Day 4: July 7, 2017 – Expert testimony of Professor Michael Jackson, and cross examination by counsel of Canada. Day 5: July 10, 2017 – Expert witness Dr. Stuart Grassian, US psychiatrist introduced.
Day 6: July 11, 2017 – Inmate witnesses, James Busch, and Leslie Brownjohn affidavits entered, and cross examination. Day 7: July 12, 2017 – Mary Elizabeth Campbell, retired lawyer, testifies. Mr. Justice Peter Leask rules on 20,000 documents that were forwarded to the BCCLA one day prior. Day 8: July 13, 2017 – Robert Clark, former employee at the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) gives testimony, regarding internal culture of CSC. Day 9: July 14, 2017 – Canada presents court with new documents not previously disclosed to BCCLA. Day 10: July 17, 2017 – Dr. Paul Gendreau, gives opinions on the effects of solitary confinement and prison life in general on prisoners.
Day 11: July 18, 2017 – Cross-examination of Dr. Paul Gendreau. Day 12: July 19, 2017 – Bobby Lee Worm gives testimony to court regarding the three and a half years she spent in solitary confinement in Canada’s federal penitentiaries. Day 13: July 24, 2017 – Dr. Ruth Martin, gives expert testimony about the physical and mental health of prisoners, and the role of physicians and healthcare workers in prisons. Day 14: July 25, 2017 – Ms. Kelly Hannah-Moffat gives evidence concerning the effects of segregation. Day 15: July 26, 2017 – Dr. Margo Rivera, a consultant to the Correctional Service of Canada testifies on segregation.
Day 16: July 27, 2017 – Ms. Amanda Lepine, gives testimony concerning her time incarcerated as a youth and adult, including her experiences with segregation. Day 17: July 28, 2017 – Dr. Coyle, governor of three penitentiaries in the UK gives expert testimony. Day 18: July 31, 2017 – Canada opens their case, with Mr. Bruce Somers, former Deputy Warden with Correctional Service Canada.  Day 19: August 1, 2017 – Bruce Somers continues testimony. Cross-examination by BCCLA.  Day 20: August 2, 2017 – BCCLA continues cross-examination of Bruce Somers.
              Day 21: August 3, 2017 – Warden, Brigitte Bouchard gives evidence in court on aboriginal initiatives within penitentiaries. Day 22: August 4, 2017 – BCCLA witness Daren Frick, Assistant Warden at Edmonton Institution, takes the stand.               Day 23: August 9, 2017 – Professor Craig Haney, gives testimony on the psychology of imprisonment.  Day 24: August 11, 2017 – Dr. Brie Williams, gives evidence on administrative segregation and physical health.               Day 25: August 14, 2017 – Dr. Kelly Blanchette, a research officer for CSC, speaks on “Interventions to Preserve Life and Prevent Serious Bodily Harm.”

< class="what-entry-title">Welcome to Our Summer Legal Interns!>
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Salman Rana, Arash Ghiassi, Victoria Perrie, Jeremy Bally (L-R). Photo by Nat Lowe.

Please extend a warm welcome to our Summer Legal Interns: Salman, Arash, Victoria, and Jeremy! We are very excited to have them on board with us this summer. Learn more about each of their experiences by reading their biographies below:

Salman Rana

Salman Rana joined the BCCLA as a summer fellow in May 2017. He holds a degree in Economics (Honours) from Wilfrid Laurier University and is currently pursuing his law degree at the University of Ottawa. He has worked as a community organizer serving his Muslim community and is involved in many grassroots initiatives on campus. Most recently he helped organize the nation-wide US Trump Travel Ban Research-a-Thon at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law. Prior to attending law school, Salman worked for tech companies in the Waterloo Region. His experiences gave insight on not only the possibilities of today but also on how pressing issues such as privacy, access to information, and freedom of expression are quickly evolving with technological advancement.

Arash Ghiassi

Arash Ghiassi received his BA in Philosophy and Ethics, Society, and Law from University of Toronto in 2015, and will be entering the third year of his JD program at Yale Law School in fall 2017. Previously, he has worked as a Legal Intern with the LGBT & HIV Project of the American Civil Liberties Union as well as the Bronx Defenders. He has also worked with other community organizations and legal clinics, including the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture and the Samuel Jacobs Criminal Justice Clinic.

Victoria Perrie

A proud member of the Manitoba Metis Nation and resident of Treaty 1 Territory, Victoria Perrie is honored to be a guest on the unceeded traditional lands of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations and urban Indigenous communities. Victoria is an active member of the Indigenous and legal communities in Winnipeg and Canada. Over the last 10 years, she has been committed to the engagement of inner city and at risk Indigenous youth in theatrical arts education. As the founding coordinator of Native Youth Theatre, which has its roots in serving First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, Victoria believes that the world and the youth living in it can create new realities for both themselves and our society through engagement with the arts – specifically in learning expression and interaction techniques. Victoria has participated in Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Recommendations through program development for Indian Residential School Survivors and those impacted by intergenerational trauma, as well as through engagement with the Manitoba Aboriginal Law Students Association and several other indigenous focused community groups. In May 2015 Victoria began her Legal education at the University of Saskatchewan by taking the Program of Legal Studies for Native People. Having focused on international and human rights throughout law school, she is now entering her final year at the University of Manitoba. At the University of Manitoba, Victoria is engaged in giving back to the community through dedication to Pro Bono Students Canada, Level (Canadian Lawyers Abroad), and Outlaws. Victoria has been an advocate for human rights recently through an internship at the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, and now at the BC Civil Liberties Association.

Jeremy Bally

Jeremy Bally is an incoming third year law student at Allard Hall at the University of British Columbia. He is looking forward to soon launching his legal career in either public interest or criminal law. Prior to law school, he worked as an international human rights campaigner.

< class="what-entry-title">Rights at the Border – still more…>
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Summer is finally here! Like many Canadians, a few of us at the BCCLA are planning vacations south of the border this season.  Despite the holidays and sunshine, crossing the Canada-US border can be stressful as we worry about our rights to privacy and how those square with the rights of border guards to examine our travel plans and the goods we bring.

For the basics about your rights when departing for the US and then returning home to Canada, check our blog post what you need to know about border rights. The American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) has also published a guide about electronic devices at the US border that is handy.

In this blog, I want to tell you about some new developments with respect to rights at the border.  First,   a proposed new law on customs preclearance.  Second, a government a study on rights at the border.  And finally, a very exciting project we’ve got going on electronic devices at the border.

Bill C-23 – new law on customs pre-clearance

If you’ve ever had to clear US customs in a Canadian airport prior to boarding your flight, you can thank the Preclearance Act. It is a law based on a 1974 agreement between Canada and the US and allows US border guards to administer American preclearance laws in certain areas of designated Canadian airports. Preclearance laws involve customs, immigration, public health, food inspection and plant and animal health.  Saying there would be trade and travel benefits , our government signed a new preclearance agreement in 2015 to expand these areas to land, rail, marine and air transport facilities and to allow Canada to have preclearance areas in the US.  Bill C-23 is the law that will implement this agreement.

We are very worried about the new and expanded powers that US border guards will have under this law and the lack of recourse for travellers whose rights are violated.  Last month we spoke about Bill C-23 to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, all of which can be found in our written submission.

Recent news reports suggest very extensive questioning by US border officials is becoming more and more common. This situation intensifies our concerns that Bill C-23 s violates the rights of travelers to withdraw from a preclearance area if they choose. Currently a person can leave a preclearance area at any time and has no obligation to answer questions.  If Bill C-23 becomes law, US border officials will be able to question someone who chooses to withdraw.  While the government says that this is necessary to prevent “illicit probing” of preclearance areas, we think that this change is unwarranted and essentially enables US border officials to detain people who should be free to leave.

This is especially worrying because we don’t think US border guards can be held properly accountable.   The government says that the new law will be better at protecting Canadians because the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other human rights laws will apply on our side of the border. But we say that’s not the way things will work because these advertised protections are essentially erased by state immunity laws.   Our alarm has since been echoed by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, who told the Committee that “these protections could not be enforced in a court of law, except in circumstances largely irrelevant to the present discussion.”

After considering our views and that of others, the text of Bill C-23 was updated and it passed third reading in the House of Commons last week. Unfortunately the changes to the bill are minor and don’t resolve the key issues that we have raised. We expect the bill to go to the Senate this fall and we will continue our efforts to bring its shortcomings to light.

Study into Privacy Rights at Airports, Borders and Travelling in the US 

As well, in keeping with the public’s intense focus on rights at the border, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics just started to look into the “Privacy of Canadians at Airports, Borders and Travelling in the United States.”

BCCLA Policy Director Micheal Vonn and I appeared as witnesses at their first meeting alongside the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the ACLU.  All of us spoke about border searches of electronic devices on both sides of the border and the lack of legal safeguards to protect traveler’s privacy.  Micheal and I argued that Canadian law should be updated to protect our electronic devices from searches at the border if the guard has no reasonable grounds to be suspicious. Here’s our speaking notes.

No word yet on when to expect a report from the study, but we are hoping that the report includes good recommendations.

We’re on it! E-devices resources comin’ right up!

Meanwhile we have just started a joint project with our friends at the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic.  We are developing an online guide to help you understand what is known about:

  • your rights with respect to electronic devices at the border;
  • best practices for securing your data before crossing the border; and
  • what to do if you’ve been searched.

We expect to have the guide available for next spring. Our 2012 Privacy Handbook for electronic devices remains available online. It needs updating (hence our new project), but it still contains useful information.

< class="what-entry-title">We’re hiring! Join our team as our next Outreach and Communications Coordinator!>
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We’re looking for a teammate who is passionate about working with communities to uphold civil liberties and human rights across BC and Canada.

With a mandate that includes work on police accountability, patients’ rights, democratic freedoms, prisoners’ rights, national security issues and more, we are one of the most vibrant and visible advocacy groups in Canada.

Our Outreach and Communications Coordinator is responsible for our volunteer program, events and outreach calendar, and communications support including social media.

If you are:

  • Fabulous with volunteers,
  • Amazing at event organizing,
  • A social media whiz,
  • A proof-reading champion, then…

Click here to learn more and apply for this position.

The BCCLA is a small team with a big reach, and we want you to be a part of our work. Applications are due Wednesday, July 26, 2017. We anticipate interviews happening in the week of July 31, 2017

The BCCLA is committed to building an inclusive and diverse workplace, and strongly encourages applications from all qualified applicants. Applicants from traditionally underrepresented or marginalized groups including Indigenous people, people of colour and LGBTQ+ people are welcome to self-identify, should they feel comfortable in doing so, in their cover letter.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

< class="what-entry-title">Meet our 2017 Summer Communications and Development Volunteers>
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Jacqueline Yan

Jacqueline Yan

Jacqueline is entering her fourth and final year at the UBC Sauder School of Business as a Finance major. Due to her involvement in four extracurricular student-led clubs throughout her undergraduate degree, she has developed strong event planning and communication skills. Most recently, she was the Director of External Relations for the Me Inc. Conference, which was a large-scale conference featuring over 170 business delegates and 250 students. She currently works as a Program Assistant for the newly formed Bachelor + Master of Management Dual Degree program at UBC.

Despite her business background, Jacqueline has always found an interest in human rights and social issues. She is passionate about electoral engagement, women’s equality rights, and access to justice, through her previous volunteer experience. After graduating with her BCom, Jacqueline intends to pursue law school and become a lawyer. As a born and raised Vancouverite, she loves to be outdoors hiking, biking, and playing on recreational sports teams with friends.

Laila Telawi

Laila Telawi                           

Laila identifies as a global citizen having lived in different continents and regions across the globe including Malaysia, Syria, the Arabian Gulf and currently in North America. Her love for traveling and immersing in various traditions also led her to explore Europe and Latin America where she was able to develop her intercultural communication skills and improve her understanding of different governments’ laws and policies in relation to culture, geography and history, and how they could impact civil liberties.

Laila recognizes her travels as profound to her professional experiences and education. With a passion for human rights, Laila worked at the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as a Program Assistant focusing on trafficking of persons and on the security of immigrants and minorities. Returning to UBC, Laila coordinated and managed multiple charity events to assist the settlement of Syrian refugees into Canada. In May of 2017 Laila graduated from UBC with a degree in International Relations. She is currently dedicating her time for further self improvement in preparation for law school.

 

 

< class="what-entry-title">We’re hiring: defend civil liberties and human rights as our new Community Lawyer>
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[POSTING IS CLOSED – WE HAVE HIRED FOR THIS POSITION]

Are you the next member of the BCCLA team?

We’re looking for a lawyer who is passionate about working with communities to uphold civil liberties and human rights across BC and Canada.

Our Community Lawyer will spearhead the BCCLA’s community legal engagement work, supported by the Policy Director and the Executive Director, including leading our casework, legal education, and Legal Observer programs.

The BCCLA is a small team with a big reach, and we want you to be a part of our work.

Click here to learn more and apply for this position. [POSITION FILLED ALREADY]

Applications will be considered on a rolling basis, closing July 15th, 2017. We anticipate that rolling interviews may be held as early as the week of July 3rd.

With a mandate that includes work on police accountability, patients’ rights, democratic freedoms, prisoners’ rights, national security issues and more, we are one of the most vibrant and visible advocacy groups in Canada.

The BCCLA is committed to building an inclusive and diverse workplace, and strongly encourages applications from all qualified applicants. Applicants from traditionally underrepresented or marginalized groups including Indigenous people, people of colour and LGBTQ+ people are welcome to self-identify, should they feel comfortable in doing so, in their cover letter.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

POSITION DESCRIPTION

Staff Counsel (Community Lawyer) position [POSITION HAS BEEN FILLED]

The BCCLA seeks a lawyer who is passionate about using their legal skills to uphold civil liberties and human rights in Canada.

The position will commence as soon as possible. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis, closing July 15th, 2017. We anticipate that rolling interviews may be held as early as the week of July 3rd.

About us: The BC Civil Liberties Association is one of Canada’s leading social and democratic justice not-for-profit organizations. With a mandate that includes work on police accountability, government transparency, voting rights, prisoners’ rights, national security issues and women’s rights, we are one of the most vibrant and visible advocacy groups in Canada. The BCCLA is a small team with a big reach, and we want you to be a part of our work.

About the position:

The successful candidate will spearhead the BCCLA’s community legal engagement work, supported by the policy director and the executive director. The BCCLA’s view of “the law” is wide and encompassing, and we see the role of public interest lawyers not simply as advocates in disputes, but to work with communities that are engaged in their struggle to have their human rights upheld.

The BCCLA’s goal is to create deeper and enhanced engagement between the BCCLA and communities experiencing civil liberties and human rights issues around B.C., to the end of ensuring that we are able to be as responsive as possible to these issues. From our work around B.C., we understand some of these issues to include policing and particularly racial profiling discrimination in policing (both in southern BC and in northern BC and Indigenous communities), issues affecting people without legal status in Canada, and human rights issues experienced by communities that are involved in extractive industries. Other civil liberties and human rights issues connected with our mandate may also come to light through our work. The position will assist communities and individuals with their civil liberties and human rights issues, and work directly with community on law reform efforts that are within BCCLA’s mandate.

The BCCLA is committed to building an inclusive and diverse workplace, and strongly encourages applications from all qualified applicants. Applicants from traditionally underrepresented or marginalized groups including Indigenous people, people of colour and LGBTQ+ people are welcome to self-identify, should they feel comfortable in doing so, in their cover letter.

The counsel in this position will have the following principal responsibilities:

  • Spearhead the BCCLA’s community legal engagement work, supported by the policy director and the executive director;
  • Engage in law and policy reform research, writing and advocacy;
  • Assist communities and groups in the development of advocacy and law reform strategies in relation to the civil liberties/human rights issues affecting them; assist in building education and capacity to carry out such strategies;
  • Design and deliver community legal education resources and events, including specialized “know your rights” workshops and possibly clinics, to be delivered through community partnerships targeted at assisting those most vulnerable and/or most in need of the information;
  • Manage our casework program, including intake, referral, and individual assistance; carry an individual caseload, the size and nature of which to be commensurate with the degree of complexity and the lawyer’s other duties;
  • Develop and manage our legal observer program;
  • Collaborate externally with coalitions and diverse allies to achieve common objectives; collaborate internally with legal and non-legal staff on organizational projects and objectives;
  • Provide advice and consultation to community workers and groups in relation to the legal rights of those whom they represent and for whom they act;
  • Engage with media regularly;
  • Manage project budgets and working with development staff to source funding, and prepare updates and reports for funders and the BCCLA board, including financial reporting;
  • Identify potential civil liberties and human rights issues for broader organizational work. Evaluate, in consultation with the policy director and executive director, issues to be taken on in our work;
  • Deepen BCCLA’s relationships with partner agencies, advocates and community groups around the province, according to an established plan that identifies regions of focus;
  • Provide support to policy director, executive director and litigation director on an as-needed basis;
  • Identify and evaluate, with support of the litigation director, potential test case litigation;
  • While this position is envisioned as principally a law reform/policy position, all lawyers may be involved in cross-cutting work and other organizational functions such as planning.

About you:

You possess the following attributes:

  • Top-notch legal thinker with strong legal research, analysis, writing and advocacy skills – you can quickly analyze a new statute, policy or judicial decision and understand the key human rights and civil liberties issue(s) at stake and formulate a creative and pragmatic response;
  • Strategic thinker with an aptitude for developing proactive law reform solutions;
  • Ability to develop a strong knowledge of community with which you are working, including historical, political, cultural, racial, and class issues;
  • Commitment to community-oriented lawyering, that is responsive to community needs, culturally competent and enhances community participation within the scope of BCCLA issues and strategies;
  • Dynamic communications skills with an aptitude for public and media communications and community outreach – you can analyze and articulate legal concepts in a way that is credible, understandable and relatable to community residents, the general public, media, to the academy and policy makers alike;
  • An understanding of the state of civil liberties and human rights in Canada, of current events and the political environment, and the ability to identify and prioritize the areas of opportunity to advance the BCCLA’s cause;
  • Eagerness to thoughtfully challenge and argue in service of the BCCLA’s objectives;
  • Ability to identify common concerns and help translate those into actionable issues that can be successfully addressed;
  • Ability to use a mix of traditional and non-traditional legal skills, and both legal and non-legal tools, to support initiatives;
  • Emotionally resilient to ongoing communication with members of the public contacting the BCCLA for assistance, some of whom are struggling with trauma, physical and/or mental health issues and some of whom the BCCLA is not able to assist;
  • Well-developed relationship-building and inter-personal skills;
  • Ability to strike the right tone to be effective in a variety of settings, whether community meetings, meetings with allied groups, testifying before a Parliamentary committee or press conferences;
  • Ability to thrive in highly-charged situations and adapt to changing conditions to get the job done;
  • Comfortable working in a self-directed and self-learning way, with appropriate support from your colleagues;
  • Experienced in supporting and advancing organizational goals and are comfortable with project and budget management;
  • Committed to the organizational goals of the BCCLA.

You share the values that animate this work:

  • Recognizing and honoring the community’s expertise, strengths and resources;
  • The centrality of listening;
  • The commitment to working collaboratively with community members to identify problems, issues and strategies for change;
  • Recognizing the limitations of the law and being willing and able to use a range of not-traditionally-legal approaches to uphold human rights (communications, education, government relations);
  • Recognizing and creating space for community members to speak for themselves;
  • Recognizing and engaging issues of difference and power.

Experience and Qualifications:

  • Demonstrated interest in and commitment to human rights, civil liberties and social justice is an asset;
  • Member of the Law Society of British Columbia or eligible for call to the BC Bar;
  • J.D. or LL.B. degree; other advanced degrees an asset;
  • Excellent legal research and writing skills;
  • Ability to engage in complex legal analysis and fact investigation;
  • Excellent oral and written communication and analytic skills;
  • Ability and willingness to travel regularly within BC and Canada – we work with communities province-wide and this position requires in-person relationships to be fostered;
  • Ability to work long hours when needed, for an employer that strives to ensure its employees can enjoy a balanced lifestyle;
  • Ability to work independently as well as within a team;
  • Ability to manage several projects in a fast-paced work environment;
  • Strong ability, or capacity to develop ability, in media and public relations is an asset;
  • Experience in community outreach preferably including work with marginalized communities a strong asset;
  • Experience with casework and/or case management an asset;
  • Experience in working with First Nations people in on and off reserve communities an asset;
  • Ability in a language other than English is an asset, including but not limited to Indigenous languages, Chinese (Cantonese or Mandarin), Punjabi, Spanish, Filipino;
  • A deep understanding of the national and provincial policy environment in which we conduct our work is an asset.
< class="what-entry-title">An extraordinary victory for citizenship equality>
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After three years and one hundred and twenty-seven days of work, we’ve defeated the second-class citizenship bill!

On Thursday, June 15, 2017 the House of Commons passed Bill C-6 which repeals many of the worst provisions of Bill C-24, including the provision that allowed for citizenship-stripping of dual citizens. Not only that, but the House passed it with a critical amendment that we were able to secure by working closely with Senators. This amendment restores the right to a fair hearing for people at risk of losing their citizenship under allegations of misrepresentation. Together, these are extraordinary victories for citizenship equality and due process.

The passage of Bill C-6 undoes changes made to Canada’s Citizenship Act in 2014 – changes that were discriminatory, anti-immigrant, and unCanadian. The law passed by the previous government – Bill C-24 – created two classes of Canadian citizens: those who have no citizenship in any other country (and are not eligible for citizenship in any other country) and whose Canadian citizenship is therefore guaranteed forever, and those who are dual citizens (or who are eligible for citizenship in another country), who could have their Canadian citizenship taken away.

In other words, the law was blatantly discriminatory. It drew a distinction between people based on where they were born and how they acquired their Canadian citizenship. Under the law, two individuals who committed the exact same crime could face very different penalties. Both could lose their liberty through a criminal sentence, but only one could lose their Canadian citizenship – the very basis of all of our other rights.

Emigrated from a country that doesn’t allow for dual citizenship? Check! Your Canadian citizenship is secure. Decided to retain your citizenship from your country of origin? Sorry, you’re vulnerable to having your Canadian citizenship stripped. Able to secure citizenship easily in another country because one of your parents was born there, as in England, or because you have an automatic right to it, as Jews do in Israel? You too could see your citizenship stripped and face banishment to a country you’ve never even set foot in. This was discrimination, baked right into the law that is supposed to treat us all as equals.

The old law was also discriminatory in another way. It required new citizens to declare their intent to continue residing in Canada, and made people vulnerable to having their citizenship stripped if for some reason they moved away after obtaining citizenship. Again, the law created two classes of Canadian citizens: those who could move abroad for work, school or family obligations without concern, and those who could not freely pursue these opportunities lest they find themselves stripped of their Canadian citizenship. While fostering a connection between newcomers to Canada and their new country is a worthy aim, all Canadians should be able to live their lives and pursue their dreams safe in the knowledge that their Canadian citizenship is secure.

The passage of Bill C-6 puts an end to this absurd state of affairs.

Your support is the only reason we won.

When the BCCLA and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) first pointed out all the ways Bill C-24 would undermine citizenship equality, our community stepped up. Famous faces like author Lawrence Hill and Margaret Atwood helped challenged the misinformation being spread by the government at the time by amplifying our message. People from across the country helped translate our work into 11 different languages and get this information into multi-lingual community newspapers from coast to coast.

You took this information and helped it go viral. This blog post announcing that Bill C-24 was coming into force was read more than 1,000,000 times in less than two weeks. You crashed our website. We were thrilled.

When we knew we’d have to fight simultaneously in the courts with a Charter challenge, your financial support made that possible. Through the support of more than 1000 donors, our crowdfunder blew past its original fundraising goal in under 24 hours. We’re a small organization and we absolutely could not have done that without you.

When the federal election rolled around, you made it clear that your vote would be in support of citizenship equality, pushing our new Prime Minister to declare on election night that “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.” More than 117,000 of you signed our petition calling on the leaders of every party to commit to ending second-class citizenship.

This victory has been an extraordinary story of community strength. Thank you.

In 2016, when the government tabled Bill C-6 which fixed some, but not all, aspects of Bill C-24, you didn’t stop there. Friends at Leadnow lent us their tools so you could more easily reach Senators. Thousands of you emailed and called Senators (relentlessly!) pushing them to restore the right to a fair hearing. They listened. We heard from Senators that their inboxes were flooded and their phones rang off the hook. You did that not once, but a BUNCH of times. Every time we told you that the substance of Bill C-6 was at risk, you sprang into action.

This sustained public pressure over multiple years, combined with expert testimony from BCCLA andCARL lawyers, and a pivotal decision by the federal court, were the recipe for success. With a strong theory of change and sustained community support, these are the kinds of victories for human rights and civil liberties that we can achieve together.

When government seeks to discriminate and violate our cherished right and freedoms the BCCLA will be there, and we know you will be too.

If you’re not already a member, sign up today! We are only strong because you stand with us.

< class="what-entry-title">Welcome Meghan McDermott, Counsel (Policy)>
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Please extend a huge welcome to Meghan McDermott, BCCLA Counsel (Policy). Meghan joined the BCCLA as staff counsel in March of 2017.

With a B.A. in philosophy from Concordia University, her compassion and curiosity drove her to study law at the University of Victoria so that she could collaborate with others to pursue law reform in the interest of enhancing social justice. She has an LL.M. from the University of Edinburgh where her studies focused on whether parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change have a responsibility to share the benefits of their forestry-related activities with local and Indigenous communities. Prior to joining the BCCLA she worked for many years as an advisor with the government of British Columbia, developing environmental and health policy and legislation. She has also provided legal services for the government of Ontario and interned as a legal analyst with the Dullah Omar Institute for Constitutional Law, Governance and Human Rights in South Africa.

When she isn’t working, Meghan can usually be found gardening or exploring the city with her dogs. She loves current affairs, arts and culture and volunteers as an executive with the board of Island Mountain Arts, a unique gallery and school of the arts in the Cariboo.