A homeless Langley woman unsuccessfully sued the governments of Canada and British Columbia, asking a judge to dissolve the criminal records of 345 homeless people.
Lina Fyfe’s lawsuit was dismissed, but the judge was not without sympathy for the case of homeless people facing the justice system.
“The plaintiff articulates a broad plea for measures to alleviate her circumstances on homeless and helplessness,” wrote Justice Trevor Armstrong in his May 14 decision.
Armstrong mentioned some of Fyfe’s personal history in his judgment.
The local woman, who was evicted from living under a bridge in Langley City last summer, has been involved in a number of legal disputes with her family, including family court matters. She has also disputed the sale of a home in her family, unsuccessfully.
“She has been homeless in or about Langley for an extended time during which she has had many confrontations with police, corrections, and the courts,” Armstrong wrote.
At one point she was named a vexatious litigant, a designation for someone who repeatedly brings frivolous or harassing cases before the courts.
But in this case, Armstrong asked Fyfe what she wanted from her claims against the province and federal government.
Fyfe said she wanted, among other things, an order that people before the courts “not be given labels that indicate psychiatric disorders or problems,” that people in conflict before a judge be entitled to legal assistance, and that circumstances leading to crime, such as hardships or injuries, should be explored before charges are laid.
Along with that, she asked for the records of 345 people to be expunged.
“She explained to the court that during her life as a homeless person she has come to meet 345 men who have had extremely poor outcomes in proceedings before the courts,” Armstrong wrote. “She said she and these others are afraid of the courts and want this court to ‘fix it’.”
The court case had few specific aims.
“She said that ‘we are trying to get out of this mess’,” wrote Armstrong. “I understood her to mean that she and her comrades feel that their dignity has been diminished and their self-worth eroded in part because of their experiences in the courts and with government.”
He described Fyfe’s submissions as coming from “vulnerable, suspicious and physically and emotionally wounded people who believe the justice system is simply not working for them.”
However, the courts are not the proper place to solve those problems, the judge said.
“In general, the plaintiff’s submissions reveal problems and complaints that should be addressed in a political rather than in a judicial process,” Armstrong wrote.
He dismissed the case against both B.C. and Canada.