British Columbia

Longtime legal advocate steps down as director of B.C.'s Pivot Legal Society

Katrina Pacey has spent her entire legal career with the Vancouver legal advocacy group, signing on in the first few months of her law degree 17 years ago. She's spent the last three years as the society's executive director.

Katrina Pacey moves on after 17 years with legal advocacy group, 3 as executive director

Katria Pacey will be stepping down in 2018 from her role as executive director of Vancouver's Pivot Legal Society. (Matt Meuse/CBC)

After 17 years with the Pivot Legal Society, Katrina Pacey is moving on.

Pacey has spent her entire legal career with the Vancouver legal advocacy group, signing on in the first few months of her law degree. She's spent the last three years as the society's executive director.

"I really sat back and actually realized how proud I was and how amazing the organization was," Pacey said.

"I realized that ... I wasn't maybe needed in the same way that I used to be, that the team's incredible and I should create some space for new leadership."

Pacey will be stepping down in the new year, after overseeing the selection of a new executive director.

Advocate for sex workers

During her time with Pivot, much of Pacey's work has involved advocacy for sex workers, particularly in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Her work included numerous campaigns and court cases. In 2013, Canada v. Bedford resulted in the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that the country's prostitution laws were unconstitutional and should be struck down — though Pacey notes the Harper government quickly wrote new laws that criminalized other aspects of prostitution.

That work all began, Pacey says, with outreach work in the early 2000s, where she saw just how much danger sex workers in the Downtown Eastside were living in.

"When I spoke to sex workers about what they needed, they [said they] needed the laws to change," Pacey said.

"They needed to no longer be arrested. They needed control over the conditions of their work, and they needed to be able to access safety."

Legal and social change needed

Pacey is proud, not only of Pivot's legal victories during her tenure, but also its success in bringing forward cases from marginalized parts of society who might not otherwise be heard.

"We have shaped courtrooms in a way that doesn't get discussed as much as the issues get discussed, but is as important," she said.

"It's meant that homeless people in Abbotsford or sex workers in the Downtown Eastside or drug users have been able to step into that legal environment and access justice, tell their stories and demand change."

Pacey hasn't yet decided what's next for her. She's not sure if government work would be a good fit for her, but she hasn't ruled it out.

In the new year, she hopes to see Pivot expand its reach beyond just the Lower Mainland.

"I would love to see more Pivot in the world," Pacey said. "I would love to see Pivot in communities throughout British Columbia and perhaps across the country, eventually."

With files from CBC Radio One's On the Coast.

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