Prof. Sheehy Receives 2014 Mundell Medal

Friday, April 24, 2015

La professeure Sheehy reçoit la médaille Mundell 2014

La professeure Élizabeth Sheehy a reçu la médaille David Walter Mundell 2014, qui est remise annuellement par le ministère du Procureur général de l’Ontario pour rendre hommage à un auteur juridique qui a fait une contribution distinguée au droit.

La médaille Mundell a été créée par le regretté procureur général de l’Ontario Ian Scott, qui souhaitait qu’elle soit « une sorte de prix Pulitzer pour la rédaction juridique ». La médaille est nommée en l’honneur de David W. Mundell, célèbre avocat en droit constitutionnel et membre de premier plan du personnel du ministère du Procureur général de l’Ontario. L’honorable George Strathy, juge en chef de l’Ontario, a présidé le comité de sélection de cette année.

En 2014, la professeure Sheehy a publié le livre intitulé « Defending Battered Women on Trial : Lessons from the Transcripts » chez l’éditeur UBC Press. Ce livre porte sur les obstacles auxquels se heurtent les femmes qui essaient de quitter des hommes violents et sur les dilemmes pratiques et juridiques auxquels sont confrontées les femmes battues jugées pour meurtre. Le livre est également finaliste pour le Prix du Canada en sciences humaines 2015, décerné par la Fédération des sciences humaines.

Le procureur général remettra le prix à la professeure Sheehy lors du Gala annuel de remise de prix de l’Association du Barreau de l’Ontario le 23 avril 2015 à Toronto.

Parmi les autres membres du corps professoral qui ont remporté le prix, on note la professeure Constance Backhouse, qui a reçu la médaille en 2010, et l’honorable David Paciocco, qui a reçu la médaille lorsqu’il était professeur à l’Université d’Ottawa en 2002.

Félicitations à la professeure Sheehy !



Prof. Sheehy Receives 2014 Mundell Medal

Professor Elizabeth Sheehy has been awarded the 2014 David Walter Mundell Medal, which is given out annually by the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario to recognize a legal writer who has made a distinguished contribution to the law.

The Mundell Medal was inaugurated by the late Ontario Attorney General Ian Scott, who intended it to be “a kind of Pulitzer Prize for legal writing.”  The medal is named to honour the memory of the late David W. Mundell, a renowned constitutional lawyer and a pre-eminent member of the staff of the Department of the Attorney General of Ontario. This year`s Selection Committee was chaired by the Honourable George Strathy, Chief Justice of Ontario. 

In 2014, Prof. Sheehy released Defending Battered Women on Trial: Lessons from the Transcripts (UBC Press), which examines the barriers to women trying to leave violent men and the practical and legal dilemmas that face battered women on trial for murder.  The book is also a finalist for the 2015 Canada Prize in the Social Sciences, awarded by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences .

Prof. Sheehy will receive the award from the Attorney General at the Ontario Bar Association’s Annual Awards Gala on April 23, 2015 in Toronto.

Other faculty members who have won the award include Prof. Constance Backhouse, who received the medal in 2010, and the Honourable David Paciocco, who was awarded the medal when he was a professor at uOttawa in 2002.


Congratulations to Prof. Sheehy!

Tribute to Canadian Feminist Law Professors: Osgoode Hall's IFLS

 Osgoode Hall's Institute for Feminist Legal Studies posted this tribute to feminist law Professors Susan Boyd and Hester Lessard who will both retire this year. Professors Lessard and Boyd each had a lasting and important impact on Canadian law, feminist scholarship, and generations of feminist lawyers and law students. 

Canadian Appellate Level Decisions Dealing with Refugee Claims Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Friday, April 17, 2015

uOttawa Law's  Professor Nicole LaViolette has recently posted this useful research and advocacy tool:  a compilation entitled  Canadian Appellate Level Decisions Dealing with Refugee Claims Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity – Listed According to the Definition of a Convention Refugee. You can find the document here. 

This compilation of Canadian appellate level decisions covers the period from 1993 to 2015 and contains two appeals from the RAD of the IRB; a significant number of judicial reviews from the Federal Court; and finally, one case from the Supreme Court of Canada. Decisions were selected if they identified principles of law which are settled and illustrated how those principles were applied to particular situations. Indeed, cases were selected if they set out a legal principle rather than decisions that were simply decided on the particular facts of the refugee claim. The decisions are organized thematically according to the definition of a Convention refugee under the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

An invitation from METRAC

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dear friends and colleagues,

You are invited to METRAC’s 30th Anniversary Founders and Keepers Gala on Wednesday May 27 at 6:00 PM at the historic Casa Loma in Toronto. 

This fun and elegant evening will be hosted by Angie Seth of Global Toronto News, and will feature a performance by Juno-award-winning jazz singer, Lorraine Klaasen. We are also proud to have a special keynote address by Jane Doe and Cynthia Petersen, legal trail-blazers that have made a difference in the lives of women in Canada. 
The work that METRAC does is effective in:

- Providing youth with employment and leadership skills, while raising awareness about sexual violence, harassment and bullying, through our ReAct program.

- Making the TTC safer - METRAC is responsible for both Designated Waiting Areas and the Request Stop Program.   

- Creating safer communities through our community safety audits, research and education.

- Ensuring that women have access to relevant, accurate and accessible family law information through our Family Law Education for Women; this information is provided in a variety of formats and languages.

- Raising awareness and educating communities about all forms of sexual violence through the May Be Me Campaign.

Help us celebrate our victories and welcome the challenges ahead. Proceeds from the Gala will support our programs and make our dream to launch Ontario’s First Violence Prevention Centre, "The Station" a reality. 

Purchase tickets or table and become an Event Sponsor or Donor by visiting

 www.metrac.org/events/founders-and-keepers-gala-2015

or calling us at 416-392-3135.

You may also reach Amelia Martin, METRAC Board Member and Co-chair of the Fundraising Committee at 416-805-6400 directly to purchase tickets, tables or program advertising space.


Please join me in celebrating 30 years of activism to create a safer city!

Update: Trinity Western University Litigation

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Trinity Western University  (TWU) has filed for judicial review of the Law Society of Upper Canada's decision not to accredit their graduates due to TWU's discriminatory Covenant. The Divisional Court hearing is scheduled for the first week of June, 2015.

Here you will find the Applicant's Factum (Trinity Western University) and the  Factum of the Respondent (The Law Society of Upper Canada).

In their paper UOttawa law alumni Angela Chaisson, and Professors Angela Cameron and Jena McGill argue that the decisions by LSUC  not to accredit TWU law degrees are correct in law, and will withstand any legal challenge by TWU. The relevant legal principles governing the Societies’ decisions on accreditation required the Societies to act in the public interest, and in accordance with Charter values. The public interest and the Charter required the Societies to reject TWU unless and until the removal of the mandatory, discriminatory Covenant. These arguments are reflected in the Respondent's factum.





If Our Vaginas Were Guns: With Grief and Outrage for Cindy Gladue

Tuesday, April 7, 2015




TRIGGER WARNING –
This post contains information about sexual assault and physical violence which may be triggering to survivors and to families of missing and murdered indigenous women.

If Our Vaginas Were Guns: With Grief and Outrage for Cindy Gladue

by Josephine L. Savarese, Fredericton, NB

Note: The title of this blog is taken from a poem by a pro-choice activist from Austin, Texas, Katie Heim. She penned the poem to draw attention to the overregulation of women’s sexuality versus the under-regulation of guns. 

Cindy Gladue was thirty six when she died in 2011. Katie Heim was the same age when she wrote her poem for women’s rights. Cindy and Katie were both mothers. Katie states in an interview she wrote the poem for reproductive justice for young women, not for herself.[1]

Saturday, April 4, the day before Easter Sunday. Another storm rocks Atlantic Canada. Snow begins to fall in the mid- afternoon covering the signs of spring that were emerging, from bare ground to murky puddles. A good day to stay inside. Almost all of it is spent struggling to write this blog entry. The subject in mind is the acquittal of Ontario trucker, Bradley Barton, on the charge of first degree murder for the homicide of an Edmonton resident, Cindy Gladue. The last grainy image of Cindy shows her walking with Barton in the Yellowhead Inn holding his hand.  I study the picture, blow it up on my screen for clues of a “bad date”. A gesture described by the defence as affectionate looks menacing. Barton clenches Gladue’s right hand. Her left hand is raised, brushing her hair. A large man lurks immediately behind them, carrying a plastic bag. This was her last night. 

To call the facts of Cindy’s death shocking, distasteful seems trite. Cindy Gladue was left to bleed to death in a hotel bathtub. Barton maintains he fell asleep. Claims he asked Cindy Gladue to leave without payment hours before he found her lifeless body. Rejected her when his fingers inserted in her vagina became bloodied. Menstrual blood, he claims. To his surprise, he says, she was still in his room the next morning, lying cold in the bathroom. Blood all over.  It was an accident, Barton maintains. Not his fault. "He walks into the bathroom and walks into the nightmare of his life," Barton’s lawyer, Dino Bottos, has the nerve to say at the trial.

The jury is unaware that Barton’s computer is filled with images of violent pornography, some showing vaginal insertions, others depicting the torture of women. These images are not admitted into evidence. The Crown succumbs to the defence’s claim the evidence would be too prejudicial. The Crown does insist, against defence objections, that Cindy Gladue’s preserved vagina become part of the evidence. The trial breaks ground on this front, pushing the macabre facts to another extreme. It is the same old story, however, in regard to callousness and indifference towards indigenous women generally and indigenous sex workers particularly. 

With these details in mind, first attempts at the blog entry fail. Frustration grows. I search poetry for inspiration.  Katie Heim’s provocative poem stands out. To Americans, she is known as the Texan woman who protested against a proposed bill in 2013 restricting abortion access. After waiting for 6 hours to address the state senate, Katie Heim decided to adopt a creative approach. She penned If My Vagina Was a Gun. These lines open Heim’s poem:

If my vagina was a gun, you would stand for its rights,

You would ride on buses and fight all the fights.

If my vagina was a gun, you would treat it with care,

You wouldn’t spill all its secrets because, well, why go there.[2]

The poem was a hit - tweeted all over the nation. Given its influence, it is being reframed here for Cindy Gladue. If our vaginas were guns, I wonder, would they be treated like intimate personal possessions? Would they be held in greater honour, treated as our property? 

Following this logic, what if Cindy Gladue’s vagina was a gun? Perhaps the Province of Alberta would go all the way to the Supreme Court to demand protection for it. Alberta leaders would argue others should not control Cindy Gladue’s vagina. I imagine it would be regarded as hers and hers alone. The Prime Minister would argue vigorously on Cindy’s Gladue’s rights to bear it. Stephen Harper might call a national public inquiry for her vagina, if it were a gun. 

Katie Heim wrote “Vaginas aren’t delicate, they are muscular, magic”. Heim states that her vagina is not a gun; “it is a mightier thing”. She demands that law makers “stop messing” with hers. This blog post is written to demand the same on behalf of Cindy Gladue, her family and her community. To implore that officers of the court, lawyers, judges, lawmakers listen, as Heim stresses, “to the voices of thousands or feel their full force”, to the calls for justice for Cindy Gladue. After all, our vaginas are NOT guns; Cindy Gladue’s vagina was NOT a gun. It was part of “a sacred, life-giving, indigenous woman’s body”, as activist Julie Kaye proclaims.[3]
 
It is time to send the courts, leaders, all Canadians and offenders, like Brad Barton, that message. [4]

Josephine L. Savarese is an Associate Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at St. Thomas University in Fredericton. Her work relating to indigenous women and sex work has been published in the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law (2010) and in a chapter in Criminalized Mothers, Criminalizing Mothering (Demeter 2015). She can be reached at savarese@stu.ca.



[1] Online: <http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/If_My_Gun_was_a_Vagina_poet_stirs_up_Texas_conservatives_at_abortion_hearing.html>
[2] To hear Katie Heim reading her poem, go to <https://soundcloud.com/dsrauf/if-my-vagina-was-a-gun>
[3] Online: <http://www.edmontonjournal.com/Opinion+Justice+Cindy+Gladue+demands+appeal+recent+verdict/10919892/story.html>
[4] Note: Barton was acquitted of the charge of first degree murder as well as the lesser included offense of manslaughter in March 2015. The case is under appeal.

Prof. Joanne St. Lewis on FEMEN's Bil C-51 protest

Thursday, March 26, 2015



Top 10 Reasons FEMEN protest on C51 is not radical or particularly feminist

It is tempting to ignore the 15 minutes of fame provided to FEMEN’s un/strategic nudity but for the thought that “coverage” of further attempts will always sell papers. Women lawyers, activist and academics opposing C51 who are appearing or seeking to make their voices heard at the hearings are not assisted by a flash of bromides written on naked breasts. This tactic diminishes our voices in the resistance to C51. It is an uncritical privilege to chose to sexualize oneself as part of political speech. Women have resisted being inappropriately sexualized in their workplaces and professional lives. For some of us, Parliament is a space where we wish to be taken seriously - it is where we do our work. Gratuitous sexuality also trivializes the dehumanizing reality of sexualized violence currently affecting many women in Canada.

 Here are my Top 10 reasons why FEMEN’s tactics are far from radical or particularly feminist:

1.     Looking at women's naked breasts is the end not the beginning of conversation in our highly sexualized society. It is naive to think otherwise.

2.      Political debate is not being catalyzed by the shock tactic of partial female nudity.  Canadians have already taken to the streets to protest the anti-terror law. Opposition grows daily.

3.      Exposing women's breasts contradicts the experience of Muslim women activists whose constitutional right to wear the hijab and niqab has been challenged in courtrooms and by our Prime Minister.

4.      FEMEN activists distract from meaningful criticism of C51 by centring attention on their breasts/bodies. The medium (their bodies) cloaks their message (harms of C51).

5.      C51 is not primarily about female agency or sexual freedom creating a further disconnect with the tactic of partial nudity. C51 fundamentally erodes the democratic rights of both Canadian men and women.

6.      C51 reinforces ongoing surveillance and detention faced by environmental, Aboriginal and other activists. Stripping partially nude in a public place is not equivalent in risk, consequence or meaning to the activism that will be targeted by C51.

7.      National security is a highly masculinized debate which needs to be disrupted. However, anchoring a strategy of resistance in female nudity weakens women’s voices.

8.      FEMEN’s activists, while not supermodels or celebrities, emphasize the nakedness of women fitting an erotic stereotype in a manner similar to PETA. Contributing to the pornographic gaze in North American society does not empower women.

9.      FEMEN is entitled to advance a strategy using their bodies as speech. However, sexualizing C51 is not an advance sought by those fighting the anti-terror law.

10.     FEMEN has confused women’s breasts with blackboards and placards. A scrawled missive across naked breasts is distraction not content.

Joanne St. Lewis is a Black feminist law professor teaching in the area of social justice at the University of Ottawa. She is the former Executive Director of LEAF (the Women’s Legal Education & Action Fund).
Designed by Rachel Gold.