In memoriam: Joseph J.M. Arvay, OC, QC

  • December 08, 2020

We were saddened to learn of the passing of Joseph J.M. Arvay, OC, QC this past weekend.  Joe’s exceptional advocacy resulted in landmark cases which have advanced human rights and civil liberties.  Two generations of Canadian law students have learned the Charter analysis that he helped to shape.   

For nearly 40 years, he challenged colleagues in the courtroom, and set an example of excellence and perseverance for all lawyers. 

As Joe once said, 

I believe in my clients’ causes.  That’s how I feel about every case that I do. Once I take on a case, I fight very hard for my clients and believe in the rightness and justness of their cause.

The entire CBABC community offers our sincere condolences to Joe’s family, colleagues, and friends.

Here are just some of the comments from the legal community:

David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing, has released the following statement on the passing of Joe Arvay, OC, OBC, QC:

“I am profoundly saddened to hear of Joe Arvay’s tragic and unexpected passing.

“Joe was one of the finest constitutional lawyers in this country and was a tireless advocate for human rights, Indigenous peoples and countless other marginalized or disadvantaged groups. He donated thousands of hours of his time to defend the rights of people who are on the margins, and he did so to make our country a better and more equal place.”

“I’m gutted, everybody’s gutted who knew him,” said Craig Jones, a professor of law at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. “He was far and away the most successful and storied constitutional litigator in Canadian history.”

Grace Pastine, litigation director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, worked with Arvay on a number of landmark cases in the past decade, including the Carter case that decriminalized physician-assisted dying in Canada.

“I would say Joe was a tireless and brilliant advocate. I’ve always been so impressed by his tireless advocacy for justice. I admired him deeply as a lawyer and I also valued him as a friend.”

One the things that was so remarkable about Arvay was that he worked at the “absolute pinnacle of the profession,” added Pastine.

“What drove him was a strong and abiding belief in justice and equality. Joe had deep wells of compassion for people. He translated that into the fiercest constitutional advocacy.”

Read more from:

The Legislative Assembly

Criminal Defence Advocacy Society

The Vancouver Sun


Business in Vancouver

The Globe and Mail

The Tyee

Canadian Lawyer Magazine