BCCLA update on COVID-19

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No one should be left behind‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

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... BC Civil Liberties Association

Dear BCCLA supporters and friends,

Normally, my walk to work takes me through Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and Chinatown – some of our city’s busiest and most vibrant neighbourhoods. Now, like so many of you, I am working remotely from home.

The BCCLA has instituted remote work best practices and increased accommodations for work and paid sick leaves to prioritize our well-being through this time. We have also made the necessary decision to cancel our Liberty Awards Gala on May 8th, 2020 and to move the event to 2021.

Read my full update on the BCCLA's COVID-19 response here.

This pandemic reminds us of the importance of protecting fundamental rights for all.

The BCCLA extends our solidarity to our community partners, to frontline care workers, and to the most marginalized including precarious workers, migrants, prisoners, homeless people, seniors, people with disabilities, and Indigenous communities bearing the brunt of the crisis.

All government measures should protect the human rights of the most vulnerable and not unreasonably limit fundamental rights and civil liberties.

This means eliminating the 3-month wait period for health coverage in BC and ensuring access to universal healthcare and testing procedures for all. Addressing social determinants of health, such as income, working conditions, racism, gendered violence, safe housing, and strengthened public infrastructure, are all vital parts of our public health response.

No one should be left behind. We cannot forget the unjust conditions, including lack of adequate healthcare, faced by prisoners. We recently intervened in a precedent-setting case about the constitutional right of prisoners to access prison needle exchange programs.

Later this year, we will be going to the Supreme Court of Canada to argue that indefinite solitary confinement - a form of torture - must be abolished. We are committed to upholding the constitutional rights of prisoners, alongside advocating for alternatives to prison especially given the gendered colonial crisis of incarceration experienced by Indigenous women, girls, trans and two-spirit people.

With the need to contain COVID-19 and ensure the health of all, our governments must immediately release prisoners who are releasable and reduce the number of people in prisons, jails, juvenile detention facilities, and immigration detention centers as an urgent priority.

As governments contemplate emergency orders that grant exceptional powers, we also remain vigilant to ensure fundamental rights and civil liberties are not being unreasonably or unjustifiably limited. Given the reality of over-policing of poor and racialized communities, including discriminatory street checks, the blunt power of any enforcement measures must not further criminalize these communities.

Read the full update here.

We are particularly disturbed about the federal government’s decision to turn away refugees arriving at our border.

This violates our legal obligations to not turn away refugees seeking safety. The UN Refugee Agency has made clear that imposing a blanket measure to preclude the admission of refugees or asylum-seekers without evidence of a health risk and without measures to protect against return to persecution would be discriminatory. We can maintain physical distance and enact necessary health measures without violating our legal and moral obligations.

With our government implementing such extraordinary border measures, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) accountability becomes even more critical. Last month, Parliament introduced Bill C-3, proposing civilian review mechanisms to oversee CBSA. You can read my interview with Mexican refugee Karla Lottini and our Policy Staff Counsel Latoya Farrell on CBSA oversight and accountability here.

Now more than ever, protecting civil liberties and human rights is absolutely imperative.

We will continue our critical work during these challenging times, and we thank you for remaining engaged and committed to the health and human rights of all during this difficult time.

Sending good wishes,

Harsha Walia
BCCLA Executive Director

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