What's law got to do with it?
Although I’ve been determined to take the social justice path ever since entering law school I have always been quite uncertain about how law can actually bring more justice to our society. Coming from Austria, I am eager to learn how another country with a different legal system confronts their issues and perhaps find some ideas I can take back home to freshen up my own country’s justice system.
Since social justice is hardly part of my school program, I have always wanted to get experience and information outside of the classroom. And it was disappointing to see how people would put all their energy into bringing more justice to our society only to find that their fight for equal rights was dismissed. I often ended up thinking that law has actually turned into a tool for unfairness and social injustice used by the “who’s who.”
It probably was around one of those frustrating days when I found out about Pivot. Pivot’s mandate to use law as the main tool to address the root causes of poverty and social exclusion was the first thing to catch my eye; I had never encountered an organization with such a philosophy on law before. Taking a closer look at their homepage, I was truly impressed to find out about the projects they are running. I was even more impressed when I got into town and discovered that Pivot was such a well-known organization.
Honestly though, I have to admit that I did not stop wondering about how using law as a tool can work. I was still not able to answer people’s questions back home when they asked me, “….Well, what does Pivot actually do?”
However, having started my internship two weeks ago, I feel like I am getting close to knowing how this non-profit organization works. Once again, I am impressed. In this time I have been busy working on Pivot’s YIMBY project (the toolkit was launched last week and it was a lot of fun), doing research on domestic violence and how different courts/jurisdictions deal with it and reading Pivot’s report “Broken Promises” on B.C.’s child welfare system and how it too often fails to decide in children’s best interest. The way Pivot attempts to address the root causes of social injustice does now make a lot more sense. I guess I was just not aware of how many different kinds of details need to be considered in order to approach an issue properly. For example, when I was reading the “Broken Promises” report and did research on domestic violence online, I realized that the system acts as if it expects taking away the “bad guy” would solve the problem of family violence. I was surprised how diverse cases can be and how they can get even more complicated by a system that fails to choose in the victims’ best interests. Addressing a problem at its roots, however, means remaking the system so that decision makers can consider the facts in an objective way; the only way to do this is for the decision makers to be able to communicate with all the parties involved and consider all of what they have to say and not just those details that would lead to the easiest outcome. By discovering the weak points of the social system, Pivot does not give up in the belief that there is a way justice can be available for everybody. If equal rights would be guaranteed for everyone, this would be a lot easier.
What I have experienced so far at Pivot suggests to me that law has got a lot to do with ensuring that social justice is done. Pivot ensures that lawmakers know how the law can supply equality for everyone and works to ensure that the system provides help for the most marginalized. I hope I can contribute to that during the upcoming months.