Davis LLP Wins Two Awards For Pro Bono Work
Published: Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Two Davis pro bono project teams received platinum awards at the Lexpert Zenith awards recognition dinner held on September 28th, 2010. The Women Ski Jumpers Project won in the Change Agent: Gender category. Team members who worked on this project are D. Ross Clark, Q.C., Monika Gehlen, Jeffrey D. Horswill and Morgan Burris, with assistance from many other lawyers and support staff within the firm.
The Alex Pathways to Housing Project won in the Local Community category. Team members who worked on this project are Brent Rentiers, Brian West, Jonathan Brown, Graham Norris, Christopher Dormer, and Robert W. Calvert, Q.C. Details of both projects are outlined below.
Davis' Representation of Women Ski Jumpers Starting in 2008, Davis LLP represented a group of women ski jumpers fighting against their exclusion from the 2010 Olympic Games. The women claimed that they were excluded solely because of their sex, and that this violated their equality rights under the Charter. The women's claim was strongly opposed by VANOC. The case moved on an expedited basis through the B.C. courts, with a summary trial in April 2009, an appeal in November 2009, and a leave application to the S.C.C. in December 2009. Unfortunately, the women were unsuccessful.
All of Davis' work was pro bono. Several thousand hours of lawyer, paralegal and secretarial time went into the project. Although the project culminated in litigation, it also involved a multi-disciplinary PR campaign led on a pro bono basis by Deborah Folka, as well as political efforts at all levels of government. At the S.C.C. level, Osler acted as Davis' Ottawa agent and Torys volunteered its help, both on a pro bono basis. The project addressed many issues. It involved civil liberties (a discrimination challenge under the Charter), gender (the longstanding and ongoing sexism in the Olympics), sports (unequal funding and standards in sports), international human rights (a Swiss organization, the IOC, beyond the reach of the Canadian courts), and government (the Charter obligations of government when it partners with the private sector).
Even though they lost in court, Davis is proud to have represented these courageous young women. The judicial finding that the women are in fact being discriminated against is itself an important victory, generally credited with bringing about the inclusion of women's boxing in the 2012 Games, and drawing attention to the unequal support for women in sports. As for ski jumping itself, there is now a good chance that women's ski jumping will actually be included in the 2014 Games.
The Alex Pathways to Housing Project The Pathways to Housing, operated by the Alex Community Health Centre in Calgary, is a charitable program which gives homeless individuals immediate access to an apartment of their own without requiring participation in psychiatric treatment or treatment for sobriety. In doing so, Pathway to Housing offers 24 hour wrap around care for their "clients".
The Davis LLP team is involved in providing legal advice on all facets of the Project, including the charitable structure, advising and drafting the leases for both Pathway's headquarters and its master lease to be used with various landlords to deal with Pathway's unique clients, drafting wills for Pathway's clients and advising Pathway's on health, privacy and employee matters. The program was established in July 2009, and the Davis team working on this initiative spent approximately 400 hours over the next 6 months in establishing the legal framework for the project. Davis will provide ongoing legal advice on an as-need basis.
The Project involves an innovative and relatively new approach to homelessness. The success and novelty of the "housing first' model in New York City, was recently profiled in Malcolm Gladwell's recent bestseller, "What the Dog Saw". This Project was the first of its kind in Alberta. If successful, it has the opportunity to take the most chronic homeless and difficult to house individuals off of the street with a chance at long term success. Pathways felt it had a multitude of legal issues to address in establishing its Program and Davis LLP felt that it was well positioned to provide legal assistance to Pathways. It is the most chronically long-term homeless individuals in the Calgary community who are being helped by this program. Since the inception of this project last July, approximately 100 homeless clients have engaged in the program.
Robert Calvert, Q.C.
D. Ross Clark, Q.C.