First recipient of Joe Arvay Legacy Fund models the humanitarian values of its namesake


JD student Nick Sayed is currently undetaking a public interest law internship at the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) with funding provided by the Joe Arvay Legacy Fund.

By Ivan Watson

For third-year law student Nick Sayed, the University of Victoria (UVic) was his first and only choice to earn his law degree. “I was accepted into several universities, but the reason I decided on UVic was because of its focus on social justice, including Indigenous rights and environmental and international law,” he says. “These are very important issues to me and it turns out that UVic has been the perfect fit.”

As the son of a refugee from the Lebanese civil war, Sayed grew up with a deep interest in human rights and humanitarian issues, and a value system deeply rooted in family, community and public interest advocacy.

“I developed an early passion for justice and the law, which has always seemed to me to be a mechanism through which I could seek to achieve things for people,” he says. “I remember being very young, and seeing refugee camps in the Middle East over and over again on my visits. Those images have stuck with me and hammer home the reality faced by a huge portion of the world.”

“I have very strong family ties, and family has been a very positive and significant driving force in my life,” he explains. “My grandfather, after the civil war in Lebanon, led reconciliation and peace talks with the people in his village on opposing sides, who had been trying to kill each other previously, and sought to rebuild community from the ground up—there is an important part of me that wants to continue this familial legacy.”

This summer, Sayed is working for four months at the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), with funding for his public interest internship provided in its entirety by the Joe Arvay Legacy Fund at UVic.

“Nick has taken on a range of assignments, including research on solitary confinement and assessing the new federal bill proposing oversight of Canada Border Services Agency. He has also immersed himself in our community engagement work by participating alongside BCCLA counsel in a number of coalitions,” says Mara Selanders, Staff Counsel (Policy) at the BCCLA. ”He is creative, insightful, and such an asset to our organization.”

Arvay legacy fund committee chair Gerry Ferguson, who was a close friend and colleague of Arvay, is pleased to see a student like Sayed honouring Arvay’s legacy.  

“I can see Joe’s values of humanitarianism and public interest advocacy exemplified in Nick and his approach to the law,” he says. “He is a passionate, articulate, dedicated and very well deserving recipient of the internship funding. I look forward with anticipation to following his career path in the years to come.”

Arvay, who sadly passed away in 2020, was widely recognized as one of the most brilliant and successful constitutional and civil liberties lawyers of his time with a passion for public interest law and the public good. He was a great friend and supporter of UVic Law and excellent role model for students such as Sayed. The Joseph Arvay Legacy Fund was created in his memory to encourage and support law students who have an interest in following his visionary work in pursuing public law activities, and who show the aptitude and talent for this specialized area of law. Sayed is the first internship fund recipient.

On the job at the BCCLA, Sayed is learning about, and focussing on, the kinds of legal work championed by Arvay.

“Learning to work with other people in a legal sense is probably the thing that I’ve gained the most so far, and the team at the BCCLA is doing such amazing and important rights advocacy work,” he explains. “Cooperative legal work, and working with people who specialise in a particular area of the law, bouncing ideas of each other and asking questions, it’s all a very collaborative and positive environment with people focussed on rights advocacy and justice. I couldn’t ask for a better experience to launch my legal career.”

The BCCLA is one of the oldest and most active civil liberties and human rights group in Canada. For sixty years, the BCCLA has been working in the courts, legislatures, and communities to advance human rights and civil liberties. The BCCLA’s work spans a range of civil liberties issues, including police accountability, prisons and criminalization, Indigenous rights, national security and surveillance, privacy rights, patients’ rights, freedom of expression, and equality rights.

Arvay advanced the work of the BCCLA throughout his career. He fearlessly represented the BCCLA on a pro bono basis for three decades in many ground-breaking cases in Canadian legal history. Joe fought to achieve full equality for the LGBTQ+ community, established the constitutional right to physician-assisted dying for the seriously ill, and represented the BCCLA in its successful constitutional challenge to prolonged, indefinite solitary confinement in federal prisons.

The Arvay Legacy fund committee is actively fundraising to ensure that funding is available in the years ahead to continue to support exemplary law students like Sayed, honouring Arvay’s legacy by supporting the next generation of lawyers to do the legal work that aims for equity and access to justice, and to advance the public good.

To make a tax-deductible contribution to the Joseph Arvay Legacy Fund visit

Contact Tina Belcourt, Development Officer, to explore ways to give to the Joseph Arvay Legacy Fund and/or to UVic Law.