A Tale of Two Protests…

♫ ‘Cause these things will change, can you feel it now?
These walls that they put up to hold us back will fall down
It’s a revolution, the time will come for us to finally win

We’ll sing hallelujah!
We’ll sing hallelujah! Oh…♫

Lyrics, music and recorded by Taylor Swift.

TLABC Rally in Robes Protest Poster

TLABC Rally in Robes Protest Poster


While the #OccupyVancouver (the movement’s twitter hash tag) goes to the Supreme Court of British Columbia again today for a resumption of the injunction hearing by the City of Vancouver, a different type of protest is just getting underway.

The two groups could not be more different. On one hand, we have protestors occupying tents on the grounds of the Vancouver Art Gallery, issuing a list of 28 “Demands” (see: Occupy Vancouver Demands Released) and exercising their rights to a (hopefully) largely peaceful protest. These Occupy Vancouver protestors are a motley crew and the general consensus is that they have largely failed at presenting a united, cogent and persuasive list of suggested changes that address their list of demands.

The second group is not camping outside in the rain. They are not holding ceremonial fires or jostling journalists. They are coordinating a province-wide withdrawal of (adult) legal aid duty counsel services (criminal).

The schedule for the withdrawal of services is as follows:

  • No one will accept a duty counsel referral for January 1-7, 2012.
  • No one will accept a duty counsel referral for February 1-14, 2012.
  • No one will accept a duty counsel referral for March 1-21, 2012.
  • No one will accept a duty counsel referral for April 1-30, 2012.

The Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia is coordinating this protest through its Legal Aid Action Committee. Lawyers who support the aim of restoring legal aid funding are asked to wear a ribbon demonstrating their support for the cause. Azool Jaffer-Jeraj, President of the TLABC has issued a letter that provides further details and contact information.

Of course, when lawyers are involved with a protest, ethical issues abound. We will see how the court, the public and those accused of offences view the withdrawal of legal aid services.

Since all protests now have a social media aspect, I guess we will have to develop a twitter hash tag for this protest. I suggest #BCLegalAid. One thing seems to be clear; when lawyers protest, it is indeed a revolution…


  1. I know this was posted last week (Nov. 16), but Dave, would we really say that “the two groups could not be more different” now? Consider the following:
    – Last week the Occupy Vancouver movement had not migrated to the courthouse steps (on Nov. 21 in response to the first injunction);
    – Last week the Hon. Associate Chief Justice Mackenzie had not issued oral reasons (on Nov. 22) in a second injunction application, this time by the BC Attorney General, and adapted the reasons of the 1983 BCGEU picketing case where the dispute was with an executive branch of government; and
    – Last week the court hadn’t found courthouse step protesters contemptuous, not for preventing access to the courts, but (in part) for dominating the public areas around the courts, and finding that (in a near verbatim reference to para. 25 of the Attorney General’s application “Assertions of dominance and control of public institutions are by their very nature contemptuous of the courts and the citizenry.”
    So on Nov. 30, 2011, at 1 pm how true will it be that “the second group is not camping outside in the rain”? I haven’t seen sun in the forecast!
    It may screw up the faces of some to see it this way, but a protest is a protest is a protest, and whether you’re putting on 350 year old costume (it is said that the bar of England went into mourning on the death of Charles II in 1685 and never came out) or dressed in torn jeans and lighting a can fire, those are trappings and window dressing. Crying out “NO MORE, RESTORE” has a lot more in common at a fundamental level with the gritty and rumbustious occupiers, whether or not there is a lawyerly ethical risk in acknowledging that.
    Oh, and for my part, I think the hashtag #Battle4LA has a certain ring to it.

  2. Nate:

    By the statement “The two groups could not be more different” I was referring to the fact that the lawyer’s protest is focused on one issue, it is lead by a steering group, it has clearly outlined the steps that they are taking to try to bring about change and it is taking care to keep its communications on message and focused.

    Yes the protests are on the courtroom steps. However, the lawyers, I think, will not be camping out in the rain overnight.

    William Drayton said: “Change starts when someone sees the next step.”

    For my part, I agree that you have to start with the vision of what you want the future to be. But in today’s society, in order to bring about that change you have to embark on a path of change -you have to persuade people and help them see not only the goals that you have but the steps that must be taken to get there. You have to be organized, not allow someone else to frame your message and stay the path.

    My issue with the #Occupy movement is that they almost intentionally set out to alienate the 99% – the very same people who would be necessary to bring about the change that they desired. They were unfocused, abrasive, aggressive and they went off in a zillion different directions all at the same time.

    I am hopeful that the lawyers do bring about the change that they envision in the area of legal aid funding. As John Lennon said:

    You may say I’m a dreamer,
    but I’m not the only one,
    I hope someday you’ll join us,
    and the world will be as one.



  3. Congratulations, Dave: you’ve just made the 11,000th comment on Slaw. Whew!

  4. Simon:

    Oh wow…perhaps I should go out and buy a lottery ticket or such!

    Congrats Simon for creating such a wonderful place to have such in-depth discussions that are the norm here!




  5. I take your points, Dave: about the relative precision of demanding access to justice through increased legal aid versus the nebulous demands of the Vancouver Occupiers; and also about the practical importance of a path.
    I also now see sun in the forecast by the way!
    You will get no quarrel from me over our shared hope that legal aid receives the attention it so sorely needs. I only wondered if there were not some benefit in seeing how two seemingly different groups, “occupiers” and trial lawyers, share some things in common… not a plan or strategy, obviously, but the spirit of protest and a theme (since I suppose it is only generally expressed among Occupiers) of backlash against authorities that perpetuate, or at least fail to effectively and consistently address, the desperate conditions among society’s most vulnerable. Even if little else (in terms of cohesive message, for example) can be taken as similar, I see a continuation of energy between Occupy and the battle for legal aid, albeit more refined, eloquent, concise, pragmatic, and persuasive in the latter, whereas that energy is chaotic, un(or mis?)directed, angry and desperate in the case of the former.
    I really hope these comparisons don’t detract from the message of tomorrow’s demonstration, however. It is very difficult to get attention for legal aid, and the pitfalls of a poorly funded system, while seen clearly by judges, lawyers and those who fall into legal troubles, are unseen to many others who stand at a distance to the justice system. I hope the dramatic contrast of gowned lawyers protesting in the same place as last week’s Occupiers, will earn public attention in ways that more cerebral initiatives like the Public Commission on Legal Aid and judges’ speeches cannot seem to. I hope that this protest (#battle4LA) will not merely be eloquent, but also energized enough to be heard.