Pivot Legal Society - Equality Lifts Everyone


Pivot events shine light on access to justice challenges

On paper, we all have rights.  Since the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted 30 years ago, those rights include freedom of conscience, expression, assembly, democratic rights, the right to life, liberty, security, rights on arrest and detention, mobility rights and the right to equality before the law.
In the last couple of weeks, we hosted two very different events, each exploring the issue of rights and access to justice.  Both shone a light on the deep disconnect that exists between formal rights and the practical ability to exercise those rights- particularly for members of marginalized groups.
The first event, a Hip Hop show we called F*in Rights, was a high-energy evening  focused on bringing young people together to have fun while learning about their legal rights.
Along with unbelievable performances by local hip hop artists including, Banyen Roots, DJ Su Comandante, Ndidi Cascade and Conscience, the event featured five new legal education videos produced by Pivot in conjunction with young filmmakers from Capilano University. We wanted to make these videos because we realized that young people involved with the criminal justice system or the child welfare system are often asked to navigate complex legal and administrative structures that most adults would find overwhelming. The young people in the audience were happy to have the information, but as we watched the response to the videos at the Hip Hop show, it became clear that even armed with reliable, up-to-date information it would be a real challenge for the most youth, and particularly youth in crisis, to navigate the systems discussed in the videos.

Check them out and share them with the young people in your life:
Police and private security
Criminal records
Income assistance
Child welfare and family law
The second event was called “Gender and Justice”, and was the most recent in a social justice dialogue series Pivot has been organizing with SFU Woodward’s Community Engagement Office over the last years.  I was amazed at the turn out on a rainy Tuesday evening. The 350-seat theater was nearly at capacity. The forum was moderated by the CBC’s Kathryn Gretzinger and featured retired BC Supreme Court Judge Donna Martinson. She delivered a powerful talk entitled “Why the pursuit of equality for women still matters”.  Throughout her presentation she reflected what has and what has not changed in the 40 years since she graduated from law school. The keynote address was followed by presentations from women working in feminist organizations as well as feminists from the legal and academic community. Together they painted a picture of a situation where women’s equality may be guaranteed in law, but not on the ground, especially for indigenous women, women of colour, poor and working-class women and single mothers.
If you didn’t make it out to the event, I invite you to watch the webcast here.
Both of these events were inspiring and demonstrated the the huge amount of work that is going on to bridging the gulf between formal rights and people’s experiences with the justice system. Both events also reaffirm a core element of Pivot’s approach to social change- for law reform work to make a meaningful difference in marginalized people’s lives, it must be grounded in the experiences and material realities of those it is meant to serve.