Access to justice for marginalized litigants

In 2007, Pivot filed a constitutional challenge to Canada’s prostitution laws on behalf Sex Workers United Against Violence (SWUAV), a group run by and for street-based sex workers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, along with Sheryl Kiselbach, a former sex worker who provides safety training to street-based sex workers. Before the case could go to trial, the federal government argued that the applicants did not have the right to challenge the laws, because neither Sheryl as an individual nor SWUAV as an organization were at risk of being charged criminally under the laws in question. The BC Supreme Court refused to grant Sheryl and SWUAV standing to bring the case, but the BC Court of Appeal partially reversed the decision. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ultimately determined that SWUAV should be able to challenge Canada’s prostitution laws and modified the test for granting public interest standing to make it easier for groups to bring cases on behalf of their members. The decision makes justice more accessible for all marginalized people seeking to bring human rights claims before the courts and ultimately, to enjoy the protections of the Charter.