Cases & Decisions

Canada v Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society [Test for Public interest standing]

Court: Supreme Court of Canada, 2012

JFCY intervened in this case before the Supreme Court of Canada, in coalition with West Coast LEAF and ARCH Disability Law Centre. At issue was the proper test for granting public interest standing in a case before the court.

The Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society (“SWUAV”) started a constitutional challenge against the government relating to the prostitution provisions in the Criminal Code. The Attorney General opposed the challenge, arguing that SWUAV did not have the legal standing to bring the case. Eventually this question made it up to the Supreme Court of Canada, where JFCY teamed up with ARCH Disability Law Centre and West Coast LEAF to act as coalition interveners, weighing in on what should be the proper legal test for public interest standing.

The Supreme Court decided that the test should not be rigid but one that allows for the exercise of judicial discretion in a way that serves the underlying purposes of the law of standing. The test for public interest standing is whether the case raises a serious justiciable issue, whether the party bringing the action has a real stake or a genuine interest in its outcome and whether, having regard to a number of factors, the proposed case is a reasonable and effective means to bring the case to court. The court concluded that SWUAV had public interest standing.

This case is a victory because it allows organizations (such as JFCY) to start constitutional challenges on behalf of vulnerable people and groups who do not have effective access to the justice system on their own.

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