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< class="what-entry-title">Welcome to our New Staff!>

Please join us in extending a warm welcome to our new team members!

Veronica Martisius, Articling Student

Veronica joined the BCCLA team in September 2019, after completing her JD at the University of Victoria. She was born and raised in Brantford, ON. Veronica comes from a strong line of Kanyen’kehá:ka (Mohawk) women and is a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River. She is equally proud of her Lithuanian, German, and British roots.

In 2016, after completing the Native Law Centre Summer Program at the University of Saskatchewan, she migrated to the West Coast to live and learn on the territories of the Lkwungen, Wyomilth, and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples. Not a day goes by that she does not reflect and give thanks for the immense privilege and responsibility to live as an uninvited visitor on Coast Salish homelands.

During her time at UVic, she served as co-chair and treasurer of the Indigenous Law Students Association, was a co-op student with the Indigenous Law Research Unit, and a participant of the first W̱SÁNEĆ law field course. Veronica received three peer nominated awards for her efforts to foster good relations and strengthen connections to community beyond the faculty of law.


Ryan Carter, Legal Administrative Assistant

Ryan joined the BCCLA as a Legal Administrative Assistant in 2019 after completing his MA in Political Science at the University of British Columbia where he specialized in energy politics. He wrote his thesis on the effect of energy insecurity on perceptions of Russian interference in postcommunist Europe. Prior to this, Ryan completed his BA in Political Science at the University of Calgary. Ryan moved from Calgary to Vancouver in 2018.

Ryan’s professional background includes criminal law, finance, client services, and more. A recent addition to Vancouver, he is involved with several community-focused organizations and regularly volunteers around the city. Ryan is passionate about informed debate, community dynamism, and fitness.

< class="what-entry-title">Five Reasons Why the Community Safety Act Should Never Come to Life in BC>
Door with sign saying Eviction Notice

The BC government passed the Community Safety Act in 2013 but it has never taken effect. The BC government recently reintroduced this troublesome Act by passing the Community Safety Amendment Act (Bill 13), which received Royal Assent on October 31st, 2019. BC’s Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has committed to implementing it in the near future to help “[p]eople living near ‘crack shacks’ and other dangerous nuisance properties.”[1]

If brought to life, occupants of a property, including homeowners, can be forced to vacate if a court finds that certain activities, which adversely affect the neighbourhood, have been occurring there. This process could be initiated by an anonymous complaint filed by a neighbour.

The BCCLA is staunchly opposed to this legislation for many reasons, and here are the top five:

1. The law is unnecessary.

It will circumvent laws with better procedural safeguards such as the Criminal Code and the Residential Tenancy Act, both of which already have provisions to deal with properties associated with criminal activities. The standard of proof required in getting a property closed is lower than what it would be in a criminal case.

2. The law will unjustly put people’s housing security at risk.

Anonymous complaints from neighbours could trigger an investigation by government officials and result in court orders targeting one or more occupants of the dwelling. Although the government keeps referring to “crack shacks” when defending the law, it can affect individuals and families whose activities are as benign as underage drinking or growing a cannabis plant that is publically visible. The habitual consumption of an “intoxicating substance” by a person of any age—even if they do not live on the property—can also be grounds for a complaint.

3. The law will disproportionately impact vulnerable, and often over-policed, communities.

In the spring, we joined a coalition of individuals and groups to draw the government’s attention to this problem, highlighting that Indigenous women and girls remain particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of state action, and to urge them to abandon it. In the context of growing racial tensions in BC, and throughout Canada, this law will open an avenue for targeted harassment driven by racism and other forms of prejudice. Many who are targeted in other provinces with similar draconian laws are “the more marginalized members of society,” and are not willing to get involved with the justice system due to previous bad experiences; they simply accept an eviction rather than returning to a courtroom.[1]

4. The law will be expensive to administer and the government has not been transparent about the costs.

This is why we have launched an FOI request to find out the public investment needed to create an office for a new Director of Community Safety and a team of officers to investigate a broad spectrum of complaints across the province. The high costs of this program is the key reason why the law hasn’t been implemented since 2013, [1] and we will be sure to let the public know the projected costs of this unnecessary law as soon as we find out.  We are concerned about setting up an unnecessary and expensive program that other jurisdictions like New Brunswick have started to de-fund.[2]

5. The law is unfair and unjust.

Any finding of guilt in a person’s past—no matter how long ago—can be used as evidence against them, or their friends or family members, if it relates to the alleged activities. Furthermore, if a person is found to not be criminally responsible, due to a mental disorder or other mental health issues, the court will still be allowed to draw negative conclusions about their current activities. No one should have their housing threatened because of a previous or ongoing disability.


[1] “I got to the point where I could pinpoint them watching my house’; Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods legislation marks 10 years”, Saskatoon Star Phoenix (online), June 22,2015, https://thestarphoenix.com/news/saskatchewan/i-got-to-the-point-where-i-could-pinpoint-them-watching-my-house-safer-communities-and-neighbourhoods-legislation-marks-10-years

[2] “Program against drug houses is a bust,”  Times Colonist (online), May 19, 2016, https://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/columnists/les-leyne-program-against-drug-houses-is-a-bust-1.2258473.

[3] “Program that let tipsters report neighbours cut back,”   The Daily Gleaner, August 24, 2019.

< class="what-entry-title">We’re hiring! Join us as our new Policy Director.>

The BCCLA is seeking a Policy Director to direct and develop the policy work of the association.

Working with the Executive Director, the Policy Director will provide leadership, management, and mentorship to the Policy team; advocating on behalf of the BCCLA, or as part of a coalition, policy and law reform issues; providing public education through speaking engagements, publications, and media commentary; and identifying, researching and developing new policy positions in response to emerging issues.

The successful candidate will work on a wide range of constitutional and administrative law issues to uphold rights in Canada. It is expected that the candidate will have the capacity and appetite to become a national‑level thought leader on the issues on which they work.

The BCCLA is committed to ensuring equity, diversity, and inclusion are significant considerations in our decision‑making, in our internal work, and in our work in the world. This is critical for BCCLA to act on our values and to achieve our fundamental mandate to uphold and advance civil liberties and human rights.

We encourage applications from members of communities that are marginalized or that experience structural discrimination, including those identifying as Indigenous, people of colour, members of non‑dominant ethnic, religious, linguistic, and/or cultural groups, women, (im)migrants/newcomers, people with (dis)abilities, working class people, persons of minority sexual orientations and gender identities, and we encourage applicants to self‑identify in their application. The BCCLA is committed to excellence, and recognizes that increasing the diversity of our staff, and especially our leadership, supports this objective.

The deadline for applications is December 15, 2019.

< class="what-entry-title">Belonging in BC: Giving Permanent Residents the Right to Vote>

Permanent Residents share much in common with citizens. They live, work, play, study, pay taxes, send their kids to schools, have access to healthcare coverage, and are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. According to the 2016 census, there were 421,935 resident immigrants in BC. Approximately 60,000 Permanent Residents call Vancouver – xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) & səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) territories – home. [1] This situation is comparable in other BC cities/territories. Despite their contributions to their communities, Permanent Residents are left without a voice, representation, and a diminished sense of belonging.

The provincial government has jurisdiction over municipal voting laws and sets the parameters that govern them. Several local municipalities and communities of the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, and Northern BC, have passed motions to have the BC government change its legislation to give permanent residents the right to vote in local elections. These commendable efforts have blazed the trail towards Motion B109. On the week of September 23, 2019, the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), councilor and mayors from across the province will have the historic opportunity to endorse Motion B109, a resolution seeking to strengthen democracy in the province.

The BCCLA encourages the endorsement of the resolution for the following reasons:

  • Enfranchising Permanent Residents with a municipal vote is long overdue. The right to vote is essential to one’s feeling of belonging and responsibility in a democratic society.
  • The road to citizenship can be long and barrier ridden. Giving Permanent Residents the right to vote now is compatible with their status as immigrants who permanently reside in BC.
  • Against the backdrop of declining voter turnout, the ability of Permanent Residents to vote may encourage broader civic participation with respect to municipal governance. Local governments will also be more accountable to the communities they serve as more residents will have a say in how public funds are spent and what bylaws are made on the issues affecting their daily lives.
  • BC has the chance to join the ranks of many enlightened jurisdictions across the world that already give Permanent Residents voting rights at the municipal level.

Over the last 150 years, the electoral system in Canada has evolved to give many communities and groups the right to vote, in recognition that these communities and groups should be valued participants in public decision-making processes. For example, voting rights have been extended to women, Chinese, South Asian, Japanese, and Indigenous peoples. The BCCLA believes that the right to vote ought to be extended to Permanent Residents with respect to municipal elections. To do so would ensure that local governments are continuing to strive for greater inclusivity in BC cities.

To learn more about Permanent Resident voting rights check out the Lost Votes campaign here.


[1] http://freshvoices.ca/campaign/lostvotesyvr/

< class="what-entry-title">Welcome New Staff!>

Over the summer we’ve been fortunate to welcome a talented group of new staff to continue to strengthen our litigation, community law, and operational support capacities. Please join us in extending a warm welcome to our new team members!

Megan Tweedie

Megan joined the BCCLA as Staff Counsel (Litigation) in 2019. She brings with her eight years of experience in private practice, focusing on labour and employment law, human rights, and privacy matters. Megan has represented clients at all levels of court in BC and at various administrative tribunals. She has also done extensive work providing pro bono legal services to people facing barriers to access to justice.

In 2008, when Megan was a law student at the University of Toronto, she received a Public Interest Fellowship to become the BCCLA’s first summer law student, an experience that cemented her interest in public interest law. Years later, she is thrilled to return to the BCCLA and is passionate about furthering the organization’s goals.

Jessica Magonet

Jessica joined the BCCLA as Staff Counsel (Litigation) in 2019. Before joining the BCCLA, she was a lawyer at Arvay Finlay LLP and spent two years clerking for the Honorable Madam Justice Karakatsanis at the Supreme Court of Canada. Jessica is a member of the Bar of British Columbia and Quebec. She graduated from McGill University in 2015, receiving degrees in civil law and common law, with a minor in cognitive science.

Jessica has been involved in the social and environmental justice movement for many years, and previously worked for Ecojustice and the Public Interest Law Clinic. She is the former Editor-in-Chief of the McGill International Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy. In 2016, she was named one of Canada’s Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25.

Carly Teillet

Carly joined the BCCLA as our Community Lawyer in September 2019. Carly is Métis from the Red River Métis community (Winnipeg) and the great-great-grand-niece of Louis Riel.

Carly was legal counsel for two Parties with Standing (Vancouver Sex Workers Rights Collective and the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society) in the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls. She has represented Indigenous clients in child protection and criminal matters, worked as the inaugural Gladue Lawyer for Legal Services Society of BC, and taught as an Adjunct Professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC. Carly was the inaugural articling student at the Indigenous Community Legal Clinic in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. She has written Gladue Reports for individuals in Provincial and Supreme Courts of British Columbia. Carly is a board member of Wish Drop-In Centre Society and Rise Women’s Legal Centre.

In addition to her experiential knowledge as a result of her cultural background, Carly has worked for and developed relationships with individual Indigenous clients, elders, families and communities across Canada for over a decade.

Jennifer MacNeil

Jennifer began working with the BCCLA as a contractor in 2018, and is now joining the organisation as Operations and Donor Relations Associate. Several years after completing a B.Ed specialising in Instrumental and Choral Music from the University of Victoria, her increasing interest in social and climate justice issues led her to complete a post-degree Certificate in Food Security from Ryerson University with a focus in the many intersections of food and gender. In addition to her work at the BCCLA, Jennifer also teaches music part-time at a Vancouver elementary school.

Since moving to Vancouver in 2017, she has been volunteering in her community as a children’s soccer coach, a pick leader for the Vancouver Fruit Tree Project, and an executive on her school’s parent advisory board.

< class="what-entry-title">We’re hiring! Join us as our new Executive Director.>
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The BCCLA is seeking someone to take on a key leadership role in one of the most vibrant and visible advocacy groups in the country as our new Executive Director (ED). 

The ED will develop organizational strategy, sound practices, and supportive relationships – both internally and externally – fostering cooperative and effective collaborations and coalitions that further the BCCLA’s mission.

The ED reports to the Board of Directors and is responsible for the successful leadership and management of the BCCLA, working to realize the organization’s goals as laid out in the 2020 – 2025 Strategic Plan. They provide overall direction and guidance to staff and oversee the BCCLA’s law reform, litigation, education, fundraising and operations program. They provide visionary leadership to the BCCLA to enable it to be the leading civil society organization upholding civil liberties and human rights in Canada, taking concrete, sustained and effective action to create change by bringing issues to light in the media, working in solidarity with frontline and grassroots activists, helping challenge unjust laws in courts, and advocating for policy change with elected officials.

We are seeking an ED who is a fearless and effective advocate for civil liberties and human rights. They are skilled in working in coalition with other organizations, and at being an effective ally. Their deep understanding of civil liberties and human rights at the grassroots level translates into an ability to build campaigns and initiatives that result in meaningful change.

We encourage applications from members of communities that are marginalized or that experience structural discrimination, including those identifying as Indigenous, people of colour, members of non-dominant ethnic, religious, linguistic and/or cultural groups, women, (im)migrants/newcomers,  people with (dis)abilities, working class people, persons of minority sexual orientations and gender identities, and we encourage applicants to self-identify in their application. The BCCLA is committed to excellence, and recognizes that increasing the diversity of our staff, and especially our leadership, supports this objective.

< class="what-entry-title">We’re hiring! Join us as our 2020 Summer Law Students!>
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The BCCLA is seeking summer law students who are passionate about working to uphold civil liberties and human rights across BC and Canada.

The full-time role offers an opportunity to be closely involved with BCCLA’s public interest advocacy work. Students will work in all program areas, including litigation, public education, research and outreach. The role carries a minimum 12-week period, up to a maximum of 14 weeks (to be discussed with successful candidates).

The BCCLA is a small team with big reach, and we want you to be part of our work. With a mandate that includes work on police accountability, democratic rights, patients’ rights, national security, and prisoners’ rights, we are one of the most vibrant and visible advocacy groups in the country.

The BCCLA is committed to building an inclusive and diverse workplace, and encourage applications from all qualified applicants. Indigenous and racialized people are strongly encouraged to apply. Applicants from traditionally underrepresented or marginalized groups are encouraged to self-identify, should they feel comfortable in doing so, in their cover letter or body of their email when submitting their application.

You can also help us find our next Summer Law Students by circulating the position in your networks! Share on Twitter and Facebook.

The deadline for applications is September 4, 2019. However, we will accept and evaluate applications on a rolling basis. Students with a strong interest in the BCCLA are encouraged to apply early.

< class="what-entry-title">We’re hiring a Supporter Engagement and Development Manager!>
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The BCCLA is seeking a Supporter Engagement and Development Manager who is passionate about using their skills to uphold civil liberties and human rights in Canada.

The full-time role requires a talented project manager who is ready to lead BCCLA’s grassroots donor fundraising, member relations efforts, and supporter database management. This role also currently supports issue campaigns and public education efforts in times of high intensity (but may not do so in the future).

The BCCLA is a small team with big reach, and we want you to be part of our work. With a mandate that includes work on police accountability, democratic rights, patients’ rights, national security, and prisoners’ rights, we are one of the most vibrant and visible advocacy groups in the country.

The BCCLA is committed to building an inclusive and diverse workplace, and encourage applications from all qualified applicants. Indigenous and racialized people are strongly encouraged to apply. Applicants from traditionally underrepresented or marginalized groups are encouraged to self-identify, should they feel comfortable in doing so, in their cover letter or body of their email when submitting their application.

You can also help us find our next Supporter Engagement and Development Manager by circulating the position in your networks! Share on Twitter and Facebook.

The deadline for applications is August 11, 2019. We anticipate holding interviews during the first week of September.

< class="what-entry-title">Farewell Message (sort of) from Micheal Vonn>
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After more than 15 years as the Policy Director of the BCCLA, I am leaving for a new opportunity. 

I have found the work of the BCCLA to be so immensely fulfilling, that it has been difficult to imagine even being tempted to be elsewhere.  The offer I could not refuse has come from PHS Community Services Society (aka: the Portland Hotel Society).  I will be PHS’s new CEO come Sept. 1st

I am thrilled to be joining ‘the Portland’, a legendary champion for marginalized people in harm reduction, low barrier housing, and health and social innovation.  The BCCLA has partnered with PHS on many important issues, including PHS’s historic win at the Supreme Court of Canada on supervised injection facilities.  I am smiling broadly thinking of all the powerful and productive partnering that we could do in the future to catalyze life-saving drug policy reform. 

My work for the BCCLA has been a labour of love since the word ‘go’.  I have been deeply enriched by my work with more people than I can possibly acknowledge in a space so small: from academics to activists across the country and internationally, in realms spanning a huge swathe of rights work from national security, to police accountability, privacy and surveillance, patients’ rights, freedom of expression and beyond.  I have been inspired by the work of both natural allies and unexpected alliances (police judo rocks!).  Thank you for your heart, for your fortitude, for your creativity. 

In my stead, I am excited to announce Policy Counsel Meghan McDermott will serve as the BCCLA’s Acting Policy Director. While there seems to be a bit of a cluster of folks heading off in exciting new directions, the BCCLA is firmly planted in its new strategic direction and wonderfully poised for onboarding new and vibrant staff. I will miss all the amazing people – colleagues, board members, volunteers, supporters and allies – who are the lifeblood of the association. 

But hey, I’ll only be 5 blocks away. And continuing the work we all share, only from a different angle.  I won’t be a stranger.  Promise.

– Micheal Vonn

< class="what-entry-title">A farewell message from our Executive Director, and new beginnings>
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Dear friends and supporters of the BCCLA,

This is a strange message to write. I feel both sadness and excitement for what lies ahead.

After nearly seven years at the BCCLA, I will be stepping down as Executive Director in September.

This morning, it was announced that I will be the new Executive Director of the Law Foundation of British Columbia. The Law Foundation’s mandate is to support access to justice across the province and to advance and promote a just society governed by the rule of law. Making the justice system accessible, especially to those who have the greatest barriers to access, is challenging and critical work. I am excited to join them in this work at a time when the Foundation is about to embark on a program of expanding access to poverty law services in communities around BC.

I am sad that this means that I will be leaving our wonderful team at the BCCLA.  While I will be leaving the BCCLA’s staff, I plan to join you, our supporters, in continuing to sustain the BCCLA’s work as a monthly donor and supporter.

Now is a great time for the BCCLA to transition to new leadership. We have just completed our first strategic plan, providing a strong foundation and direction for a new Executive Director to pursue. Thanks to our supporters, we are in a healthy financial situation. We have expanded our team to be able to do more, and to be able to do what we already do even better. In our Board and our staff, we have the sustained leadership that we need to carry us through this transition. We will begin our search for a new Executive Director immediately.

Together, we have accomplished so much in these past years. We won the right to assisted dying for people who are suffering intolerably – and when the government snatched that right away from many of those people through legislation, we challenged them again. We have struck down Canada’s cruel solitary confinement regime – a ruling that stands to come into effect this coming Monday – and we are continuing to fight in Parliament and the courts to make sure that the rights of prisoners are respected. We put an end to second-class citizenship through litigation and advocacy in Parliament. We continue to challenge the over-reach of Canada’s spying and national security agencies in court. We succeeded in pushing for new and robust anti-SLAPP legislation here in BC. We are on the verge of achieving our long-time goal of ensuring independent oversight of Canada’s powerful border police. And we are deepening our direct work with Indigenous communities that experience systemic discrimination by police and over-representation in the criminal justice system, to put an end to that injustice.

There is so much more exciting work to come. This fall we will fight our trial against the federal government in our assisted dying case. We will be in court to challenge unlawful spying by CSIS on community groups and Indigenous activists who are exercising their constitutionally-protected rights. As set out in our new strategic plan, we will expand our work on strengthening democratic rights, supporting democratic inclusion, and resisting the creep of authoritarianism. We will work to ensure that equity, diversity and inclusion are firmly integrated into our work. We will do our part to help pursue a just, equitable and durable reconciliation between Indigenous Nations and Canada – to put right the fundamental human rights violations that permeate the legal system in which we operate.

I want all of my fellow supporters of and donors to the BCCLA to know that I have deep trust in the team that we have assembled at the BCCLA, in our staff and our Board, to continue to carry out this work. Walking down the hall one moment this week, I saw a number of my colleagues working together animatedly in our meeting room, and I became emotional. These are people who deeply care about justice and about our goals. They give so much of themselves to our shared work. It inspires me all the time, and I know they will continue to inspire us with their dedication, their intelligence and their passion for a fairer society in the years to come. This transition in leadership, and the other new staff that we will soon welcome, present an opportunity to make the BCCLA even stronger and more successful than it is at present. I am truly excited for what is to come.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to lead Canada’s most effective human rights and civil liberties organization for this long. I thank the BCCLA’s staff, our volunteers, our members, our donors and our Board of Directors for the wonderful support and care that they have provided to me over the years. In particular, I thank our President, Lindsay Lyster, who is stepping down after effectively serving seven years in that role, whose steadfast partnership has made all the difference to me in my work. We have all been lucky to have her.

Finally, I want to thank very deeply all of the people who have contributed to our cases and our work – the witnesses, the prisoners and former prisoners, the people suffering in illness, the families and individuals who have advocated for fairness in law enforcement and fair treatment by our border police – everyone who tells their stories, often at great personal cost, to help advance the cause of justice. We could not do this work without you.

Sincerely,

Josh