The Court of Appeal has allowed the appeal of a homeless man from the granting of an interlocutory injunction that resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of 48 people who had been squatting in the abandoned Woodward’s building in Vancouver in the fall of 2003. The decision recognises that procedural rights must be afforded persons who are targeted by legal proceedings.

The Court also allowed the appeal of Provincial Rental Housing Corp., a Crown corporation that owned the building, from an order requiring it to pay $100 in court costs to each of the unrepresented persons who were arrested and later brought before the lower court.

Finally, in a separate decision, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of other homeless people who had alleged procedural irregularities in the granting of the City of Vancouver’s application for a second interlocutory injunction.

The decision of the Court of Appeal to set aside the injunction is significant, in that the Court of Appeal acknowledged the importance of free expression and dissent and sharply criticised the manner in which the lower court enjoined the homeless people’s protest.

Injunctions, and the court’s power to punish for contempt if injunctions are disobeyed, are strong weapons that are often brought to bear on demonstrators in British Columbia. Examples of this practice, which some feel is draconian, are the Clayoquot Sound demonstrations, where some 900 people were jailed, and the case of Betty Krawczyk, the elderly activist who spent about 9 months in a jail cell after symbolically sitting on a public logging road and refusing to move. Her conviction for contempt of court is under appeal.

Read the recent Court of Appeal decisions:

2005 BCCA 36 Provincial Rental Housing Corporation v. Hall

2005 BCCA 37 Vancouver (City) v. Maurice