It’s rare for solicitors to offer free, unsolicited advice.
But when Metro asked, former B.C. Liberal Attorney General Geoff Plant readily reached across the partisan aisle and lauded the new lawyer on the job, David Eby.
“He’s probably the first really strong civil libertarian who’s had the job for as long as I can remember in B.C., maybe ever,” Geoff Plant, who served in the role from 2001-5, told Metro. “It’s not a bad time to have an Attorney General who is inclined to take a civil liberties approach.”
Eby turns 40 on Friday, three days after he was named Premier John Horgan’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General. The appointment will see him involved in some of the most controversial social issues.
And while many Attorneys General have traditionally been drawn from Crown prosecutors and judges, Eby’s extensive background in civil liberties and rights litigation has raised eyebrows among the legal community.
Plant listed key files now on Eby’s desk: the prospect of legalizing marijuana in the next year, the “social distress” of the opioid crisis and ongoing homelessness. Other thorny justice files include assisted dying, provincial prisons, and legal aid.
“He’s been involved in those files,” said Plant, now a partner at Gall Legge Grant & Munroe law offices, “and he’s going to bring that experience and his own orientation to them.
“My advice is take the time to read the transition binder and get briefed on issues in the fullest possible away, take advice from your ministry staff — but don’t be afraid to chart your own course.”
Prior to entering politics, Eby became known for his dogged human rights criticisms of the very authorities — whether police, courts, prisons — he now holds some sway over in his new role.
After working as a Department of Justice lawyer, Eby volunteered with the nascent anti-poverty law organization Pivot Legal Society in 2003, eventually becoming its first paid counsel — taking cases to court on behalf of low-income Downtown Eastside residents, until his hiring as the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA)’s executive director in 2008.