A. Cameron Ward Barristers and Solicitors
A. Cameron Ward
Vancouver BC
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In a strange development, the B.C. Government has determined that the Georgia Straight must pay over a million dollars in taxes, on the basis that the popular weekly publication is not a newspaper.

The Ministry of Provincial Revenue has determined that the Georgia Straight is not entitled to the exemption from social service tax that is available to newspapers despite the fact that it is published on newsprint, is distributed from newsstands and its publisher has won a lifetime achievement award for journalism. The Straight does not share the enthusiasm displayed by Vancouver’s two major dailies for the current provincial government, making the imposition of the tax appear like a hamfisted attempt to muzzle criticism.

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Betty Krawczyk was transported from Burnaby Correctional Centre for Women to the Law Courts in Vancouver for a brief appearance today in B.C. Supreme Court. Mr. Justice Harvey indicated that his calendar was too full this week to accommodate Ms. Krawczyk’s sentencing hearing and the matter was adjourned to Tuesday, October 14, 2003 at 10:00 a.m. Ms. Krawczyk was then transported back to the BCCW to continue serving her 128th day in custody.

Ms. Krawczyk was convicted of criminal contempt of court on September 19, 2003 for disobeying an injunction order made in a civil lawsuit commenced by Hayes Forest Services Ltd. Hayes, a Weyerhaeuser contractor, has given no indication it plans to proceed with the lawsuit, which was apparently commenced for the sole purpose of having Ms. Krawczyk arrested and imprisoned. Crown Counsel appointed by the Attorney General of British Columbia will be making submissions on the appropriate punishment.

As a result of the Attorney General’s policy on ‘civil disobedience’, political protesters are frequently the subject of private injunctions and contempt of court proceedings. When this approach is used, the Attorney General can seek substantial jail sentences for people who engage in acts of passive dissent. In another recent case, the B.C. Supreme Court called the use of the injunction/contempt power as ‘officially induced abuse of process’:

Read the judgement

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Betty Krawczyk, the seventy-five year old environmental activist who was recently convicted of criminal contempt of court after she refused to obey a civil court injunction order, is apparently going to be sentenced on October 8, 2003. A hearing has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, but neither Ms. Krawczyk nor her lawyer have received confirmation that the sentencing will take place then.

Ms. Krawczyk, who has appealed her conviction, is being held in custody at the Burnaby Correctional Centre for Women.

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Chief Jamie Graham held a rare Saturday news conference yesterday to reveal yet more alleged misconduct within the ranks of the VPD. Graham calls the latest revelation, allegations of brutality on the Downtown Eastside and of lying to the court, an ‘isolated incident’.

This latest ‘isolated incident’ comes on the heels of the following:

  • Six VPD members are facing criminal charges after allegedly taking people to Stanley Park and beating them;
  • Videotape footage outside a cancelled Guns ‘N Roses concert showed VPD members attacking civilians;
  • Pivot Legal Society disclosed that 50 people had sworn affidavits detailing VPD brutality on the Downtown Eastside;
  • A public hearing has been ordered into the death of Jeff Berg while in the hands of the VPD;
  • An investigation has been ordered into the death of Frank Paul while in VPD custody;
  • Six VPD members faced a public hearing, and four admitted misconduct for trashing a house on Vancouver’s East side while executing a search warrant;
  • An external investigation continues on allegations that the VPD used excessive force when members of its crowd control unit beat people outside the Hyatt Hotel.

After this many ‘isolated incidents’, could there possibly be a systemic problem within the VPD?

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On October 27, 2003, BC lawyers will have a chance to cast an historic vote. For the first time ever, the Benchers of the Law Society have submitted a fee resolution to the membership which does not include a mandatory CBA fee component.

The Law Society’s initiative comes after five separate lawsuits challenged the validity of the mandatory payment scheme.

Those who take time out to attend the mid day meeting (typically less than 5% of the membership) will also be considering a resolution by CBA supporters that would have the effect of continuing the mandatory CBA fee.

Some additional facts on mandatory CBA fees:

  • New Brunswick is the only other province that has ever forced its lawyers to pay the CBA. Everywhere else in Canada, lawyers are free to choose whether or not to join or financially support the CBA.
  • Ontario’s Benchers recently rejected the concept of mandatory CBA fees.
  • The CBA describes itself as a “voluntary organization”.
  • The Law Society has collected CBA fees as part of the annual practice fee even though it and the CBA are separate and unrelated organizations.
  • The CBA seeks to collect about $4 million from BC lawyers for 2004.
  • Each year, the BC Branch of the CBA spends about $1 million on “activities”.
  • The CBA does not disclose how much it pays its Executive Director or the Executive Director of its BC Branch.
  • The BC Branch spent about $450,000 to create its website, www.bccba.org.

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