David Eby folded his extraordinarily long legs under a small table and took a sip of coffee.
"The Paul Boyd story is going to disappear like so many other stories and that's outrageous," the executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association said.
To keep the media spotlight on the death of a bipolar man more than two years ago, Eby is making sure the topic comes up in conversation. Paul Boyd was shot nine times by a Vancouver police officer and some witnesses say the last four bullets were fired after Boyd was fully disarmed. The involved officer claims the nine bullets were fired into Boyd in self-defense. A coroner's inquest takes place in nine months.
"The lawyer for the coroner is mandated to get the story out, but in practice for that lawyer doing so is a challenge due to a lack of resources. There’s only one lawyer right now doing these cases. That could easily result in the role becoming more procedural, or managerial and not exposing, like they have, injustices like the Bush death or the St. Arnaud death. The other lawyers at an inquest represent the city, which is liable if the officer screwed up, and the police officer involved. Without a lawyer for the family who has the time to go through these boxes of documents in detail, and who has the agenda to push for a full day of cross examination of, for example, the shooting officer, I’m worried the interest in this case and others is going to die out and we won’t see any accountability for that officer emptying his clip into Boyd," said Eby.
Recently included in Vancouver Magazine's "Most Powerful People in Vancouver," Eby remains disarmingly humble and available to talk about anything related to civil liberties in the city. Vancouver Magazine writes this about Number 48:
Ask the city’s decision makers about David Eby and you get variations on this theme: “He’s a major pain in the ass. But he gets a response.” We prefer to put it Benjamin Disraeli’s way: “Power is a trust; we are all accountable for its exercise.” Either way, Eby—as executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association and, before that, a founding lawyer with the Pivot Legal Society—accounts for power on behalf of the Downtown Eastside. The city’s social conscience, he’s been front and centre in fighting for housing rights (especially around the Olympics) and, more recently, was instrumental in the BC Human Rights Tribunal complaint against the Downtown Ambassadors program, which alleged that guards target the homeless and poor. Only 33, Eby has great influence among both activists and city and province governments.
In an hour-long (and then some) conversation focused on getting inside Eby's clever and media-savvy mind, the prominent issues he spoke about included homelessness, censorship, and the purchase of state-of-the-art weaponry.
In past 30 days...
1. The Vancouver Police Department announced that they hadn't bought a military sonar weapon for anything other than making public service announcements.
2. The Vancouver Public Library tried to deny a meeting room to a group focused on informing the public about the most efficient and painless ways to commit suicide.
3. The Olympic torch arrived in Victoria "to a subdued reception" in Eby's view, and the BCCLA'strained brigade of Olympic Observers monitored the police response to protests.
4. The Paul Boyd decision came down, more than two years after the man was gunned down in the street.
In short, it's been a busy month for David Eby and he had this to say…
On training Olympic Observers and the occasional undercover cop:
"There are undercover police officers; there are always a few. It's invariable that after a talk I give on the Olympics, someone will come up and ask me what the plans are for the protests, where they'll take place, who are the leaders.
They're not very covert about it and it makes you wonder why they're not very covert about it. It's so heavy-handed and awkward to both of us. I tend to respond by saying the police have a role to play in de-escalating conflict and ensuring the peace and it's so much in the police's hands, which tends to wrap up the conversation. They're generally white males between 28 and 40, stocky, short hair.
We're trying to teach our observers to focus on behaviours. What is it the police officer is doing that makes you think the police officer is angry rather than saying the police officer is angry at the protester.”
On not trusting the Vancouver Police Department's announcements around the Olympics:
"We don't trust anything that's coming out of the police press conferences, the damage control that's being attempted by VANOC or the police or City Hall. We're looking to actions now. What are you doing? That's far more telling. What the police are doing is buying new and untested hardware to use on crowds.”