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Supreme Court of Canada to Consider Public Interest Standing

This morning the Supreme Court of Canada granted leave to intervene to 22 applicants and groups of applicants in Attorney General of British Columbia v Council of Canadians with Disabilities.

The issue of public law arising on appeal concerns the proper approach to public interest standing.

I act for the John Howard Society of Canada and the Queen's University Prison Law Clinic on this appeal. The John Howard Society of Canada is a national organization with over five and a half decades of experience offering services and programs to, and advocating on behalf of, people in conflict with the law. The Queen's University Prison Law Clinic offers frontline services in the form of legal advocacy for prisoners in the courts and before tribunals and all levels of Correctional Service of Canada decision maker. In addition to its frontline legal services, it operates the only clinical education program in Canada focused on issues of prison law.

These interveners will argue that the existing test articulated ten short years ago achieves a just balance between the purposes underlying the limitations on standing and the important role of the courts in assessing the legality of government action. They will argue that litigants with public interest standing may challenge the adverse impacts of a law and the misapplication of a law. The existing test does not and should not require evidence of efforts made to engage an individual with direct standing. The perspective of a plaintiff with direct standing is not invariably preferable to the perspective of an organization with public interest standing. Nor does or should the test require that a public interest litigant specify, at a time of the defendant’s choosing, what admissible evidence will be led at trial.


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