Ontario Teacher’s Surreptitious Video Recording of Female Students’ Cleavage was not “For a Sexual Purpose”

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ontario Teacher’s Surreptitious Video Recording of Female Students’ Cleavage was not “For a Sexual Purpose”

By: Prof. Teresa Scassa

Justice Goodman of the Ontario Superior Court has ruled that a high school teacher who used a pen camera to surreptitiously record interactions with female students – with an emphasis on their cleavage – was not guilty of voyeurism because he was not persuaded, beyond a reasonable doubt, that “the observation or recording is done for a sexual purpose” (Criminal Code, s. 162(1)(c)).

The videotaping in question took place at a high school in London, Ontario in 2011. The teacher used a pen camera to make seventeen video ranging from 6 seconds in length to over 2.5 minutes. The students captured in the videos were all female, and all between the ages of 14 and 18 years of age. The teacher, Ryan Jarvis, was caught when one of his colleagues became suspicious of his actions and reported Jarvis to the school principal. The principal sought out Jarvis. He crossed paths with him twice. The first time was while he was leaning against a locker, in conversation with a female student, with his arms crossed and holding up a pen from which a red recording light was shining. The second time was while he was in a computer lab, standing near a seated female student. The principal “noted that Jarvis had his arms crossed and was holding the pen so that the top, non-writing part of the pen was visible.”(at para 12) The principal took possession of the pen on June 21. Seventeen active videos were found on the pen. Police obtained a warrant to search Jarvis home over a week later on June 29. Although they seized various electronic devices, they found no more images or videos. Jarvis’ computer system was missing its hard drive.

The defence advanced two main arguments. The first of these was that the students at the school had no reasonable expectation of privacy, as they were in a public place and were already subject to daily surveillance via security cameras installed throughout the school. Justice Goodman made relatively short work of this argument. He noted that while there might be some instances at school where students have no reasonable expectation of privacy, this was not one of those instances. He wrote:  “the recordings are of diverse and somewhat prolonged duration in circumstances where the students’ spatial integrity in or about the school was impacted in a most surreptitious manner.  All this gives rise to an expectation of privacy by the students.” (at para 49)

The second argument of the defence was that it could not be established beyond a reasonable doubt that the video recordings were made for a sexual purpose. It was this argument that ultimately proved successful.

The images captured by the pen camera included a number of clips that focussed exclusively on the students’ breasts or cleavage. Other clips moved from the students’ faces to their breast area. Justice Goodman wrote:  “it is arguable that a reasonable viewer, looking at the clips objectively and in context, would perceive that these depictions of the students’ cleavage were intended to cause sexual stimulation to some viewers.” (at para 59) Nevertheless, he still found that the Crown had not established its case. He stated: “While a conclusion that the accused was photographing the student’s [sic] cleavage for a sexual purpose is most likely, there may be other inferences to be drawn that detract from the only rationale [sic] conclusion required to ground a conviction for voyeurism.” (at para 77) Because of this, he found that guilt beyond a reasonable doubt could not be established. No examples were given of “other inferences that might be drawn”.

In reaching his conclusion Justice Goodman acknowledged that his decision might be “the subject of lay or judicial criticism” (at para 60). Good call. Implicit in the concept of “beyond a reasonable doubt” is that any doubt has to be reasonable. It is frankly difficult to conceive of any explanation for a male high school teacher’s surreptitious recording of his interactions with female students, in violation of their privacy rights, and with a focus on their breasts and cleavage, that does not involve sexual purposes. Any doubt that ‘sexual purposes’ motivated this behaviour would seem frankly unreasonable.

It is difficult to explain how Justice Goodman could find that the “accused’s behaviour was morally repugnant and professionally objectionable,” (at para 78) and yet still not be persuaded it was criminal. The outcome suggests that it has become so commonplace in our society for young women to be objectified and sexualized that it takes some really overt sexual dimension for the legal system to take notice. There are offences in the Criminal Code that deal with more overt forms of sexual exploitation and offences that address sexual violence. The voyeurism provisions are designed to capture, among other things, creeps with cameras. That they did not succeed in doing so in this case is troubling.

Legal Education and Violence Against Women: Ethical and Professional Demands

Monday, November 23, 2015

By: Prof. Suzanne Bouclin

Pamela Cross’s lecture on November 11th titled “Legal Education and Violence Against Women: Ethical and Professional Demands,” called on legal educators to make Violence Against Women (VAW) a mandatory topic of study in law faculties. Students, practitioners, members of the private and public sector and professors assembled to hear this highly-regarded feminist lawyer who has devoted her career to educating the broader public about and advocating with and on behalf of women and children who experience violence.

Shirley Greenberg Professor of Women and the Legal Profession Elizabeth Sheehy introduced the event, reminding those present of the intimate femicides perpetrated in the Ottawa Valley on September 21st and acknowledging the three women who lost their lives: Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam, and Carol Culleton.  She urged people to support the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women’s (OCTEVAW) Shine the Light campaign to bring community awareness to violence against women and girls. Moderator Professor Suzanne Bouclin insisted that November 11th – a day or remembering the casualties of armed conflict – must also be used to mark the lost lives of civilian women and children, against whom multiple forms of violence are regularly wielded in order to attain military and political objectives.   

Ms Cross began by explaining that VAW is not merely the domain of family and criminal law; rather it is a serious, socially-embedded problem that is often misunderstood, overlooked by lawyers working in other fields of law and ignored by the legal system more broadly. Part of the problem, she argued, is that VAW is not being taught widely or consistently in Canadian law schools. She acknowledged the important shifts in legal teaching over the last few decades and the inclusion of feminist and critical perspectives in course curricula as a result of work by feminist activists and academics.

She cautioned, however, that there remain on-going challenges to integrating feminist understandings of VAW within law faculties and queried how it might be done in a more comprehensive, embedded and consistent manner. Core concepts need to be introduced to law students, for example the understanding that VAW, domestic violence, and sexual violence are not mutually exclusive; that VAW can be disclosed by clients in any context and that lawyers must be able to see its relevance to the legal issues they are representing; and that our rules of ethics and professional conduct have particular implications in terms of VAW. She discussed the rules that govern integrity (what makes for an effective advocate in the context of VAW), core competencies (what skills do lawyers need in order to meaningfully work with women who have experienced trauma and violence), and confidentiality (how do the rules around confidentiality operate to render women and girls more vulnerable).  

Recommendations for curriculum change emerged during the question period, including: making VAW courses mandatory (to avoid further alienating the self-selected students who already see it as important and to acknowledge that VAW ought to be a pervasive component of the curricula); training professors on who to appropriate integrate VAW perspectives into their existing teaching; and rethinking course material with the view that VAW issues  arise in almost any area of law.

Her talk drew on her earlier work with the Law Commission of Ontario reportA Framework for Teaching about Violence Against Women and reports of Ontario’s Domestic Violence Death Review Committee. Both of these commissions have recommended that law schools in Ontario make VAW a mandatory component of the curriculum. The event was co-sponsored by the Shirley Greenberg Chair for Women and the Legal Profession and the Cavanagh LLP Professionalism Joint Speaker Series at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. Law professors, students and activists are now in discussion about how to move this issue forward at uOttawa and at the national level.


Le 11 novembre 2015, des étudiant(e)s, des avocat(e)s, des membres des secteurs privé et public et des professeurs se sont réunis pour entendre Me Pamela Cross se prononcer sur le thème de la formation juridique et de la violence faite aux femmes et des exigences sur les plans éthique et professionnel (Legal Education and Violence Against Women: Ethical and Professional Demands). Me Cross est une éminente avocate féministe qui a consacré sa carrière à éduquer le grand public au sujet de la défense des droits des femmes et des enfants qui subissent de la violence en plus de défendre elle-même ces personnes. L’objectif principal de son discours était d’inciter les participants à se demander si la violence faite aux femmes(VFF) (en anglais "Violence Against Women (VAW)") devrait être enseignée de façon plus explicite dans les facultés de droit.

La professeure Elizabeth Sheehy a présenté l’événement en rappelant aux membres de l’auditoire les homicides conjugaux récemment commis dans la région de la vallée de l'Outaouais en rendant hommage aux trois femmes qui ont perdu la vie (Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam, et Carol Culleton). Elle a exhorté l’assistance à appuyer la campagne de la Coalition d'Ottawa contre la violence faite aux femmes, intitulée Pleine Lumière afin de sensibiliser l’ensemble de la communauté au phénomène de la violence contre les femmes et les enfants : http://www.octevaw-cocvff.ca/fr/projects/faire-la-lumiere. La professeure Suzanne Bouclin, en sa qualité de modératrice, a insisté sur l’à-propos de la date du 11 novembre – une journée consacrée au souvenir des pertes en vies civiles durant les conflits armés – en soulignant que les femmes et les enfants civils ont été parmi les plus grandes victimes de la guerre et que les multiples formes de violence sont le plus souvent dirigées contre ces civils afin d’atteindre, ce faisant, des objectifs militaires et politiques.   

Me Cross a commencé son allocution en expliquant que la violence faite aux femmes ne relève pas uniquement du droit de la famille et du droit pénal; en fait, il s’agit plutôt d’un problème de société grave souvent mal compris, voire ignoré, par les avocats qui exercent dans d’autres domaines du droit et auquel l’ensemble du système juridique ne semble pas, en général, attacher l’importance que ce fléau mérite pourtant. Selon elle, une partie du problème est que la violence faite aux femmes n’est pas un sujet d’études traité, ni enseigné couramment et/ou de façon constante dans les facultés de droit canadiennes. Elle a certes reconnu les importants changements apportés à la formation juridique au cours des dernières décennies et l’inclusion des perspectives féministe et critique dans les programmes d’études juridiques grâce aux efforts déployés par les militantes et universitaires féministes. Elle a cependant rappelé qu’il restait des défis importants à relever pour ce qui est de l’intégration des interprétations féministes de la VFF au sein des facultés de droit et se demande comment on pourrait réaliser cette intégration de façon plus complète, et plus uniforme et générale. Elle a à cet effet présenté quelques suggestions concernant son contenu spécifique. Elle a notamment recommandé de comprendre et de faire valoir que la VFF, la violence familiale et la violence sexuelle ne sont pas mutuellement exclusives ; d’explorer la manière dont la profession juridique facilite la VFF à la fois à titre symbolique et dans la réalité ; de remettre en question de façon critique nos règles d’éthique et normes de conduite – comme celles qui traitent de l’intégrité (ce qui fait qu’un défenseur se montre efficace dans le contexte de la VFF), les compétences essentielles (de quelles aptitudes et habiletés les avocats ont besoin pour travailler efficacement avec des femmes qui ont subi des traumatismes et de la violence), et le devoir de confidentialité (la manière dont les règles entourant la confidentialité fonctionnent de façon à rendre les femmes et les filles plus vulnérables). Voici quelques-unes des recommandations formulées pendant cette période de questions : rendre obligatoires les cours sur la VFF (afin d’éviter d’aliéner davantage les étudiantes et étudiants qui ont fait le choix de prendre ces cours, ayant reconnu l’importance du sujet et ce faisant, modifier la culture dominante au sein des facultés de droit pour reconnaître que la VFF devrait être une composante systématique de tout programme d’études en droit) ; former les professeurs sur la manière d’intégrer de façon appropriée des perspectives de la VFF à leur enseignement actuel ; et repenser le matériel pédagogique dans l’optique de soulever les enjeux liés à la VFF dans presque tous les domaines du droit.

Son allocution se fondait sur le travail qu’elle avait réalisé pour la Commission du droit de l’Ontario, intitulé Modules de formation des facultés de droit ontariennes : Cadre d’enseignement permettant d’aborder la violence à l’égard des femmes - août 2012 (http://www.lco-cdo.org/fr/violence-against-women-modules-final-report) et d’autres rapports produits pour le Comité d’examen des décès dus à la violence familiale de l’Ontario. Cet événement était parrainé par la Série de conférences professionnelles conjointes Cavanagh s.r.l. et de la Chaire Shirley E. Greenberg pour les femmes et la profession juridique à l’Université d’Ottawa, Faculté de droit. 

London high school teacher’s secret filming of 27 female students ruled not to be voyeurism

Friday, November 13, 2015

Read this newspaper report that outlines some of the key findings leading to the acquittal.

Seeing Crime: Visual Evidence, Emotions and Domestic Violence

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Seeing Crime: Visual Evidence, Emotions and Domestic Violence

Monday, November 16

Loeb A602,  Carleton University, 2:30 to 4 pm.

Changes in prosecutorial strategies over the last 30 years vis-à-vis domestic violence ushered in new models of investigation that, among other things, privilege images of victims, both still and video. Drawing on case law, we argue that these visual artefacts of victims’ injuries as well as their video-taped sworn statements describing their assaults constitute what Haggerty and Ericson call a ‘data double’, a virtual doppleganger who is meant to stand, often antagonistically in the stead of the flesh and blood victim.
Dawn Moore
Associate Professor
Department of Law and Legal Studies
Carleton University

Dawn Moore is Associate Professor of Law and Legal Studies at Carleton University. She is the author of two books and over 20 monographs whose topics range from hate crimes, violence against women, drug users, critical criminology, prisoner’s rights and access to information.

Myths and Stereotypes

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Read this op-ed by feminist professors Elaine Craig and Alice Woolley about a recent case on sexual assault, and judicial attitudes towards women.

Improving Police Response to Crimes of Violence Against Women

Friday, November 6, 2015

University of Ottawa Professor Holly Johnson has authored a report on how local police forces can improve their response to crimes of violence against women. Available in English and in French ,the report documents the experiences of women survivors of crimes of violence, and makes key recommendations based on this data.

Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights was established to provide rapid response grants (up to $5000) to women's human rights organizations when an unanticipated situation arises that requires immediate response in order to prevent the deterioration of women's human rights or to promote further advancement of women's rights. UAF supports women activists at critical junctures, when groups are able to use a small amount of funds to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and/or respond to threats. Please note, UAF is not able to provide funds for general operating or program support, development projects, or humanitarian aid.

There are two main categories of grants we support (or a mixture of both), security grants and advocacy grants. Security grants support women activists and their organizations when they are experiencing threats because of the work they are doing, i.e. the need for funds to evacuate, provide office security or unarmed guards. Advocacy grants support urgent activities in situations of unexpected 'openings' in policy and legislation, legally precedent cases, and public-awareness raising.

In the context of Canada, potential support may be given around the recent case of sexual assault allegations in Val d'Or, given that the women came out publicly, which is potentially precedent-setting. Support can also be given in the context of recent change in political leadership and thus an opportunity for women to put pressure on the current government to ensure that the national inquiry goes forward with substantial input from family members and leadership by the aboriginal women themselves. In addition, there might be an opportunity for advocacy around the Keystone Pipeline campaign. It is known that the campaign is women-led and currently there are efforts made by TransCanada to suspend the US Govt evaluation instead of full rejection. TransCanada hopes for a more favorable political climate when the US elections take place in 2016.

Please note that we do not require organizational registration.

More information can be found on our website http://urgentactionfund.org/apply-for-a-grant/criteriado-i-fit/.

Please contact Meerim Ilyas at meerim@urgentactionfund.org if you have further questions about our funding and what we support.

Doctors’ public duty trumps religious beliefs

Monday, November 2, 2015

Doctors’ public duty trumps religious beliefs

The license to practice medicine is a privilege accompanied by an obligation. Doctors who don’t get that should consider another profession. Using religion as an excuse to deny patient care or counsel is indefensible.

Earlier this year, the College of Physicians and Surgeons circulated a draft policy on “Professional Obligations and Human Rights” for its members. The College made clear that if a physician objects to providing a service to patients because it conflicts with the doctor’s own moral or religious beliefs, that doctor must refer the patient to another physician. This is eminently defensible.

No doctor can be compelled to offer a treatment or service that he or she feels ethically unable to provide. But neither can a doctor hold a patient hostage to his or her personal beliefs. Referral to another physician is the ethical and compassionate thing to do; it is what the law requires. 

In an op-ed last February, 2015, three Ottawa religious leaders argued the new Policy Guidelines deny physicians the ability to practice according to their conscience. In their view “it makes no sense” to ask physicians to “facilitate a wrong” by referring to another doctor. They argued “To make the practice of medicine less hospitable to those who profess their faith is an unjust form of religious discrimination.”   A legal challenge to the new Policy Guidelines has also been launched by five Ontario physicians and two doctor-advocacy organizations that claim both a religion and conscience objection to the Guidelines as well as a violation of equality rights.  

Primary care physicians hold the key to almost all treatment options. The profession operates on a system of referrals. When a primary care doctor cannot perform the necessary treatment, he or she refers to one who can. That is standard practice.  

What truly is discriminatory and wrong is for physicians to abandon their standard practice and professional obligations, prioritizing their faith over patients’ well-being. This is not a private matter for a physician. Canadian medical schools are located in publicly funded universities and taxpayers heavily subsidize the cost of a medical education. Graduates who remain in Canada will work in a taxpayer-subsidized health care system.

The two most notorious conscience matters for physicians are abortion and assisted death. While both remain areas of great public debate, they are settled Constitutional rights in law. Yes, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects a right to freedom of conscience and religion. Individuals are free to believe whatever they choose, and free to practice their beliefs (as long as they don’t contravene other laws or infringe on others’ freedoms). Physicians, as individuals, are entitled to the full protection of the Charter in their personal lives. But so are their clients. The Charter also protects my rights as a patient to make decisions about medical treatment, and to have my choices respected by health care providers.  And it guarantees me access to necessary medical services.  

People are never more vulnerable than when they require the help of physicians, and acutely so when seeking medical counsel about abortion and assisted death. That’s both an incredible burden and a precious obligation.  When a doctor refuses to provide abortion or assisted death services or counseling for reasons of conscience, that already sends a coercive message. Given the trust and personal relationships we cultivate with physicians who see us at our worst, our most fragile and helpless, this disclosure might already be devastating. To then have your doctor usher you out the door, without any further guidance about where or how you might find help, is not a matter of conscience—it is unconscionable.  Abandoning a patient at a time of great crisis is both unethical and unprofessional.  

The new Policy Guidelines offer a simple compromise:  refer the client to another doctor. A medical degree is a privilege—one that the public pays for—not a right. If a primary care practice requires you to compromise your beliefs, choose another practice area. There are many where such dilemmas would never arise. 

Patients have the right to know all of their options when they’re hurt, sick, pregnant or dying. They have the right not to be abandoned when they’re in crisis.

Feminist Professor Receives Health Law Grant

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Professeure Vanessa Gruben reçoit la bourse James-Kreppner!  

La bourse de recherche sur le système du sang James‑Kreppner a été octroyée à la professeure Vanessa Gruben pour son projet intitulé « Organ Donation in Canada: Engaging with Stakeholders and Proposing Solutions to Current Legal and Ethical Challenges » (Don d’organes au Canada : mobiliser les intervenants et proposer des solutions à des défis d’ordre juridique et éthique).

Les travaux de recherche de Prof Gruben portent sur la législation qui régit divers aspects de la procréation médicalement assistée, notamment les différends contractuels concernant les embryons congelés, la protection de la vie privée et l’accès à l’information, l’anonymat des donneurs de gamètes, la réglementation et le financement des technologies d’assistance médicale à la procréation, et le caractère constitutionnel de la Loi sur la procréation assistée.

La bourse James-Kreppner est l’un des nombreux programmes de subvention mis sur pied par la Société canadienne du sang en vue d’appuyer la recherche dans le domaine des sciences transfusionnelles, particulièrement en ce qui a trait aux questions d’ordre médical, juridique et éthique. Dans le cadre de cette occasion de financement, Mme Gruben recevra un montant de 75 000 $ par année étalé sur deux ans, soit en 2015 et en 2016.

Bravo Professeure Gruben 

Prof. Vanessa Gruben Awarded James Kreppner Fellowship

Professor Vanessa Gruben has been awarded the James Kreppner Fellowship in Blood System Studies for her project “Organ Donation in Canada: Engaging with Stakeholders and Proposing Solutions to Current Legal and Ethical Challenges.”

Professor Gruben’s research focuses on the legal regulation of various aspects of assisted human reproduction, including contractual disputes over frozen embryos, privacy and access to information, gamete donor anonymity, the regulation and funding of assisted reproductive technologies, and the constitutionality of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act.

The Kreppner Fellowship is one of a large number of funding programs established by Canadian Blood Services in support of blood-related medical, legal, and ethical research.  The fellowship provides Prof. Gruben with funding for two years (2015 and 2016) each in the amount of $75,000.

Congratulations Prof. Gruben!


LEAF Person's Day Breakfast

LEAF Ottawa proudly presents the Persons Day Breakfast Gala
on October 30, 2015

Designed by Rachel Gold.