Vancouver (Canada) - Fasken Martineau, a leading international business law and litigation firm, announced today that it helped secure a major victory for Canadian human rights organization Pivot Legal Society, in a landmark lawsuit brought before the BC Supreme Court on behalf of a group of homeless Canadians.
The case, BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors (DWS) v City of Abbotsford, challenged three City of Abbotsford bylaws that have been used to displace the homeless population from public spaces throughout the city. This is the first time a group of homeless Canadians have challenged the constitutionality of how they are treated and displaced by government authorities or police. Fasken Martineau worked with Pivot on the case providing pro bono support to DWS. David Wotherspoon, a partner at Fasken Martineau’s Vancouver office, was lead counsel on the case working with Pivot.
The DWS argued that the City’s actions in displacing homeless people violated their rights under Section 2(c) and 2(d) (assembly and association), Section 7 (right to life, liberty, and security of the person), and Section 15 (equality) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In a ground-breaking decision, the BC Supreme Court’s The Honourable Chief Justice Hinkson struck down bylaws restricting the City’s homeless to set up shelters overnight in public spaces. They now have the right to erect shelters in public spaces between 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. the following day and sleep overnight in the shelters. Additionally, while the Court cannot tell the City how to legislate, the Chief Justice provided guidance on how a balanced and minimally impairing approach can be taken including designating specific lands for overnight camping, distinguishing non-developed parks and other public spaces from developed parks, and ensuring space exists in which the City’s homeless can sleep, rest, shelter, stay warm, eat, wash and attend to personal hygiene.
“This is a tremendous victory. I was extremely privileged to be able to devote my pro bono time to working on this case and helping those who have difficulty in accessing or navigating the justice system,” said Fasken Martineau’s David Wotherspoon, a senior litigator at the firm’s Vancouver office.
“Pivot owes its tremendous success today to the support of Fasken Martineau and David Wotherspoon. David is an integral part of our team and his litigation expertise is instrumental in our continued fight for the rights of homeless Canadians,” said Katrina Pacey, Pivot Legal Society’s Executive Director.
In 2014, four of Fasken Martineau’s lawyers were awarded the Pivot Legal Society Access to Justice Award presented to members of the bar who have shown exceptional dedication to advancing the cause of justice and ensuring that the voices of marginalized communities are heard and respected throughout the litigation process.
“Fasken Martineau is committed to providing pro bono hours to community organizations such as Pivot Legal Society that help improve the lives of people in need,” said William Westeringh, QC, Managing Partner of Fasken Martineau’s Vancouver office.
About Fasken Martineau
Fasken Martineau is a leading international business law and litigation firm. With more than 770 lawyers, the firm has offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal, Québec City, London, Paris and Johannesburg. For additional information, please visit the firm's website at www.fasken.com.