Class Actions

Class Actions are lawsuits in which a group of people take legal action against a wrongdoer. They give the individual the strength of numbers when taking action against defendants who often have more resources.

Cases which may be too expensive or too difficult for one person can become viable when people file an action together.

Our firm has a long and storied involvement with class action lawsuits in British Columbia. Not only did our firm contribute to the drafting of the Class Procedures Act, which governs class actions in this province, but, in 1995, we also filed the first two class action lawsuits in BC. Since then, we have continued to bring a number of class actions to successful resolution.

If you have sustained a loss and feel that a class action may be an option, you can rely on our expertise – please contact us.

Current Class Actions

Canadian Armed Forces

Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault and Sexualized Discrimination

Nicola Peffers v. The Attorney General of Canada

In December 2016 our firm filed a class action lawsuit alleging past and ongoing sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination of female-, male-, and LGBTQ+-identifying former and current members of the Canadian Armed Forces (“CAF”). The lawsuit alleges that the CAF’s institutional culture fosters an environment in which constant exposure to assault and harassment is the norm. Research has shown that CAF personnel are sexually assaulted at twice the rate of the general population. This toxic culture has been allowed to fester due to a lack of effective leadership from the top. The goal of this lawsuit is to change this toxic culture of systemic abuse and to provide survivors with a safe, open, and confidential space to speak their truth. When fellow Canadians sign up to serve our nation, they deserve better than abuse and assault in return for their sacrifice.

Nicola Peffers, the representative plaintiff and the first of thousands of members in this class action, trained and deployed out of the Canadian Forces Base in Esquimalt, BC. Like many others, she joined the CAF because she wanted to serve her country and to be part of something bigger than herself. Five years later, Ms. Peffers left the Navy for medical reasons related to the abuse she endured. This lawsuit seeks to stop the systemic abuse and mistreatment of CAF members by forcing institutional change, and to compensate plaintiffs for the emotional, psychological and physical injuries that they suffered because of this toxic culture.

B.C. Ministry of Children & Family Development

Victims of Crime While in Foster Care

K.S. v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia (Ministry of Children and Family Development), Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia (Ministry of Justice), Public Guardian and Trustee, and Workers’ Compensation Board

In February 2017 our firm filed a class action lawsuit against the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development (“MCFD”), the BC Ministry of Justice (“MOJ”), Public Guardian and Trustee, and the Workers’ Compensation Board. K.S., the proposed representative plaintiff, brought this action on behalf of a class of minors who suffered as victims of crimes while they were under the care and guardianship of the BC government. The class members allege that the BC government failed to obtain or provide, in a timely manner or at all, the statutory and/or common-law benefits and compensation to which class members were entitled.

K.S. was criminally sexually abused by a family member when she was four and five years old. MCFD became aware of the crimes perpetrated against K.S. and consequently brought her into the provincial foster care system. K.S. remained under the care and custody of MCFD until the age of 19. Overcoming tremendous odds, K.S. worked hard to become a social worker dedicated to improving the lives and well-being of youth in the care of the provincial government. She struggled to overcome the psychological and emotional traumas that haunted her as a sexual abuse survivor, and which continue to negatively impact her life. Over the years she has paid for much-needed but expensive counselling services out of pocket, to the extent that she could afford it.

It was only in November 2015 that K.S. was first informed, through a letter from an MOJ claims coordinator, that she had been eligible since 1992 for government-funded counselling, compensation for pain and suffering, and other benefits. For 13 long years (from 1992 – 2015) none of the defendants or their agents informed K.S. of her entitlements to statutory benefits. Through their negligence, the defendants violated their legal and professional duties and did not act in the best interest of K.S. and the other class members. The BC government let K.S. and other vulnerable children in its care down. This lawsuit seeks to compel institutional reform and compensate survivors for the pain, suffering, and harms that they were consequently forced to endure.

Provincial Prisoners

Unlawful Strip Searches and Assaults

A.J. v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia (Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General)

In Solosky v. The Queen, [1980] 1 S.C.R. 821, the Honourable Justice Dickson of the Supreme Court of Canada famously affirmed that “a person confined to prison retains all of his civil rights, other than those expressly or impliedly taken from him by law.” In July 2018 our firm filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of inmates against the Province of British Columbia (Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General). The BC government is responsible for the operation and administration of all provincial correctional institutions and is therefore vicariously liable for the unlawful conduct of BC provincial corrections personnel. The lawsuit alleges illegal systemic physical assaults, strip searches, and other humiliating and unauthorized applications of force by corrections personnel, which violated the civil rights of both former and current provincially-incarcerated inmates.

A.J., the proposed representative plaintiff of this class, was incarcerated at the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre (“VIRCC”) in Victoria, BC. While in custody he was subjected to an unlawful and excessively violent strip search, in which he was physically and sexually assaulted by VIRCC corrections officers. The strip search was performed as a punitive and retaliatory measure against A.J. because he was involved in an altercation with a corrections officer the previous day. The Honourable Judge Higinbotham ruled that the strip search endured by A.J. was illegal and unconstitutional. Other inmates in BC correctional institutions have suffered and continue to endure similar abuses. This lawsuit aims to put a stop to the systemic abuses perpetrated against provincially-incarcerated inmates like A.J., and seeks to compensate class members for the emotional, psychological, and physical injuries that they have sustained.

Federal Inmates

Unlawful Recordings of Solicitor-Client Communications

A.P. v. The Attorney General of Canada

In Solosky v. The Queen, [1980] 1 S.C.R. 821, the Honourable Justice Dickson of the Supreme Court of Canada famously affirmed that “a person confined to prison retains all of his civil rights, other than those expressly or impliedly taken from him by law.” Canadian law recognizes and fiercely protects each person’s essential civil and legal right to consult with a lawyer in confidence. This right, known as solicitor-client privilege, plays a fundamental role in the administration of justice in Canada. It extends beyond the courtroom to protect all communications between lawyer and client from being accessed or disclosed by any other person, with only a few narrow exceptions. This right is no less protected behind prison walls: solicitor-client privilege is one of the fundamental rights that inmates retain. Indeed, the need to access a lawyer with full confidentiality while incarcerated is heightened due to the legal stakes involved.

In July 2018 our firm filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of federally-incarcerated inmates alleging that the Government of Canada, through its agent the Correctional Service of Canada (“CSC”), systematically and unconstitutionally violated the rights of class members, by listening to, recording, and sharing with third parties the contents of privileged telephone conversations between inmates and their lawyers, and the contents of private and personal phone conversations between inmates and members of the public.

The proposed representative plaintiff for this class, A.P., is an inmate at a Collins Bay Institution, a federal penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario. From prison, A.P. routinely contacted his lawyers and made various personal phone calls using the inmate telephone system. While incarcerated, A.P. was charged with additional criminal offences, other than those for which he was in prison at the time. His lawyers subsequently discovered that CSC had been listening to and recording A.P.’s privileged conversations with lawyers and his private conversations with others, and that the recorded conversations were being shared with third parties, including for the purposes of prosecuting A.P. for the additional offences. The inmate telephone system is such that CSC and its employees knew beforehand whether any given call made by an inmate would contain solicitor-client or private communication (CSC must approve the number and the contact name before each call). And yet, CSC and its employees knowingly recorded, listened to, and shared the contents of these conversations without the consent of inmates, their lawyers, or other people who participated in these phone calls.

Through this unconstitutional practice CSC prevented inmates from being treated fairly in the justice system by increasing the jeopardy that accused inmates face in criminal proceedings. CSC caused inmates to suffer humiliation, anguish, and psychological distress, and interfered with the ability of inmates to rehabilitate and re-integrate into the community. This lawsuit aims to stop these unconstitutional practices in federal prisons, and to compensate the class members for the harms that they have suffered.

Mental Health

Ending Stigma and Discrimination

K.O., By Her Litigation Guardian J.O., and J.O v. The Attorney General of British Columbia

British Columbians with mental illnesses face unacceptable systemic barriers in accessing high quality health care in this province. These barriers result from the stigmatization and marginalization of mental illness in the provincial healthcare system. Due to stigma and prejudice, BC’s current healthcare system unjustly treats persons with mental illnesses worse than others. These individuals receive lower quality healthcare, or are deterred from seeking healthcare altogether. This lawsuit does not challenge the authority or propriety of the BC government in administering a single-payer healthcare system. Rather, the class members allege that the government cannot administrate the healthcare system in a way that discriminates against mentally ill persons.

In July 2018 our firm filed a class action lawsuit against the BC government on behalf of British Columbians who suffer from mental illness, alleging that the government violated their constitutional rights by discriminating against them. The proposed representative plaintiff, K.O., is a minor represented by her litigation guardian and father J.O., who is also a plaintiff in the action. K.O. was formally diagnosed with obsessive compulsive-disorder at age seven, and was later also diagnosed with depression. She has attempted suicide multiple times. Her mental illnesses pose an ongoing risk to her physical well-being and life. With the support of her family K.O. has actively and continuously sought treatment for her mental illnesses throughout her life. Yet her prognosis for improvement is poor because despite her best efforts she has not received high quality treatment or care.

In stark contrast, K.O.’s older sister suffers from Hodgkin lymphoma, a rare form of cancer. The older sister faced no stigmatization or other systemic barriers, and received high quality medical treatment for her physical illness. Because of this discrepancy the older sister enjoys a much better prognosis than K.O. In other words, BC’s current healthcare system is such that the sister with mental illness faces systemic stigmatization that severely impedes her recovery and exacerbates the risk to her long-term health, while the sister with physical illness faces none of these barriers and receives speedy, effective treatment. The daughter with a rare cancer has an excellent prognosis, while the daughter battling mental illnesses languishes due to a lack of treatment and resources.

This lawsuit alleges that the BC government is failing to take appropriate steps to address the impacts of mental illness stigma in the provincial healthcare system. Relative to physical illnesses, the BC government under-funds and over-subscribes treatment providers for mental illnesses, it prioritizes physical illnesses in funding decisions, it fails to provide sufficient resources (such as residency placements) to ensure an adequate supply of qualified mental health professionals, and it fails to provide an adequate number of sufficiently-resourced treatment and diagnostic facilities for mental illness. There are unreasonably lengthy waitlists for mental illness patients and a lack of appropriate treatment plans. Many treatment providers refuse to provide care, choose to cease care, or provide lower-quality care due to prejudicial and stigmatizing views of mental illness. This lawsuit alleges that the BC government has consequently breached its legal duties towards class members by failing to ensure that persons with mental illnesses enjoy the same reasonable access to high quality health care as everyone else. The aims of this lawsuit are to change this unconstitutional and shameful aspect of BC’s healthcare system, and to compensate those who have suffered as a result.

BC Ministry of Children & Family Development

Motherisk Testing

C.B. v The Attorney General of British Columbia and The Hospital for Sick Children

Between 1997 and 2015, more than 8,000 British Columbian children and parents underwent hair-strand drug and alcohol testing performed by the Motherisk Drug Testing Laboratory, which was operated by the Hospital for Sick Children. The vast majority of these tests were ordered by social workers from the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development (“MCFD”) as part of child welfare investigations. MCFD social workers commonly used these hair-strand tests to determine whether parents were using drugs or alcohol in order to assess parental credibility, and to evaluate whether children were being endangered by their parents. But MCFD did not track the use of hair-strand testing by social workers and did not establish any guidelines or standards regarding the use of such test results in child welfare decisions.

On 15 December 2015, an independent review conducted by the Honourable Susan E. Lang identified numerous serious flaws in the hair-strand tests, in analytical procedures and operations at the Motherisk Laboratory, and in its oversight by the Hospital for Sick Children. The review concluded that Motherisk “never met internationally recognized forensic standards.” The hair-strand tests are now recognized as invalid and unreliable for use in child protection and criminal proceedings, because they cannot detect drug or alcohol use with any accuracy.

Our firm filed this lawsuit on behalf of a class of British Columbians whose lives were negatively impacted by child welfare decisions that had been based on unreliable hair-strand test results. The proposed representative plaintiff, C.B., was subject to an MCFD child protection investigation. Although C.B. was not using alcohol or drugs at the time, an MCFD social worker ordered C.B. to undergo a hair-strand test in 2002, which came back positive for methamphetamines. As a result of this hair-strand test, and despite a negative urinalysis test, three of C.B.’s children were removed from her custody on the assumption that C.B. was lying about her drug use. After another hair-strand test in 2003 came back positive for drugs, two more of C.B.’s children became subject to continuing custody orders.

These invalid and unreliable hair-strand tests undermined C.B.’s credibility in the eyes of MCFD (since social workers assumed she was lying) and they led to the traumatic separation of C.B. from her children. Due to similar child welfare investigations tainted by invalid hair-strand tests, thousands of class members suffered emotional, psychological, physical, and reputational harm caused by the unjust separation of parents and children, and the stigmatizing effects of being labelled an unfit parent, a lying substance-abuser, or the child of an incompetent substance-addicted parent. This lawsuit aims to draw attention to this tragedy, to ensure that something like this does not happen again, and to vindicate and compensate those who suffered due to these negligent child welfare decisions.

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