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BC court by Jeff Hitchcock_CC BY 2.0

Photo by Jeff Hitchcock (CC BY 2.0)

press release

BC court of appeal upholds public interest standing and access to justice

August 26, 2020

VANCOUVER – Ecojustice lawyer, Michael Doherty made the following statement in regards to the British Columbia Court of Appeal’s ruling today on public interest standing for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities v. British Columbia (Attorney General):

“We applaud the British Columbia Court of Appeal for its decision in Council of Canadians with Disabilities and its clear articulation of the link between public interest standing and access to justice.”

“This decision will greatly improve the prospects of public interest standing being upheld for organizations such as Ecojustice that seek to protect the interests of all Canadians, so that individuals do not have to bear the risk and expense of court challenges on their own.

“As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice knows the time, money and resources it takes for a court case to make its way through the legal system. Public interest litigation helps make sure that all laws, regardless of who they impact, can be examined by the courts to determine whether they are constitutional and whether governments apply them in a fair and lawful manner.”


The Council of Canadians with Disabilities case challenged statutory provisions allowing for non-consensual psychiatric health care treatment in British Columbia.  During the course of the case, the individual plaintiffs withdrew, leaving only the organizational plaintiff, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, to argue that it should still be able to proceed with the case on the basis of its public interest standing. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of BC had found that the organization did not have standing, and the case was struck out.

On appeal to the BC Court of Appeal, Ecojustice intervened to make arguments about the principle of legality and the importance of understanding public interest standing in the context of access to justice. The Court’s reasons commented approvingly on the submissions of Ecojustice and the other intervenors, and expounded upon and in agreement with the points made by Ecojustice in its submissions.

You can find a copy of the reasons here.