There is a non-profit legal society in Vancouver that has been working to improve the lives of some of the most marginalized people in society.
Pivot Legal Society works to use the law to achieve social change, addressing the root causes that undermine the quality of life for those on the margins. They practice strategic legal advocacy, meaning they are not a legal aid society, but one that focuses on the causes of problems rather than the symptoms and tries to find ways that the law can address those causes.
For example, a few years ago a hotel in the Downtown Eastside (Canada’s poorest neighborhood) was closed due to long-standing maintenance issues. The City of Vancouver had the power to rectify those issues through the Standards of Maintenance By-law but had not done so. Pivot took up this issue on behalf of the residents of the closed hotel, and on behalf of all those in the neighborhood who rely on single room occupancy hotels for housing, and sued the City for not enforcing the bylaw. In March of 2009, Vancouver City Council resolved to enforce the bylaw, following presentations by Pivot and others; with the support of the council behind it the bylaw is now working.
Based on the premise that everyone deserves a safe, secure place to live, Pivot has once again used the law to enact positive change in a desperately poor and drug-ravaged neighborhood. Go to Pivot’s web site (pivotlegal.org) to find out more about all the amazing projects and initiatives that they have going on in the name of a healthy, inclusive community.
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