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Open letter to David Eby and the BC Civil Liberties Association

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2010 Olympics

Reposted from texts for nothing:

Open letter to David Eby and the BC Civil Liberties Association

As a BCCLA member and a friend and ally of the anti-Olympic protesters, I was extremely disappointed to hear about David Eby’s comments to the media regarding Saturday’s protest:

David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said he was “sickened” by images of Black Bloc members smashing windows and tossing newspaper boxes into the streets.

Eby, who’s been outspoken against what he considers police intimidation of Olympic dissidents, said protesters were prepared for civil disobedience, such as sit-down demonstration to block an intersection.

Eby said there was a hint that the protest would turn violent when his group was asked by a faction of the protesters not to send legal observers to the march, saying they were worried they’d been infiltrated by police and could have their video documentation used as evidence in court.

This is completely unacceptable for exactly the reasons outlined by Lawrence A. Hildes, a member of the U.S. National Lawyers Guild whom I saw at two separate anti-Olympic protests in the past few days.

I don’t expect Eby or the BCCLA to condone the black bloc’s actions. But as Lawrence Hildes says, it’s not the job of either Eby or the BCCLA to decide which protesters are “good” and which are “bad” — it’s their job to ensure that the civil liberties of all protesters, peaceful or not, are protected. Talk of being “sickened” by a few broken windows protects no one’s rights; on the contrary, it lends legitimacy to the authorities’ ongoing efforts to repress dissent by sowing division among the dissenters. It also raises questions about the ability of the BCCLA to provide adequate and unbiased legal counsel to protesters who face charges over acts of civil disobedience.

This problem is compounded by Eby’s decision to reveal that some protesters asked BCCLA legal observers not to attend Saturday’s protest. Not only could that information be extremely damaging for those who are facing charges related to the protest, but clearly those who sent the email had placed a certain amount of trust in the BCCLA in matters like that. It’s no secret that there was at least some communication between anti-Olympic activists and the BCCLA in the months leading up to the Games, and it was the BCCLA’s phone number that was circulated to protesters so they’d know who to call for legal representation in case of arrest. (It speaks volumes that the Olympic Resistance Network, which did not even organize Saturday’s protest, has begun distributing a different number instead.) I have no idea whether Eby’s statement was a violation of attorney-client privilege or of BC’s Canons of Legal Ethics, but I do know that it was a shameful and profoundly disrespectful breach of trust.

I have a great deal of respect for the work that the BCCLA and David Eby personally have done over the years, Olympic-related and otherwise, and I hate to see their reputations tarnished. Nor do I want to undermine the Olympic-related work that the BCCLA still has ahead of it — like holding the RCMP accountable for the fact that many riot cops did not display their badge numbers on Saturday. But so far at least thirteen people in this province have faced charges over their opposition to the Olympics, in a climate of intense official and popular hostility to their views. They — and all of us who confront the threat of repression when we choose to dissent — deserve better.

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Eby Response

I agree with both Larry and dawn.  Can someone from the Vancouver Media Co-op Contact David Eby and post his video reply alongside Larry's video.  A point-counterpoint dialog would be very informative.  Also, I don't think BCCLA speaks for everyone in the Vancouver legal support community. Even more informative would be a spread of viewpoints from legal support groups--and, perhaps some prisoners?  I am staying tuned.  Good work, VanMediaCoop!



Thank you so much for this post! I heard him saying this and worse to some reporters just before the Autonomous Tent Village occupation, and tried to talk to him about it personally. But I'm glad to see this public critique of his behavior--which it seems to me goes against what any civil liberties lawyer, on their own premises, would do in such a situation. Shame shame shame.


I too, would like to know what David Eby has to say about this. Where is the solidarity people? No wonder we end up with the politicians we do, if no-one can co-operate and respect other people's actions when they are for the same cause. David and BCLA should have been out there speaking for those young people.....not bad mouthing certain elements of the Olympic Resistance. What's up David?t

Open Letter to David Eby

I am not at all surprised to find the BCCLA joining the attack upon Olympic Resistance and defending HBC,  VANOC and police repression. Let us not forget in 1995, it was BCCLA who collaborated against the Secwepemc Sundance Camp at Gustafsen Lake while under siege and threat of being murdered by the RCMP at the urging of Ujjal Dosanjh, then BCNDP AG, Minister of Human Rights, and the primary paymaster of BCCLA then stacked with NDP accomplices in the outrages perpetrated against the Gustafen protesters. No surprise either that the Games Security leadership  should include a policeman involved with these police crimes at Gustafsen, operating in tandem with the 'peoples champions' BCCLA against Olympic Resistance once again.  Just as at Gustafsen, when the police crisis management team asked: "did you find someone that can help us with a smear and disinformation campaign?" BCCLA comes running.

eby not complicit in gustafsen

while i agree the ndp is .. eby is not .. if you care to check it out


good stuff! thanks for writing this clear-headed letter

it burns...

I'm glad I washed the BCCLA number off my arm... Maybe it was memories of the Gustafson Lake standoff that made it burn... they sold the activists out there as well...

Eby's respons on has already posted Eby's response (in video):

bex apostoli

i think many of you are losing sight of the fact that civil disobedience is only effective in so far as it achieves the aims of the movement it seeks to endorse. the senseless violence and wreckless actions of the black bloc members did more to endanger the solidarity, progress and current triumphs of constructive social change in vancouver in ONE day than could be done by a million statements by Eby or the BCCLA dissasociating the legitimate activist movement from the ignorant, selfish and STUPID actions of violent dissenters. shame on them for disregarding the aims of the whole for the sake of their childish, hypocritical and shortsighted views.


Judging by the "fruits" of

Judging by the "fruits" of the Black Bloc's efforts Saturday one starts to wonder who these people are really working for.

It's always the same result, give the police the pretext to come down hard on ALL DISSENT.

You say you don't think we should "infight" but these actions not only discredit the entire activist movement they also endanger peaceful protesters.

Talk about sabotaging an entire movement.  I understand and share your frustrations but if we're going to be successful this is probably the worse tactic possible.

Now even "liberals" are calling for the heads of all protesters.

This is a media and PR war , it's almost as if these people are trying to fuck it up.


eby mostly spot on

 i think it speaks wonders, when you actually watch the clip of Eby, to hear the rapturous applause when Eby speaks of drawing lines.  suggesting the bay be burned to the ground or its executives kidnapped and murdered as well as attacks against bicycle cops on the sidelines.  i'll admit that his use of the word "peace officers" was ill delivered, but i believed his message to be spot on.  the right loses sight and lacks empathy when it sees marginalized groups.  it does not see the humanity and the stories behind individuals.  it does not see the systemic oppression and real people pay a human and tragic cost.  we can recognize the police as a tool and symbol of the rich protecting their system.  but i for one value human rights, and will never endorse and have a duty to speak out against inhumane treatment..  for an effective movement, tactics need to foster a connection between humans, and yeah, cops are human too (heresy!).  i do not want to be part of any change that will just see repression flipped upside down.and yeah the mainstream media should not be a marker of success, but people still need to be reached...who does that reach and what progress will be made?  and for shit's sake, eby did not defend the bay and "attack" the resistance.  that's some kind of black and white geoge bush with us or with the terrorist logic.

BCCLA represents all citizens

" it’s their job to ensure that the civil liberties of allprotesters, peaceful or not, are protected."

Actually, it's more than that.  It's their job to ensure that the civil rights of all citizens of BC are protected, whether they are protestors or not.  This includes anyone who may have been harmed by the actions of the Black Bloc.  Eby was absolutely within his rights to criticize the actions of the Black Bloc, and as someone who is disheartened at the damage this is giving to the reputation of the  larger movement, I'm glad he did.  


"It's their job to ensure

"It's their job to ensure that the civil rights of all citizens of BC are protected, whether they are protestors or not."

You're confusing the BCCLA with the police.

Come to think of it, so is the BCCLA.

RE: "legal support" and "trust/confidentiality" issues

This is a repost of a response I wrote to a friend who posted the original article on her social networking page:

The article assumes that the BCCLA was the legal counsel of the Heart Attack protesters. As far as I know, it wasn't. To my knowledge, the BCCLA (and the Legal Observer program) were not set up to defend protesters in the event of criminal charges. They were charged with upholding the civil liberties of everyone and monitoring the lawful execution of police/security procedure and interaction with the public. Contrary to what the article mentions, the BCCLA is supposed to advocate for the fair trial of those arrested, yet it is in no way beholden to represent them in court or provide legal counsel past ensuring their Charter guarantees.

The assertion(specified later down in the debate) that because the BCCLA did not clearly state limits to the “legal protection” they would provide protesters, they are somehow bound to act in the protesters’ legal interests is laughable. The BCCLA defend the civil liberties of all; this does not preclude them from making judgment calls on who is “good” or “bad”. A lawyer can condemn murder (or even a specific instance of murder) and still defend somebody accused of murder (or even that specific instance of murder). A lawyer can also choose to stop representing a client (or providing “legal support”) for a variety of reasons. Of course, this is irrelevant regarding the main issue: at no point (to the best of my knowledge) was there any contractual agreement between the BCCLA and the larger community of dissenters in Vancouver (including the alleged criminal protesters) to acquire and retain legal counsel. There was only the assistance provided through the Legal Help Line which was heavily qualified (IOW, it wasn’t a carte blanche to provide legal support for any protester under any circumstances).

Since there was no agreement, there is no attorney-client privilege (as the article and the interview both hint at). Lawrence Hildes and the NLG may consider themselves the “legal arm of the movement” but this doesn’t extend to David Eby and the BCCLA. The NLG may have attorney-client privilege with the Black Bloc, but, again, this doesn’t extend to the BCCLA. Consequently, any communication between the two parties is not privileged and its dissemination is subject to the discretion of either party. That information may be damaging to the legal case of the arrested members of the Black Bloc, but the BCCLA is under no obligation (legal or otherwise) to withhold it. ...

The article also maintains that the BCCLA admitting it was asked not to attend the protest constitutes a “shameful and profoundly disrespectful breach of trust”. Putting aside the previously addressed issues of trust, the BCCLA admitted it was asked not to attend the protest in response to criticism about not performing its duties (watching security forces and impartially documenting their actions). What was it supposed to do? Was it supposed to remain silent and let the Legal Observer program receive inaccurate and unfounded criticism?

Oh yeah, the above are my own personal views and in no way represent David Eby or the BCCLA.

Utter nonsense

The immediately preceding post is utter nonsense.

A lawyer can condemn murder (or even a specific instance of murder), but he or she can't denounce their own client, or reveal communications that might help to convict them. And when a lawyer chooses to stop representing a client, the ethics of the legal profession are very clear that the lawyer must do nothing and say nothing to damage the legal position of their ex-client, or express an opinion of belief about their ex-client's guilt.

By offering assistance to the demonstrators through the Legal Help Line the BCCLA was offering to enter into a solicitor-client relationship with any demonstrator who was arrested and needed legal counsel - regardless of whether that demonstrator was going to be represented by another lawyer at trial, and regardless of the particular charge against the person. That offer would be accepted as soon as any demonstrator called and asked for legal advice or assistance. It was not a "heavily qualified" offer. It was never represented to the demonstrators that the Legal Help Line was available to them only if the BCCLA considered them "good" demonstrators.

But regardless of whether there was a solicitor-client relationship the BCCLA is not supposed to be an agent of the cops. Their role is not to denounce those who are arrested but to see that their civil liberties are not violated. They are not there to police the behaviour of the demonstrators, nor to pass judgment on them.

As for the BCCLA being asked to stay away from the demonstration, there was no need to disclose this communication. In fact, disclosing it after some demonstrators had been arrested put their legal defence in jeopardy. There is no obligation on lawyers or legal associations to rat on people they are supposed to be giving legal assistance to simply in response to questions from outsiders. If absolutely necessary, the BCCLA could have said they had good reasons for not attending the demonstration but that they did not want to say anything further, as the matter was before the courts. That would have been an ethical and responsible position to take.

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