Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pivot Legal Society Picks on Private Security, While Ignoring Abusive Publicly-Funded Security at Carnegie Center

Activist lawyer David Eby is leaving Pivot Legal Society to become acting Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association for the next 6 months. He has been invited to apply for the permanent job as Executive Director.

Eby was spokesperson for Pivot at a time when they abandoned Downtown Eastside residents who were being denied their right to a democratic election process and free speech. Downtown Eastside residents were allowed to vote in Board elections at Carnegie Center but City staff took the position that if they didn't like who they voted for, they would just ban the elected official from Carnegie so that they couldn't attend Board meetings. It's old news now that homeless William Simpson was banned two weeks after he was elected to the Carnegie Board of Directors -- but that was over a year ago and Carnegie Security guards remain under orders not to allow him into the building.

Simpson went to Pivot about Carnegie stripping him and low income voters of basic rights most people have come to expect in a democracy. Simpson says the woman he spoke to at Pivot wouldn't take a case against Carnegie, telling him, "But they're our friends."

That's the problem with Pivot. They don't give a flyin' f*ck about your civil liberties if it happens to be their friends violating them.

Take the complaints Pivot lodged with BC Human Rights over private security guards abusing low income people in public spaces. Note the word "private". Pivot doesn't help residents of the Downtown Eastside fight back against the publicly funded security guards at Carnegie Center working under Security Co-ordinator Skip Everall, even though they are violating human rights and/or act illegally on a regular basis. That's because they are CUPE members. Pay your CUPE dues and it's almost like protectionist money. Pivot will leave you alone.

The Human Rights complaint lodged by Pivot is to a large extent about getting rid of private security guards -- specifically the downtown Ambassadors program -- that are infringing on union territory. Private security guards don't pay union dues.

If the ambassadors that walk the streets in the business district were unionized workers like the Carnegie street workers on the Downtown Eastside (who have been caught working with the VPD to harass a Downtown Eastside resident engaging in freedom of expression), they would get no flak from Pivot.

Until Eby shows some interest in the civil liberties of everybody, not only those who are at the end of the boot of a non-union security person, he shouldn't be picked as Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association.


truepeers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

David Eby is an opportunistic politician who sides with the NDP, Vision and the powerful Unions. WIth Eby's cooperation, Pivot has become a political tool used by Eby and politicians to attack people who stand in their righteous way. Pivot is also a tool used by CUPE to intimidate and harass people into doing their bidding.

Pivot and Eby are not helping those who are disenfranchised, they have become a smear operation for CUPE, Vision and the NDP to use against their political opponents.

Eby is not at all qualified to be the Director of BC Civil Liberties as his bias and political maneuvering have tainted him and his integrity.

Anonymous said...

@truepeers: you should read more carefully. The post you're objecting to was not written by Eby - it was written by another contributor to that blog. If you want to know Eby's position on the matter, you can find it in the comments section.

Would you like to withdraw your comments? I'd also like someone to substantiate their allegation that Pivot would not act against the Downtown Ambassador program if the workers were unionized.

truepeers said...

Thanks for pointing that out anon. I deleted my comment. I just took it for granted that a blog named after Eby would mean that post was written by same. My mistake.

reliable sources said...


You write, "I'd also like someone to substantiate their allegation that Pivot would not act against the Downtown Ambassador program if the workers were unionized."

That was my opinion. I could be wrong but I don't think so.

Carnegie security guards have a well established reputation for systemic discrimination against the poor and homeless -- I could give you many examples other than Bill Simpson -- yet Pivot has never shown an interest in lodging a human rights complaint against them. But Pivot found the resources to lodge a complaint of "systemic discrimination" against those behind the more recently implemented Ambassadors security program.

Vision, which gets union funding (Eby ran for a Vision nomination and lost by just a few votes), announced as part of their official election campaign platform that they would get rid of the downtown Ambassadors program; that was during the same period as Pivot lodged the human rights complaint about the Ambassadors program. It's difficult to prove what I think is going on, but you don't need a weatherman . . . .

It's interesting that when a Carnegie member got thrown to the ground recently by security guards out at Metrotown mall in Burnaby, Pivot took his case. That same Carnegie member has said in the past that every one of his friends has been barred from Carnegie. If Pivot took this guy's Metrotown case, why couldn't they take the case of homeless William Simpson or others against Carnegie? Carnegie is often called the "livingroom" of the Downtown Eastside; it's a central institution of the Downtown Eastside. Shouldn't Pivot be making it a priority?

David Eby left a comment a few months back on Jamie Lee Hamilton's blog, Oldtown, stating (it's been awhile since I read it so I'm paraphrasing) that Pivot doesn't have the staff to address all the problems on the Downtown Eastside. Hamilton responded by saying that Pivot just never seems to challenge povertarians. That's my impression too. But it's just an impression.

Anonymous said...

The original assertion in the blog post was specific: Pivot would not take on the Downtown Ambassadors if they were unionized. It's an awfully big stretch to move from their refusal to take Simpson's case to that conclusion.

There are some points of the Vision platform that concur with Pivot's positions. As you pointed out, there's the Downtown Ambassadors issue. There's also the plan to increase enforcement of the city's Standards of Maintenance bylaw, including allowing the city to do repairs and bill the owners. Pivot and Vision Vancouver are also in agreement about the need to preserve low-income housing units.

I'm still not clear about what seems suspicious about this. Eby was involved in Roberton's campaign for the Vision nomination. It makes sense that some of his positions would show up in the party platform. And if you think that Eby's positions "follow the money", I'd ask you to remember that Vision takes Concord Pacific funding, but Eby remained firm in his opposition to the Concord Pacific development on Hastings.

As for Pivot being afraid to take on unionized workers: they worked on Woodsquat, at the Lucky Lodge and the Pender Hotel, and in those cases they were opposing actions taken by the city, including the city's unionized workers. In fact, some of those workers are members of the same union as Carnegie staff.

So if you object to Pivot's refusal to take on the Simpson case, all well and good. But I think that you'll need to come up with another reason than "they've been bought off by the unions."

Perhaps Pivot didn't believe Simpson's case had merit. Sometimes the simplest solution is the correct one.

reliable sources said...


You’re being dishonest in your representation of my opinion.

You write, “It’s an awfully big stretch to move from their refusal to take Simpson’s case to that conclusion.” I didn’t move to that conclusion based on the Simpson case alone. I pointed out in my earlier comment that there were cases OTHER than Simpson’s in which the unionized Carnegie security were violating civil liberties year after year and seemed to be exempt from any challenge from Pivot. It’s a pattern on the part of Carnegie security. Some of these other cases have been covered on this blog.

You write, “As for Pivot being afraid to take on unionized workers: they worked on Woodsquat, at the Lucky Lodge and the Pender Hotel, and in those cases they were opposing actions taken by the city, including the city's unionized workers.” Pivot may have caused headaches for City staff but that’s not the same as challenging the routine civil liberties abuses by public security guards. There are parallels between the security role of Carnegie front door staff and Ambassador staff, and there are parallels between the abuses both groups are inflicting on the poor and/or homeless, which is why I presented the difference in Pivot’s treatment of these two groups as indicative of a political orientation on the part of Pivot.

When I referred to union dues being almost like protection money, I meant it as a metaphor. I don’t literally believe that Pivot is being, to quote you, “bought off by the unions”. But I think there is an orientation on the part of Pivot to favor unionized workers over non-unionized, even though you've convinced me that they do challenge unionized workers.

You write, “Perhaps Pivot didn't believe Simpson's case had merit. Sometimes the simplest solution is the correct one.”
Perhaps? I don’t need to guess the reason why Pivot didn’t take Simpson’s case against Carnegie as the Pivot staff person told him the reason. (I believe Simpson had somebody with him at Pivot who may recall the exchange.) As I pointed out in the post, Simpson says the Pivot staff person told him that the reason was that, “they’re our friends.” Sometimes the simplest answer is the correct one.

reliable sources said...

Thanks for your comment even though you've since deleted it. I read it and was intending to read it again later to better understand what you were saying about the victim culture.

Rachel Davis said...

Pivot was interested in William Simpson’s case. Just not interested enough to think of putting themselves through any grief with their buds at Carnegie and the City.

After the Carnegie Community Relations Committee voted to take the case of William Simpson, Barred Carnegie Director, to them, I started trying to contact them.
First I went by the office, it was closed and their were no hours on the door. I wasn’t impressed. That sure makes them hard to get a hold of. It just seems so typical of Professionals to think that if people are poor, they have all the time in the world to wait on the enfranchised. After going by a few times only to be faced with a closed office once again, I gave up and called.

Their receptionist hung up on me three times in ten minutes for no reason except her own bad mood, so I went down there in person to give my number to someone else if need be. I couldn’t help but reflect how traumatizing that all would have been to someone who really was in dire need of legal help.
Once I was there, she apologized and took my number. But no one ever called.

Weeks and weeks passed, I emailed David Eby after being invited by a Pivot Board Member, Sophia Freigang to try again. This time I got a reply telling me that he was sorry, part of the problem with PIVOT’s lack of time to reply was that so much of their time was taken up fielding calls from other places, due to all their media exposure. Yes, he wrote that. He also explained that they had just moved 6 months ago, and hadn’t gotten to the “detail” of putting hours up. He invited me to call him to chat about the Simpson case. I noticed that he didn’t answer the direct question I put to him in my email—“Do you feel that you are in Conflict of Interest with this case because of your close relationship with Carnegie?”
When I called, he was pleasant but explained that all of their cases were class action types of cases, and when I asked how PIVOT came up with what cases to pursue, he started of by saying that well, they just ask their friends in VANDU what they are concerned about …………..But,it seemed we agreed that William Simpson being barred was not right, nor proper, and he recommended a few different ways of dealing with it. He also asked me to write up a synopsis of the case in a timeline and send it to him, he would send it to his compatriot in Civil Liberties. I took a fair amount of time doing that and sent it off.
I never got a reply, and this was to a document he himself requested I write and send. Nor did I ever get an answer to that all important question. “DO you feel you are in conflict of interest With Carnegie in this case?”, But after all of this time wasting red herring chase I was sent on. I would say, actions speak louder than words, PIVOT knew what was right but chose not to defend those rights because it suited them.
I never thought of a union connection, but we don’t even have to go so far as that to know that, of course, the “Stakeholders” (Stockholders!) in the Downtown Eastside all support each other come what may. Who else will sing their praises so eloquently? To the point of writing musicals about each other!

Should PIVOT take up William Simpson’s case? Absolutely. There is nothing “without merit” about the squashing of a man’s right to access a public space because he hosts a website that is linked to this one, the DowntownEastsideEnquirer. PIVOT and David Eby never said that at all. They admitted his case had merit. But what they never admitted to, was whether my question as to their own potential for conflict of interest had merit and that turned out to be the key question.

They absolutely knew that William Simpson was thrown out of Carnegie under strange circumstances. Would William be kept off the roads if he linked to a site that is critical of the Minister of Highways? NO. It is only possible to do this to someone in this fiefdom called the Downtown Eastside. Bill is no longer a director of Carnegie, but he is still barred and this will be his second Christmas out of there because he admires R.S.’s writings. This strikes fear into other members hearts. It’s a blatant denial of access and violation of his rights, and no, PIVOT and David Eby will not tread on Carnegie’s toes to restore people their rights. It’s funny, PIVOT has no problem taking on the Police’s alleged violations of peoples rights, but not the Carnegie’s.

Yeah. PIVOT knows what side of the bread is buttered by whom for them, and they choose very carefully who they are going to trickle that down to, so as not to offend fellow “Stakeholders” in the DTES.

But you know, after all that, what really, really offended me about David Eby, was a gratuitous attack I saw him make in an mass email on Audrey Laferrier and another local Native activist. I thought that he really had a lot of nerve calling these people down for being “Divisive to the Community” when he was a new comer doing some Community Dividing himself just by talking that way about them in that very email! Hello! Pot calling Kettle?! You’re black!
P.S. a year later, there are still no hours posted on their office door…..

reliable sources said...


Thanks for taking the time to give us this information. It is REALLY interesting. It takes courage to tell the truth on the Downtown Eastside.

It was interesting that Eby admitted to you that Pivot takes their cues from VANDU. I noticed that VANDU is named as a complainant along with Pivot in the complaint lodged with the Human Rights Tribunal about the downtown ambassadors.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but can Ms. Davis provide the full text of the Eby email? Because he posted an announcement of Laferriere's decision to run for Council on his blog, along with contact information for people who would like to help with her campaign.

As for the remainder of this, again, I think that the fact that Pivot has different priorities for their casework than you do doesn't lead to a reasonable conclusion that some nefarious purpose is at play. YMMV, as always.