Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Profile: Dugald Christie

I regret to report that this profile is being written posthumously. Dugald Christie was killed yesterday riding his bicycle across Canada to raise awareness of the barriers to justice of low-income (and no-income) individuals. He was cycling along the Trans-Canada highway when he was struck by a van near Sault Ste. Marie.

According the CBC article, B.C. legal crusader killed in cycling accident, Mr. Christie has long advocated for "equal access to the legal system, regardless of a person's income." He has contributed to the non-profit organization Western Canada Access to Justice. Currently, their main page includes the headline: WE WIN BIG TIME! The site outlines the long-standing fight between Mr. Christie and other lawyers against the Attorney General of BC. In short, the B.C. Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Christie that the provincial sales tax imposed on lawyers' fees by the Clark government was unconstitutional.

Mr. Christie dedicated his life to establishing a legal system that is available for everyone, regardless of economic status. Over the years, he managed the Pro Bono Lawyer Consultant Program in BC and helped to establish many pro bono clinics across Western Canada. One headline in 1999 read: Dugald Christie: a modern-day Robin Hood?
In his own words:
"The key is not a mechanical problem, it's a human problem -- and that means getting lawyers in touch with the real problem, which means getting lawyers in touch with the poor. We need to get lawyers mixing and milling with the unwashed, with the mentally handicapped, with the so-called losers of life -- rubbing shoulders with them -- and working on solutions together. Then they will become more sensitive, understand the problem and get rid of their stupid prejudices about the poor."
I'm reminded of an instance in first year Criminal Law class when our professor asked the class (about 60 students):
Prof: "Who here is interested in working as a Criminal Defense lawyer?"
A few students put up their hands.
Prof: "How about you X?" [X was one of the keenest students in the class and regularly sparred with our prof.]
X: "Me? No way. I don't want to be near that riffraff."
Of course, low-income individuals and individuals who have been criminally charged are distinct. However, I would guess that her sentiments would extent equally to law-income Ontarians. M is currently working in a plum position exclusively serving corporate clients.

I believe Mr. Christie's concerns are legitimate. Sadly, he is not longer with us to fight the battle. RIP.


Post a Comment

<< Home