Kelley Bryan, with co-counsel Karen Spector and Professor Tess Sheldon, appeared at the Supreme Court of Canada on January 12 and 13, 2022 in Attorney General of British Columbia v. Council of Canadians with Disabilities.
The Supreme Court is considering whether constitutional litigation may be brought by public interest organizations without an individual co-plaintiff. Public interest cases are an important way of supporting access to justice for marginalized groups. People who are most directly-affected by laws may lack the resources and means to challenge laws on their own. In those cases, an advocacy organization may step in to ensure that problematic laws come before the courts.
Our client, the Mental Health Legal Committee, intervened in support of a broad and flexible test for public interest standing. We highlighted for the Court the practical realities of the barriers that impede access to justice for individuals with mental health or capacity issues. We asked the Court to consider systemic disadvantages and discrimination as part of the test for public interest standing.
The underlying case involves a challenge to British Columbia’s mental health legislation. The plaintiff, the Canadian Council of Canadians with Disabilities, states that the laws are unconstitutional because they deprive certain patients of the right to make treatment decisions, or to designate a trusted person to do so on their behalf.
Judgment was reserved by the Court.