Op-Ed on Black History Month

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Read this op-ed by uOttawa law's own Prof. Rakhi Ruparelia.

Op-ed on the Hijab in the Courthouse

Read Prof. Carissima Mathen's op-ed in the Globe.

uOttawa Law Alumni on Hijabs in the Courthouse

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Amna Qureshi, a recent graduate of uOttawa Law published this op-ed in the the Star today, in support of Muslim women who wear the hijab in Canadian court rooms.

Analysis of Canada's proposed new anti terror law

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Professors Craig Forcese and Kent Roach provide the third in a series of commentary here.

Canada is Making Queer Refugees “Queue Jumpers”

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

By: Professor Nicole LaViolette

Much has been made of Immigration Minister Chris Alexander‘s recent announcement that Canada will take in 10,000 Syrian refugees in response to the United Nations’ appeal to help resettle Syrian refugees worldwide. The cause is urgent: millions of Syrians who have fled the brutal civil war are languishing in countries that simply do not have the resources to care for them.

So, many Canadians have welcomed the Minister’s announcement, reassured that the federal government has not completely abandoned a commitment to humanitarianism. But many others wonder how the government will meet the increased targets, given its failure to resettle far fewer Syrian refuges in 2014.

Less has been made about the details of Minister Alexander’s announcement, however, and they deserve attention. The Minister’s office has stated that “Canada is focusing on vulnerable individuals and those facing persecution… Our priority is and will continue to be on those who are at risk because they are a religious minority, a sexual minority, or victims of rape.” Hence, the Conservative government is interested in helping only certain sub-groups of Syrian refugees.

The emphasis on sexual minorities should, at first glance, be welcomed by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in Canada. For many years now, members of LGBT communities have supported individuals making claims for refugee protection in Canada. Groups have come together to raise funds to privately resettle these refugees. They have appeared before parliamentary committees to advocate for a fair system for sexual minority refugees. This work has been very important: the plight of LGBT refugees has long been disregarded, and as a result, sexual minorities have long been subject to discrimination, homophobia and neglect in the international and national refugee protection systems.

Yet, as a law professor who has devoted much of my scholarly work to researching the persecution of sexual minorities, I am deeply troubled by the prioritizing of LGBT refugees, along with religious minorities, ahead of many other refugees equally in need of protection. Refugee protection is supposed to be granted without discrimination. The UNHCR, the international agency responsible for referring refugees for resettlement, has stated that the selection test must be based on need, in order to help those most at risk. The agency therefore strongly discourages using discriminatory criteria such as family size, age, health status, ethnicity and religion, and presumably, sexual orientation.

Astonishingly, it seems the Conservative government intends to do what it has long denounced in relation to refugee policy: promote “queue jumping.” For years, Conservative politicians have identified this as one of the problems with our refugee system. In 2009, then Immigration Minister Jason Kenney incorrectly stated that “most Mexicans claiming refugee status in Canada are queue jumpers.” Tamil refugee claimants arriving in Canada were similarly branded by Conservative cabinet ministers. Indeed, for many years, the Harper government has justified drastic reforms to our refugee system by claiming the changes would help legitimate refugees, rather than queue-jumpers. So how can the government now justify moving specific groups of refugees to the front of a very long line of desperate people?

I know that Syrian LGBT refugees are already among the most at risk. They face criminal sanctions, social marginalization, and life-threatening violence in their home country. Therefore many will almost certainly be considered extremely vulnerable under a needs-based approach. They do not need to be singled out by Canada as part of a discriminatory resettlement policy. If the number of Syrian refugees to be resettled is increased, and the government seriously improves resettlement processing times and procedures, LGBT refugees will be able to access the protection they need.

For that reason, Canadian LGBT communities must insist that the Conservative government respect its international obligations to provide refugee protection without discrimination. Sexual minorities know only too well the harm caused by discrimination. Queer Canadians should not support doing unto others what has long been done to us.

Nicole LaViolette is a professor of law at the University of Ottawa.

Forcese and Roach Highlight Civil Rights Concerns with New Anti-Terror Bill

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Professor Craig Forcese of the University of Ottawa and Professor Kent Roach of the University of Toronto have launched an innovative new effort to document the civil rights concerns raised by the Government's recently introduced anti-terror bill. Professors Forcese and Roach will write and post a series of position papers about aspects of the bill. Their full work product will eventually appear at http://www.antiterrorlaw.ca/ and will ultimately become a new book by Irwin Law. In the meantime, check out their first paper on the proposed offence of "advocacy or promotion of terrorism" here.

Trinity Western University's proposed law school

Read this compelling op-ed by feminist law Professor Elaine Craig of the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. She argues that the recent Nova Scotia decision in favour of Trinity Western University's proposed law school fails to balance religious freedom with GLBTQ equality rights.

University of Ottawa Task Force on Respect and Equality

Friday, January 30, 2015

Yesterday a task force of experts released their report on ending sexual violence at the University of Ottawa. Here are their recommendations:

Create an action team responsible for implementing the Task Force recommendations.

Demonstrate the university leadership’s commitment to preventing sexual violence by having all members of the senior administration participate in awareness training by fall 2015.

Adopt an explicit statement of values to clearly articulate and transmit the University’s position regarding respect and equality and integrate this statement of values into Destination 2020.

 Adopt a new sexual violence policy and protocol that addresses the identified shortcomings of policies 67 and 67a.

Arrange for the delivery of harassment and sexual violence training to a variety of specified groups.

Deliver a campus-wide bystander education program in French and English led jointly by students, staff and faculty based on the research-supported Bringing in the Bystander initiative.

Collaborate with community-based organizations and experts regarding the delivery of support services to survivors of sexual violence and education for the University of Ottawa community.

Clarify and publicize the mandate and role of the Human Rights Office.

Collect and make public data on the number of harassment, sexual violence and discrimination complaints received by the University annually.

Mandate a gender audit of Sports Services and sexual violence training for student athletes and full-time coaching staff.

Fund the development of new undergraduate courses that address sexual violence from an interdisciplinary perspective

International commission puts the Oppal Inquiry in context

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Read this new op-ed about Canada's missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Putting a National Inquiry on the Radar

Friday, January 16, 2015

Putting a National Inquiry on the Radar

Kim Stanton, LEAF Legal Director

The IACHR Report arrives at a time when the Prime Minister has indicated that the call for a national inquiry on MMIW “isn’t really high on [his government’s] radar”. When the IACHR inquired of the government about plans for a national inquiry, the government advised that “money would be better spent on action rather than more recommendations” (para. 295). This response reflects a shallow view of the value of a public inquiry – if a national inquiry is provided with strong terms of reference, along with visionary commissioners who will make it a truly public inquiry, then a national inquiry is a very important action to take.

There is another problem with the government’s response. In support of its argument that “action” rather than further study was required, the federal government pointed to recommendations from over 45 reports that it says constitute adequate study (para. 299). While the various reports have touched upon related issues to varying degrees, none of these reports is from a national commission of inquiry focused on violence against Indigenous women. Further, research conducted by the Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women (LSC)[1] highlights the fact that very few of the over 700 recommendations made in those reports have been implemented. The LSC concludes that while there is consensus about the root causes of violence against Indigenous women, there has been very little response to address the crisis. A national, state-sponsored inquiry is needed to forcefully explore and address the causes of this lack of response.

This conclusion is now backed up by the IACHR Report, which ends with a discussion of “the question of a national inquiry”. The Report acknowledges the widespread support in Canada for a national inquiry, and notes that Canada has been instructed by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination:

…to coordinate its various policies and programs in a comprehensive national strategy, a recommendation that was also made during Canada’s 2009 and 2013 Universal Periodic Review. Canada’s provincial premiers have also expressed support for a National Inquiry into the matter. The IACHR also notes that among the recommendations in its report on the situation of indigenous peoples in Canada, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, suggested that “the federal Government should undertake a comprehensive, nation-wide inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls, organized in consultation with indigenous peoples.” (para. 300)

The IACHR Report calls upon the government to provide a coordinated response to address the root causes of the violence and to improve its consultation with those most affected. 

A national inquiry would create the road map for achieving these objectives. Such an inquiry is needed to examine why there has been so much resistance to implementation of known and recommended measures to address the issue. The purpose of such an inquiry is not simply, as the government’s response suggests, to make more recommendations. Its purpose is to be a catalyst for real change. A commission of inquiry can play an important pedagogical role through its very existence. If properly mandated and conscientiously run, a public inquiry into why we know Indigenous women are subjected to violence at a far higher rate than non-Indigenous women, and yet do so little about it, will educate the wider public on this issue. There are hard questions that need to be asked about the resistance of our society to honestly facing the systemic issues that plague us. A well-run commission will stimulate a national conversation about the underlying causes of violence against Indigenous women, a conversation we cannot continue to avoid. The IACHR Report is the latest credible call to put a national inquiry on the radar.

Kim Stanton completed her doctoral dissertation at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law on truth commissions and public inquiries, and has published articles on the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, and the BC Missing Women Commission. She is the Legal Director of LEAF (which has supported the call for a national inquiry for the missing and murdered Indigenous women).

[1] The LSC is a nation-wide ad hoc coalition of groups and individuals formed in 2014 following the murder of Inuit university student Loretta Saunders, to marshal resources that address violence against Indigenous women. The preliminary research was conducted by volunteer legal researchers Pippa Feinstein and Megan Pearce. 
Designed by Rachel Gold.