Ian Mulgrew pens a fine memoriam to the recently departed Chief Justice of B.C., in today’s Sun.
Among Allan McEachern’s many significant decisions was the 1984 injunction prohibiting street prostitution in the West End. Actually, it was the idea of Attorney-General Brian Smith to request a civil injunction from the B.C. court, thereby circumventing the federal Criminal Code, to deal with a problem that had been unresolved for years. As Mulgrew notes: “the chief judge did what politicians and other jurists had tiptoed around – he banned hooking as a public nuisance.”
The decision is still debated, with some arguing the connection to the missing women who became victims of Willie Picton. Or that other neighbourhoods like Mt. Pleasant became the dumping ground for the problem.
I don’t believe there is much merit to either argument. In fact, the hookers decamped overnight to streets east of Granville prior to the issuance of the injunction, where they plied their trade for years. Mt. Pleasant had already become another stroll years before. As had Georgia Street and the Downtown East Side. Each was a distinctive market, largely unaffected by what happened in the West End.
The issue was really about the ability of government to maintain order. If a residential neighbourhood could essentially be commandeered for whatever purpose, whether legal or otherwise, then the legitimacy of government to maintain order was in doubt.
McEachern clearly recognized his decision was far-reaching. “But the evidence I heard left me in no doubt the peace, order and good government of the West End was being compromised.”
His use of that phrase – peace, order and good government – from the 1867 Constitution Act, the foundation of Canadian government, suggests he fully understood what was at stake.
In the same issue, Sun columnist Pete McMartin acknowledges the life of Gim Huey, who passed away on Christmas. Gim was an accountant, a prominent member of the Chinese community, a constant yearner for elected office, and as McMartin notes, “the only person who ever caused Carole Taylor to suffer defeat.”
It was at the NPA nomination meeting at John Oliver High in 1986. Gim had bused in dozens of supporters in his bid for a council nomination, and though he denied it, they were told to check off the top nine names on the ballot in alphabetical order. H comes before T, so Gim got the nomination and Carole, to her astonishment, didn’t.
I have to note that P comes before T as well. And so I got a nomination too. Though one never knows what might have happened without Gim’s intervention, there’s a good chance I would not have made the shortlist, given that a list of ‘recommended’ candidates was being circulated by some of the power-brokers that had neither my name nor Gim’s.
On election day, Carole, running as an independent, got elected, as did I. Gim did not, and was never able to secure a victory thereafter – but I may have owed my political career to him.