Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Worthy of your support

I'm proud to be a member of the British Columbia Civil Rights Association and I commend the organization to all who care about justice, civil rights and institutional accountability. The organization is supported by members, donors and foundations such as the the BC Law Foundation, The Vancouver Foundation and others. However, funding is always lacking while issues never are.

BCCRA is an important participant in a number of worthwhile efforts listed below. I reviewed financial statements of the association and was impressed. They are frugal, accomplishing much on a limited budget. Believe me, that is not always the case when I read financials of non-profits and charitable groups. For example, the entire budget for ALL employees of the BCCRA is not much more than annual pay of the CEO of BC Children's Hospital Foundation and is less than the income of the CEO at Toronto's Sick Kids Foundation. The full annual budget of the BCCRA is lower than salaries paid four executives of Plan Canada Children's Charity (formerly Foster Parents Plan) or the CEO of Boys Scouts of America.

BCCLA membership is available to students ($10), seniors ($20), individuals ($35) and families ($50). In return, you will support and learn about a number of worthy programs, including:
  • Sobering centres - A group of non-profit organizations, along with police, health authorities, first responders and housing groups will be convened by the BCCLA to discuss how to save the lives of those who are arrested for being drunk, high or otherwise intoxicated in public.
  • Torture inquiry - BCCLA Litigation Director Grace Pastine and Counsel Carmen Cheung have been in Ottawa at the inquiry by the Military Police Complaints Commission into whether military police failed to investigate if commanders illegally ordered the transfer of detainees to a known risk of torture in Afghanistan.
  • Police oversight - The BCCLA discovered that the province of B.C. completed a secret, unreleased audit of the RCMP’s performance under the controversial untendered 20-year policing contract signed in 1990.
  • In-custody deaths - The RCMP confirmed the BCCLA's findings that B.C. had more than twice as many police deaths as Ontario. Professor David MacAlister and BCCLA Executive Director David Eby spoke in Kamloops, Prince George and Vancouver during November on the BCCLA's recently released report on police-involved deaths.
  • Freedom in Action student forum - Close to 200 high school students attended the day-long event held at SFU Harbour Centre. Presentations were made by BCCLA Executive Director David Eby, Caseworker Jesse Lobdell and volunteer presenters such as Joe Saulnier of Smart, Harris & Martland, David Beers of the Tyee, Ashley Zarbatany and Mavaddat Javidd who were G-20 participants, David Dennis from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Andrea Reimer, Vancouver City Councillor, Mathew Kemshaw from the Environmental Youth Alliance, Ben West from the Western Wilderness Committee and Romi Chandra from PeerNet B.C.
  • Legal education seminars - Continuing programs for both lawyers and laypersons.
More than 300 volunteers were trained as Civil Rights Observers and hit the street during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Proactive efforts of the BCCLA such as this contributed to a proud civic celebration and resulted in little disturbance during the huge international event, unlike the out-of-control mayhem and oppression experienced in Ontario during G20 meetings.

You can get involved with the BCCLA in a minor or major way. Participate in programs or just read through their website. It is an important part of our community.

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