When everything is ‘unprecedented,’ it’s tough to choose just a few highlights for an Around Town column after taking a two-month summer break (which was very pleasant).
Thus I have just decided to focus on several law-related stories, news of which managed to penetrate my semi-avoidance of media:
- Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver
- Delta Hospice Society appeal
- Mayor’s proposed bubble zone
- Critique of Law Society treatment of Judge Begbie
A proposed class-action lawsuit filed in late August claims that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver covered up systemic abuse and silenced survivors.
In an August 28 CBC News story, Rhianna Schmunk wrote:
A woman who claims she was assaulted as a child at a Catholic elementary school in Vancouver is suing the local archdiocese for perpetuating and covering up decades of alleged systemic abuse by priests, bishops and other members of its clergy, forcing survivors into silence in order to protect their own.
The proposed class-action lawsuit filed this week said the Archdiocese of Vancouver not only knew for years about allegations of systemic sexual, physical and psychological abuse, but “fostered a culture” of misconduct and actively buried complaints filed against the clergy.
“The Archdiocese was aware of the abuse and allowed the abuse to continue . . . This was especially true in instances of sexual abuse,” the claim reads.
The specific claims in the lawsuit have not been proven in court and the archdiocese has not filed a legal response. The Archdiocese of Vancouver has admitted clergymen at the institution were involved in sexual abuse.
The B.C. Supreme Court claim is the first class-action lawsuit filed against the archdiocese since the district released its own report on clergy sexual abuse in November, confirming at least 36 cases of misconduct dating back to the 1950s.
If the claim succeeds, the lead plaintiff’s lawyer said, dozens of survivors could be entitled to compensation from the archdiocese.
Go here for the full story.
Under the leadership of Archbishop Michael Miller the archdiocese has been proactive in dealing with the situation. It released a Media Statement About Class Action Lawsuit August 27:
Beginning in late 2018, the Archdiocese of Vancouver – working with victims/survivors and independent investigators – conducted a thorough review of historic files relating to sexual abuse by clergy.
Our aim was to reach and help more victims/survivors, address past wrongs and to show more transparency. To the extent permitted by Canadian law, we have shared this journey with the public.
One of the main reasons we have spoken so publicly about sexual abuse by clergy is our desire to reach out to victims/survivors. Our message has been delivered at Masses, in the Church’s newspaper, on our website and through other media. The reason we have pushed forward with publication of names and photos of perpetrators, where permitted by Canadian law, is to reach out to other people who have suffered sexual abuse.
When the specific person named in this court case contacted us, in January of 2019, our immediate concern was twofold: to offer help and to protect other people. They received a prompt response from us and immediate counselling as well as the suggestion that they make a report to the police.
To protect other individuals, we also sought immediate assurances from the accused priest’s Order that he was no longer in ministry. The Order advised that the priest was infirm and not active in any ministry work. They also confirmed that there had been no complaints ever received about him, including the incidents from the 1970s reported in this court case.
At the end of the review process, in November 2019, we hired two non-Catholic lawyers, to conduct a legal review of any and all sexual abuse by clergy in Vancouver. As well, we have instituted a 24-hour/7-day per week phone line (604-363-7338) to an independent counselling service, to give victims/survivors access to more rapid and complete support services.
We cannot make any further comments about this case as it is now before the courts. But we hope the attendant publicity will help give any other victims/survivors the confidence to come forward and get the help they deserve.
The CBC News article recognized the change in Catholic policy over the years:
Pope Francis abolished the church’s decades-old policy of secrecy in December, making it acceptable – though not mandatory – to report claims of abuse to secular law enforcement officials. The Catholic Church has been rocked by abuse scandals for the better part of 20 years, since allegations of rampant misconduct were reported out of Boston in early 2002.
The Archdiocese of Vancouver said it commissioned its own 2019 report on clergy sexual abuse in order “to reach and help more victims/survivors, address past wrongs and to show more transparency.”
The Delta Hospice Society has had its provincial funding cut and has endured considerable public opprobrium for its determination to resist euthanasia.
But it recently won a significant battle, as an August 20 article by Agnieszka Ruck in The B.C. Catholic points out:
The B.C. Court of Appeal has agreed to hear the Delta Hospice Society case after the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the society must not go ahead with a planned vote and meeting to discuss becoming a Christian organization.
The lower court had ruled in June that the society did not act in good faith when it launched a mail-in vote proposing changes to its constitution, or when it accepted some membership applications and denied others without explanation.
But the society, which runs a small 10-bed hospice in Delta, responded by appealing that decision. In a press release August 17, it said the society has been “mistakenly” treated as a public institution, not a private one. Board president Angelina Ireland said private associations in Canada are free to choose members who support their values.
On the national level, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada executive vice president David Guretzki just posted a short video urging supporters to contact their MPs as the Liberal Party is about to introduce new and even broader euthanasia legislation in the fall session of Parliament.
Expanding bubble zone
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart isn’t happy about the loud preachers in the West End, and he has a solution – a bubble zone.
He prefaced his September 2 ‘Mayor’s Statement on Anti-2SLGBTQ+ Preacher’ tweet by saying:
The anti-2SLGBTQ+ preaching that has been occurring in the Davie Village is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. I’m hearing from the community and working to put in place policies to address the harm that has been caused. Hate has no place in Vancouver.
The statement concludes with these words: “Action is needed.”
Stewart was responding to an August 22 skirmish in which one man suffered a broken leg after confronting street preachers at Thurlow and Davie. Many in the West End characterize the preachers’ amplified messages as homophobic and Islamophobic. The preachers say they are just sharing the gospel
Most media reports were biased in favour of Justin Morisette, whose leg was broken. News 1130 did better than most. Here is a portion of their August 25 report:
A street preacher [Dorre Love] facing charges after a violent interaction over his anti-gay messaging in Vancouver’s West End is speaking out.
The man accused of attacking Sportsnet 650’s Justin Morissette, who was attempting to stop him from spreading homophobic messages, has taken to YouTube to share his side of the story, claiming he was “assaulted” first when Morissette tried to take his microphone away Saturday night.
“And he stopped and he assaulted me. And if you see the size of this guy, if you see the size of this guy, you will laugh. You will laugh at the fact they put me in jail,” Dorre Love says in the video.
Love says police have confiscated his gospel preaching booth, speakers and camera, as well as his phone.
“They took my speakers, y’all. They say it’s evidence. The only thing that can exonerate me is on the camera. The camera shows this guy assaulting me,” he continues.
Morissette, who works for our sister station, said he was furious when he saw two people – one being Love – setting up at Thurlow and Davie streets near where he lives. He called their messaging bigoted, hateful, and homophobic, and said he had to do something.
“It’s no surprise that that’s where they’re setting up to do that,” Morissette said of the location the group set up in. The West End is home to Vancouver’s LGBTQ neighbourhood.
“It happened to be me who stepped up and said, ‘You are not welcome in this community to be saying these things. Pack your things and go somewhere else,’” Morissette recalled of the confrontation. “They refused to do that. I asked them if they were going to stay if they would at least turn the volume down because I really can not stress enough how obscenely loud these speakers are. You can hear them for blocks, and blocks, and blocks.”
Morissette said he grabbed the microphone and refused to give it back. It was following this that he said a man “wrenched my leg against his until my tibia and fibula snapped, broke and my knee dislocated.
Go here for the full story.
A September 3 CBC News story suggests that the mayor’s plan for a bubble zone may have expanded to cover the whole city:
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said he is looking into “innovative” legal solutions to stop anti-gay preachers from spreading hateful messages in the city.
One idea, he said, is to create what he called a “bubble zone” to prevent them or anyone else from spreading hate.
“Which is kind of like a protected area that’s protected by something like a peace bond,” Stewart explained.
“It’s come to my attention that these preachers now are not just in the West End and on beaches, they’re also at Joyce SkyTrain station, at Commercial Drive.
“So, I’m widening my look at how perhaps we can protect the entire city against this type of hatred.”
I doubt there is a tremendous amount of sympathy in the Vancouver church for the street preachers. An article by Randy Murray on the Anglican diocesan website and Laura-Lynn Thompson’s sympathetic video interview with Dorre Love represent two ends of the spectrum; I suspect most would prefer that the preachers and the debate would just go away.
Whether their message amounts to hatred or not – and they have not been charged with hate crimes – the street preachers are creating a disturbance where they are not wanted. It’s hard to see how their tactics could lead anyone to their point to view.
However, freedom of speech is an important right, as is freedom of religion. And we have the bubble zones around the abortion clinics to show us how unjust even a much more restricted bubble zone can be (see this story about Mary Wagner).
It is also disturbing to see the bias displayed in media coverage. Writing on the ARPA Canada website September 8, Levi Minderhoud described the treatment of another street preacher, David Lynn, who arrived in town just a week or two after the Love / Morisette altercation:
Last year on Fall Tour we touched on pastor David Lynn’s story, how he was criminally charged for preaching in Toronto’s LGBTQ2+ neighbourhood. Although the criminal charges were eventually dropped as unfounded, Pastor Lynn continues to face strong opposition today.
That opposition was made crystal clear by recent media headlines sparked by his preaching in Vancouver. Major news organizations – CBC News, Global News, CTV News, CHEK News and News 1130 – all released headlines about how the “anti-gay” and “anti-LGBTQ2+” preacher was preaching “hate” and “anti-gay rhetoric.” Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart even proposed a “bubble zone” that would exclude street preachers from the city.
All of these articles lack any reference to what David Lynn actually preached. Not a single quote substantiates the label of “anti-gay” or the accusation that he is targeting LGBTQ2+ people. Not one. Each article simply repeats that label and that accusation, as if repetition makes it true.
Go here for the full story and a 27-minute video of Lynn preaching and leading worship in the West End.
Critique of Law Society
‘Law Society of BC rebuked for toppling Judge Begbie’ – a September 5 story by Ian Mulgrew in The Province began with these words:
While the rest of the world pulls down statues of colonial white men, two B.C. legal icons want to restore lustre to the province’s first chief justice and denounce the Law Society of B.C. for tarnishing his image.
Retired B.C. Supreme Court Justice Tom Berger, a giant of Indigenous jurisprudence, and scholar Hamar Foster, University of Victoria professor emeritus, slammed the legal regulator for erasing the legacies of Sir Matthew Begbie.
Three years ago, the law society removed his statue from the foyer of its Vancouver building and eliminated other hallmarks such as the little bronze “Begbies” that honour a “lifetime contribution of the truly exceptional in the legal profession” and changing “Begbie” as the code word used to trigger safety procedures.
Berger and Foster have filed a resolution to be debated at the society’s annual general meeting October 6, demanding a review of its treatment of Begbie.
Go here for the full story.
Stephen Hume was very positive about Begbie when he wrote about him as part of The Vancouver Sun’s ‘Canada 150’ series of profiles of 150 noteworthy British Columbians:
British Columbia’s first chief justice is often called “The Hanging Judge.” In fact, Matthew Begbie was progressive, lenient, championed the rights of indigenous and other minorities exposed to racism, and didn’t hesitate to speak truth to power – in his case, colonial authorities. . . .
When the family settled in the Channel Islands in 1826, Begbie excelled in languages and enjoyed mathematics, music and art. He attended Cambridge University. He was a comfortable lawyer when in 1858 he was asked to serve as a judge in British Columbia. American miners from California were causing civil disorder, threatening First Nations, other ethnic minorities and each other with vigilante violence.
Begbie proved the ideal man. He was tough, hardy, adventurous, adaptable, fair-minded and determined. He wasn’t popular except with First Nations chiefs, whose rights he frequently defended. [He became fluent in Secwepmc and Tsilhqot’in.] Newspapers launched vituperative attacks. Begbie jailed editor John Robson for contempt of court. . . .
For the rest of the article go here.
An article by Ed Hird, formerly rector of St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver, picks up on many of the same themes, but also highlights Begbie’s Christian faith:
A deeply spiritual man and long-time church choir member, he loved to read the Anglican Evening Prayer Service by campfire, singing hymns before going to his tent. . . . When [he] died in 1894, his two favourite hymns were sung: ‘Just as I Am’ and ‘I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say.’
(Vancouver School of Theology professor Jason Byassee wrote an interesting article on this theme for The Vancouver Sun August 8: ‘Memorializing anybody risks false worship, or at least a future reckoning.’}
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