THE ADVOCATE 247
VOL. 79 PART 2 MARCH 2021
By the Honourable David Eby, Q.C.*
REMEMBERING JOSEPH ARVAY, O.C., O.B.C., Q.C.
In my first summer in Vancouver after starting law school, I remember the
happy surprise of finding a folding sidewalk sign on Davie Street advertising
Jim Deva’s Little Sisters bookstore. It is too easy, especially when studying,
to separate the law from real life. Neatly written and formatted decisions
camouflage their origins in the messiness of human litigants and their complex
My Vancouver encounters with quotidian monuments connecting Charter
jurisprudence and real life were not limited to the Little Sisters store and
were not a coincidence. The unusual proliferation of informal Charter
jurisprudence monuments in the Lower Mainland can be explained in just
two words: Joe Arvay.
While Joe practised in Victoria, his highest-profile clients were often in
the Lower Mainland. Joe was not fenced in by the area’s mountains, the
U.S. border or the Pacific Ocean. It was instead where he seemed to prefer
to hunt; where the monuments of his legacy are still on display for those
trained to look.
Hyperbolic metaphors come easy when thinking about the extent of Joe’s
impact: Joe as the apex predator that shaped the evolution of the law or Joe
as the tectonic plate that broke loose new islands of constitutional protection.
Over my years at various non-profit legally oriented organizations, I cannot
recall a discussion about future strategic litigation related to human
rights that did not involve at least one person at least once suggesting that
we call Joe Arvay. To us, if we could “get Joe”, then our case was real—not
real in the sense of filed and served, but real in the sense of the case assuming
the larger importance we knew it needed.
* The Honourable David Eby, Q.C., is British Columbia’s Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing.