Living Stories : Legal Change : Changing Lives Matthew Weait Birkbeck College University of London "The best test of a civilised society is the way in which it treats its most vulnerable and weakest members." Mahatma Gandhi Scope / Aims of Talk • To discuss the ways in which voice can be used to effect legal change • To explain the ways voice can be used as evidence to support claims for change • To discuss the form that evidence can take The Power of Voices • Voice is powerful, but powerful in different ways and with different consequences / effects – Baroness Hale – N v Home Office (House of Lords) – Rod Liddle on Sarah Porter (The Spectator June 24th 2006) – Sarah Porter in her own words (Positively Women – the Prison Issue), summer 2010) – “Deborah” (complainant in the Mohammed Dica case, 2003) (Positive Nation, February 2004) PIVOT East Hastings St, Vancouver BC PIVOT Approach Law is a critical tool for social change, because it is through the law that we regulate our civil society. Approaching social change with the tools of the law can create systemic and robust impacts on the way society is governed. Pivot’s legal strategy includes three tactics: • Legal education projects are aimed not only at educating marginalized people, but also educating other groups about those rights. In each case, tailoring the communication to the target group is critical. • Strategic legal action describes a range of legal initiatives, from formal correspondence to civil litigation, aimed at challenging barriers to the rights of marginalized persons. • Law reform includes research on policy and administrative reforms as well as legislative changes that would enable lasting improvements to the social and legal status of marginalized persons. The Affidavit • What is an affidavit (in this context)? • What is the nature of affidavit evidence? • Why has Pivot used affidavits? • How has Pivot managed to get the affidavits? • What has it done with the affidavits? What is an affidavit? • Classically - a written declaration made under oath; a written statement sworn to be true before someone legally authorized to administer an oath • It‟s essence is its simplicity, clarity, its absence of opinion, evidence of facts rather than assertions or expressions of value • It has legal validity – can be used as evidence in a court of law. Why has PIVOT used affidavits? • „Affidavits make it very difficult to deny that a particular issue exists.‟ (David Eby) • „the number of similar and shared experiences … it‟s very powerful.‟ (David Eby) • Accretive / cumulative / repetitive How has Pivot obtained its affidavits? • Proactive • Central part of the strategic dimension of its work – • Located IN the community, going out to people to get the evidence PIVOT lawyer David Eby taking an Affidavit from a DTES resident Pivot unveils sex worker study SEX LAWS / Sullivan refuses to meet with researchers Tom Sandborn / Xtra West / Thursday, June 22, 2006 DEMANDING FAIR TREATMENT: Pivot Legal Society Katrina Pacey (left) and researcher John Lowman want parliament to repeal Canada's archaic solicitation laws (Michelle Mayne photo) Cheap Rooms Off the Block? Rare deal could save Eastside SRO. By Tom Sandborn Published: March 20, 2007 By Monday morning, when demonstrators gathered outside the Carl, Eby was able to announce an imminent deal to save the Rooms as affordable SRO housing. Protesters Haunt SRO Auction Residents of the Burns Block were evicted last year. Advocates worried as Hastings hotel sold to North Van developer. Protesters Haunt SRO Auction AHPN – Proof Positive: • Objectives – to introduce a new format of evidence-building for use by community advocacy organisations – to use this format to uncover the problems faced by HIV-affected Africans seeking asylum in the United Kingdom – to provide evidence of key issues in order to influence policy and practice and support AHPN – Proof Positive: Methods • Staff and volunteers trained in interviewing techniques and how to record evidence for affidavits • •One-to-one interviews with asylum seekers living with HIV to record events • •Recording and editing records for anonymity • •Affidavits –swearing in records as legal evidence • •Report on findings Voices from the project: My immigration status has affected my health. The time I heard my case was refused I felt like I had died already. It was like a world war in my body. I had no appetite to eat, I was scared. Sometimes I am out of my house and when I go back to my house I am thinking ‘oh, maybe I will see the letter from the Home Office to tell me to go back to Africa’. If I see a police car near my house, I feel scared and I sometimes pass by my place to wait for the police car to go’. My immigration status has affected my health … The people who know I am an asylum seeker, including friends, automatically assume I am HIV positive. They perceive asylum seekers negatively draining the system – even after I say I do not receive any benefits and I am being cared for by my family, they do not believe it. I have concerns around removal. If I should go back home, when the time comes for me to take my medication, would I be able to access that medication? Everybody is different and yet people in Zimbabwe are given the same medication. If I do get the medication, I need the right food. Would I be able to get the right food? Would I get the right monitoring? I am happy with my current monitoring and care. With removal, where is my tomorrow? Findings –conclusion(I): – No evidence of treatment tourism – late diagnosis persists among African communities in the UK – Severe stress, mental health issues/ depression and impact on general wellbeing and HIV progression – Treated with disrespect, robbed of rights – detention centres–treated as criminals Findings –conclusion (II): – Unused resources –well educated and capable but not able to work –volunteer contributions – Good health due to medication –potential resources – Strong social networks established –time in UK – Destitution and constant fear of deportation Thanks and Acknowledgements to … • Jabulani Chwaula • Edna Soomre • Jonathan Thorpe • AHPN staff and volunteers And most of all those who have participated SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER!
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