David Eby and Pivot Legal Society: restriction of access to city services and participation in civic committees

Re: David Eby and Pivot Legal Society: restriction of access to city services and participation in civic committees.

To: Frances J. Connell, Director of Legal Services, City of Vancouver

From: Gail Davidson, Executive Director LRWC

Date: 2006-11-24

We understand that by letter dated October 13, 2006 to David Eby, a lawyer working with Pivot Legal Society, a society advocating for indigent people in Vancouver, you directed that:

1. all requests from Pivot to communicate with [Vancouver] City Staff are to be made through Law Department lawyers; and,

2. he [David Eby] is free to communicate with elected representatives not personally involved in on-going litigation.

We understand that you or your department have also demanded that Mr. Eby withdraw from participation in two important committees, the VANOC Sectoral Table on Housing and the Urban Core Service Providers’ Coalition, by threatening withdrawal of the City if Mr. Eby remains a participant.

The sweeping restrictions that you seek to impose on the advocacy of Pivot and on Mr. Eby’s right to fully represent clients and to participate, as an individual and an advocate, in municipal government, do not have any legal justification. The provisions of the Professional Code of Conduct Handbook, referred to in your letter, have no application to the activities that you and the legal department seek to restrict. We are aware of no legal matters in which Mr. Eby has an interest that makes all employees of the City of Vancouver ‘clients’ of the City’s legal department such that opportunities for contact by Pivot or Mr. Eby would be different than that allowed to the general public. We are confident that when circumstances trigger such a relationship with individual employees, Mr. Eby and Pivot will conduct themselves in accordance with the demands of their professional duties.

As the legal representative of clients seeking information or services from, or remedies against the City of Vancouver, Mr. Eby has the right and duty to access city staff and services and to participate on advisory committees as an advocate. He cannot otherwise properly represent the interests of this clients.

The actions of the legal department set out above, appear to have been taken in reprisal for advocacy by Pivot and Mr. Eby on behalf of indigent people on politically sensitive issues, including homelessness and police misconduct.

Rights to equal access to the law, equal protection by the law, legal representation and the right to engage in human rights advocacy are all amply protected by Canadian law. All governments including the City of Vancouver must interpret and apply laws in accordance with these principles.

We bring your attention to these principles as articulated by the UN Principles on the Role of Lawyers1 and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders2. These internationally accepted statements of principle describe the particulars of rights guaranteed by binding international conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and national laws such as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Principles on the Role of Lawyers articulates the right of lawyers to engage in their professional duties and to enjoy personal rights, free from the type of interference created by your letter and the subsequent actions of people from the legal department.

16. Governments shall ensure that lawyers

a. are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation,

hindrance, harassment or improper interference; …

17. Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.

23. Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights…

The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders also imposes on all governments the duty to protect the right of everyone “to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms…”. (Article 1, 2) Participation by Mr. Eby in the committee mentioned is a specifically protected activity.

Article 8.1. Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others,

to have effective access, on a non-discriminatory basis, to participation in the government

of his or her country and in the conduct of public affairs.

LRWC respectfully requests you, as the legal representative of the City of Vancouver, to confirm that:

1. the restrictions set out in your October 13, 2006 letter are withdrawn; and,

2. the City of Vancouver will continue to participate in the VANOC Housing Sectoral Table and the Urban Core Service Providers’ Coalition with Mr. Eby as a member.