Idle No More

Friday, December 21, 2012

Check out this post by Professor Dayna Scott on the Idle No More movement.

Much more to come on Blogging for Equality on this topic.

Show your solidarity with Indigenous people everywhere, but especially on this territory we call Canada.

Wearing a Niqab in the Courtroom

The NS decision came down from the Supreme Court of Canada this week.

The Institute for Feminist Legal Studies at Osgoode Hall has a good roundup of commentary on the case.

You'll also find here a CBC interview with Ottawa U's very own Professor Natasha Bakht. The portion on wearing a niqab while a witness in a trial begins at 11:52.

WHY WE SHOULD ACTUALLY READ THE ROYAL COMMISSION REPORT OF THE MISSING WOMEN

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

 WHY WE SHOULD ACTUALLY READ
THE ROYAL COMMISSION REPORT OF THE MISSING WOMEN


Professor Michelle Flaherty is a faculty member at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, French Common Law.

On December 17, 2012, Commissioner Wally Oppal released his final report in the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.   It is a wide-ranging and almost 1500 page document.  The issues it considers range from details of the lives of many of the missing and murdered women, the Crown’s tragic decision to stay charges against serial killer Robert Pickton in 1997 (four years before a later arrest lead to convictions), and what Commissioner Oppal calls “critical police failures”.  

The families of victims of Robert Pickton were among the strongest voices calling for an inquiry into missing and murdered women. But the Inquiry goes beyond Pickton’s victims and considers all women missing from Vancouver’s Downtown East Side whose disappearances were or could have been reported and who were not later found alive or whose death has not been attributed to natural causes.  There are 67 women identified in the report, many of whom were aboriginal and all of whom were poor, vulnerable, and disenfranchised.  As the report points out, the disappearance and murder of women from the Downtown East Side of Vancouver is part of a much larger and systemic problem.  The UN estimates that there are 134 million women “missing” worldwide.

The report’s length, its detail, and its wide-ranging scope make it a daunting read.  Yet it tells a very important story, one that begins with a thoughtful and respectful account of the lives of the missing and murdered women: we hear about one women’s words of goodbye as she tucked in her small children for the last time, another whose friend described in her loving and joyful terms,  and a third who left hospital shortly after given birth to a baby, never to be seen or heard from again.  The report humanizes the women’s experience and makes it so clear that missing and murdered women are individuals worthy of dignity and respect, but whom society has so tragically failed. 

As is typical with media reports on Commission Inquiry findings, however, he initial coverage touches only the surface of the evidence considered and the recommendations made.  By the time pundits and others have read and digested the magnitude of such a report, the busy news cycle has generally moved on to other matters. 

Typically, commissions such as this one are struck to consider issues that touch on systemic problems and raise broader social concerns.  Our society devotes considerable resources to conducting these inquiries because the issues they investigate are of larger social importance.  Somehow, though, this seems to get lost in the speed of the news cycle and many of the findings and recommendations never really reach a larger audience.  Commissioners like Justice Opal (and Justice Major in the Air India Report) find themselves urging people to actually read their reports. 

The missing women report, in particular, touches on a number of recurring themes, including serious failures in policing (consider the Air India Inquiry, the Inquiry on the death of Robert Dziekanski, the Cornwall Public Inquiry, Inquiry into Policing in British Columbia).  Like many other commissions before it (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, Inquiry Into Matters Relating to the Death of Neil Stonechild, the Ipperwash Inquiry), it relates to our inability to meet the needs of our aboriginal people.  Many of the recommendations in commission reports follow a similarly recurring theme: often they are never acted upon.   

Why should we take the time to actually read this lengthy report?  As the Commission report aptly put it:

It is important to recognize the role that our collective complacency, of public and political indifference played in contributing to the abandonment of this group of women. In his opening remarks at the hearing, Grand Chief Ed John referred to Supreme Court of Canada Judge, Madam Justice Abella’s reminder that history, and particularly World War II, has taught us that indifference permits injustice. She summarizes these teachings into three lessons:


1.    Indifference is injustice’s incubator;
2.        It’s not just what you stand for, it’s what you stand up for; and
3.        We must never forget how the world looks to those who are vulnerable.

As I sat up late last night reading the first few hundred pages of the report, I had difficulty putting it down.  It is highly readable and it tells a compelling story, one that deserves to be read. 


The Report is available online.

Les droits de la fin de vie devant les tribunaux

Monday, December 10, 2012

Les droits de la fin de vie devant les tribunaux
Lauren Barney
Dans le monde juridique, les questions d’ordre médical sont soulevées quotidiennement. Ce sont souvent des débats hautement médiatisés et controversés. En 1993, les Canadiens et Canadiennesse sont penchés sur une telle question lorsque Sue Rodriguez s’est rendue jusqu'à la Cour suprême du Canada. Mme Rodriguez, une femme atteinte de scléroselatérale amyotrophique, revendiquait le droit à une mort digne – elle voulait se suicider avec l’assistance d’un médecin. Le suicide assisté est un acte criminel en vertu de l'art. 241(b) du Code criminel. À l’époque, la Cour suprême du Canada a rejeté la demande de Mme Rodriguez dans une décision majoritaire (5-4). En fin de compte, elle s’est suicidée avec l’aide d’un médecin anonyme en 1994.
De nos jours, le débat sur les droits de fin de vie suscite un grand engouement. Tout récemment, une femme en Colombie-Britannique, Gloria Taylor, également atteinte de sclérose latérale amyotrophique, et la British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, ont intenté une poursuite contre le Procureur général du Canda en argumentant que les dispositions du Code criminelprohibant le suicide assisté sont anticonstitutionnelles. La Cour suprême de la Colombie-Britannique a émis un jugement en faveur de Mme Taylor et la B.C. Civil Liberties Association. Mme la juge Lynn Smith a rendu sa décision de 395 pages en juin 2012(Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2012 BCSC 886). Elle a conclu que les articles du Code criminelprohibant le suicide assistéétaientanticonstitutionnels. Elle a accordé au Parlement un an pour modifier la législation. De plus, elle a accordé une exemption constitutionnelle à Mme Taylor pour qu’elle puisse se suicider avec l’assistance d’un médecin.
Le Procureur général du Canada a porté la décision en appel. En août 2012, la Cour d’appel de la Colombie-Britannique a accordé l’exemption constitutionnelle à Mme Taylor de nouveau (Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2012 BCCA 336). Madame Taylor est décédée soudainement le 4 octobre 2012 d’une infection. Elle est décédée paisiblement et entourée de sa famille. Les autres plaignants dans la cause, notamment Lee Carter et Hollis Johnson, continueront la lutte pour le droit à une mort digne.Il est fort probable que cette cause parvienne à la Cour suprême du Canada dans les mois à venir. Est-ce que le Canada est prêt pour des modifications législatives dans ce domaine?
Touchant un nombre croissant d'individus, le droit à une mort digne est une question aussi importante parce qu'elle s'intéresse àl'un de nos droits fondamentaux, notre autodétermination. En ce sens, la décriminalisation du suicide assisté se rattache aux revendications féministes. L'idée que l'État puisse imposer des limites sur les choix relatifs à nos propres corps est une manifestation de son paternalisme. En 1993, Sue Rodriguez a articulé le noeud du débat lorsqu'elle a dit : « à qui appartient ce corps? ». Si une personne compétente et informée décide qu'elle veut se suicider, l'État ne devrait pas s'ingérer dans ses affaires. Ceux qui luttent contre la décriminalisationargumentent que si l'État permet le suicide assisté, elle met en péril les membres les plus vulnérables de la société, soit :les personnes aînées, malades, et handicapées. Ils expriment que les médecins et les mandataires de ces individus auront le pouvoir de mettre fin à une vie sans consentement.Bien que ces préoccupations proviennent d'un désir de protéger les membres vulnérables de la société, elles sont erronées.
Si le suicide assisté est décriminalisé, il faudrait instaurer des mesures de réglementation. Ce n'est pas un concept complètement étranger. Quelques pays occidentaux tels que les Pays-Bas, le Luxembourg et trois États américains (Oregon, Washington et Motana), ont décriminalisé le suicide assisté et ont instauré des règlements pour garantir la sécurité des individus vulnérables.
Quelques notes à part :
Le gouvernement Harper s'est prononcé contre la décision de la juge Taylor dans l'affaire Carter v Canada (Attorney General). Pour voir le commentaire du ministre de la Justice Rob Nicholson sur la position du gouvernement Harper, voir l’hyperlien ci-dessous : http://www.justice.gc.ca/fra/nouv-news/cp-nr/2012/doc_32783.html.
Toujours sur la question des droits de fin de vie, l'affaire Brian Cuthbertson et al. c. Hassan Rasoulisera présentée devant la Cour suprême du Canada le 10 décembre 2012. L'affaire Rasouliporte sur le droit des médecins de retirer les traitements de maintien de vie lorsque le patient est dans le coma. La question litigieuse est à savoir si les demandeurs, les médecins de M. Rasouli, doivent avoir la permission du mandataire spécial de ce dernier pour cesser les traitements de maintien de vie. Comme toujours, les audiences à la Cour suprême du Canada sont ouvertes au public (http://www.scc-csc.gc.ca/case-dossier/cms-sgd/hear-aud-fra.aspx?ya=2012&ses=01&sr=Search).

Putting the Increase in UofO Law School Enrolment in (a little) Context

Thursday, December 6, 2012

By Professor David Wiseman, the joint co-ordinator of the Social Justice Caucus at the Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa.


Over the past year, as debate over the future of articling and lawyer licensing in Ontario has raged, attention has repeatedly been drawn to increases in enrolment at the UofO Faculty of Law.  For the most part, the increase in enrolment is cited in order to explicitly or implicitly admonishUofO for having significantly contributed to the so-called articling crisis.  This has recently prompted an online intervention from my Dean at UofO, Bruce Feldthusen, and a corresponding barrage of critical online comments.  The basic statistic cited is that UofO enrolment increased by 126% over the 15 years or so from 1997 to 2011.  There is clearly a feeling that this was done too unilaterally and without adequate consideration for the impact on the profession as a whole.  Since law firms were not able or willing to hire all of this increased number of graduates, the increase in enrolment, so the argument goes, is unjustifiable.  Sometimes this becomes an argument that UofO should cut back its enrolment; other times it just seems to be part of a blame-game.  As someone concerned as much about our access to justice crisis as about our articling crisis – and trying to find ways to address both at the same time – I think this discussion is getting us off-track.  But even if it isn’t off-track exactly, the admonishments seem pretty half-baked, especially when we think about this from an access to justice perspective.  Let me explain.

I am a new-ish prof. at UofO and so don't know the context or details of the relevant decisions and so can't say to what extent the admonishments arejustified.  But if they are justified, I don’t think it can simply be because of the combination of the bare facts being cited.  Even if we ignore the other sources of increases in demand for articling positions over the relevant period (from foreign-trained lawyers and grads of foreign law schools), relying on one statistic of an enrolment increase, combined with the fact that the increased number of graduates are not being fully absorbed by the market, seems to me to be a bit too acontextual, even if all we are going to consider is statistics.  In other words, shouldn't we at least be trying to put these enrolment statistics in statistical context ...?  If you think so too, read on. (With apologies if these numbers have already been explored and I was asleep at my twitter!)

I confess to not being good at math, or statistics (did I mention I’m a lawyer …), but perhaps others will agree that, if the underlying question is whether there was any justification to increase law school enrolment, two factors to consider might be increases in the general population of Ontario and in university enrolment more generally.  Increases in general population growth might suggest that the general demand for legal services would also be increasing, in absolute terms, and growth in general university enrolment might suggest that demand for law school places might also increase in absolute terms.  If law school enrolment remained absolutely constant, it would soon be relatively out of whack, from both directions.  So, what are those statistics?

Well, as people are falling over themselves to point out, law school enrolment increased by 279 places from 1997 to 2012, which was about a 25% growth (and UofO accounted for upwards of 70% of that).  Over the same period, Ontario's population grew from around 11 million to around 13.5 million, an increase of around 22%.  Meanwhile, general university enrolment in Canada had already grown over 20% between 1997 and 2003 and has kept growing since (with the biggest growth in Ontario, although at this moment I can't locate the exact numbers).

So, over 20% growth rate in all categories.  Without wanting to be too provocative, if this means that the relativities are pretty much being preserved, perhaps this suggests that the question ought not to be 'why did UofO do this?' but, rather, 'why didn't anyone else?'

And before someone (re-)says that the reason not to do it was that the market wasn't willing to hire the extra graduates -- sorry, I don't find that persuasive ... as our knowledge of unmet legal needs and lack of access to justice shows, demand for legal services has long out-stripped the capacity or willingness of the market for legal services.  Of course, public and charitable programs like legal aid and pro bono lawyering have also proven inadequate to meet the legal needs of those who don’t have the money to afford a lawyer, but the very existence of these programs shows that we have never equated the need for legal services with the scope of the legal services market.  It seems to me that there is more than enough unmet need for legal services to absorb the increased numbers of law school graduates.  The challenge lies in persuading governments and the legal profession to find a way to connect the supply to the demand. 

Articling Rehabilitated?: Eight Questions

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Articling Rehabilitated?: Eight Questions
* Amy Salyzyn, Ontario lawyer and J.S.D. Candidate, Yale Law School
 Last Thursday was a big day for Ontario lawyers and their governing body. Following months of consultation and hours of debate, Convocation (the monthly meeting of Benchers, the directors who govern the Law Society of Upper Canada) approved a pilot project that will change—for at least its initial three-year duration—how lawyers can become licensed in this province.
Beginning in 2014-2015, prospective lawyers will be able to fulfill the “transitional training component” of the Law Society’s licensing process by either: (1) articling or (2) completing a new Law Practice Program (“LPP”). The Law Society will issue a Request for Proposals (“RFP”) seeking one or more third party providers to deliver the LPP. Although it is not yet clear exactly what the LPP stream will look like, the motion establishing the pilot project contemplates an “approximately” four-month training component followed by a four-month “cooperative work placement”.
Much ink has already been spilled about the desirability of a two-stream transitional training process. Also hotly debated have been alternative proposals to abolish articling or to maintain the status quo. Some commentators, including Professor David Wiseman earlier in this blog, have pointed out shortcomings in the options presented for consideration and in the process for considering these options. With Thursday’s decision, however, a new conversation begins. Our critical energies need to now turn to the implementation and evaluation of the pilot project. In this spirit, I humbly offer the following eight questions/watch points for consideration moving forward:
(1)   How much will (or should) the LPP cost? The Law Society Majority Report recommending the two-stream pilot project uses $7,000 as an approximation for the cost of the LPP. This would be in addition to a $2,950 licensing fee (incurred by all candidates) and possibly another $1,320 to pay for a formal assessment component, making for a total potential cost of $11,270 per LPP candidate (paras. 177-182). This is an astonishing amount of money. Whether such high costs are objectively necessary is an outstanding question: the $7,000 approximated cost is modeled on approximated costs for an Australian practical legal training course (para. 179) and not a considered assessment of what financial resources would be required to implement the proposed Ontario LPP. Having now been offered as an estimate, however, there does seem to be a risk that potential third party providers will be inclined to revert to these numbers in developing proposals to deliver the LPP. To avoid being oversold on the cost of the LPP, the financial components of such proposals will need to be rigourously vetted.

(2)   How will the cost of the LLP be distributed among members of the Law Society? In recognition of the projected high costs of the LPP, the Majority Report suggests that such costs be equalized across all licensing candidates (para. 181). On Thursday, Convocation went a step further and passed a motion to approve that there be “an appropriate member contribution to the costs of the pilot project.” As always, however, the devil is in the details. What is an “appropriate” member contribution? Will the contribution be intended to fully or partially subsidize the program? Recognizing that there is a significant spectrum in how much Ontario lawyers make, will member contributions be tied to income earned? The answer to this last question seems particularly important given that, as reported in the Ontario Bar Association’s submissions to the Articling Task Force: “[s]ome sole practitioners who play a critical role in access to justice by serving impecunious clients have advised that the feasibility of their practices would be jeopardized by the increased Law Society fees” that would be required to subsidize additional articling spots (h/t Lee Akazaki). Although the eventual member contribution for the LPP may be a smaller amount than what was contemplated to subsidize additional articling positions, there remain concerns about having all members be shouldered with subsidizing LPP spots as this will differentially impact those members earning the lowest incomes.

(3)   How will the cost of the LLP be distributed among LPP candidates? Presuming that member contributions will come to provide at least a partial subsidy of program costs, will this subsidy be offered to every LPP applicant or on a needs-basis? If a needs-basis is used, how will need be determined? Will the subsidy cover the living expenses of applicants for the duration of the LLP program? If not, how will applicants who do not have the financial means to cover their living expenses for the duration of the LLP be treated? Although those candidates currently participating in transitional training (read: articling students) receive no subsidies from the Law Society, LLP candidates face a much harsher financial reality given that—as detailed below—they are unlikely to have employment income during the LPP or have the benefit of an employer paying their licensing process fees (as is currently done by many firms who hire articling students). If one of the objectives of the two-stream pilot project is to have a licensing process accessible to all interested candidates, these financial considerations cannot be ignored.

(4)   What efforts will be made by the Law Society and the eventual third party provider(s) to secure paid LPP work placements? The Majority Report states that “it does not consider it practical to require that third party providers ensure paid placements” but it “hopes that third party providers will seek out paid placements whenever possible” (para. 153). Given that the shortage of paid articling positions was the catalyst for the very creation of the Articling Task Force, it seems plausible—if not inevitable—that the vast majority of LPP placements will be unpaid unless creative and conscious efforts are made in this regard. The prospect of unpaid LPP positions creates a potentially huge financial gap between those licensing candidates who article and those who undertake the LPP stream. Securing paid placements should not simply be a hope but should also be a priority.

(5)   How will LPP provider(s) be chosen? At this stage, it is not clear in any meaningful detail what process or criteria will be used to evaluate the proposals received in response to the Law Society’s RFP. The motion passed by Convocation only stipulates a few vague criteria. It states, for example, that the Law Society is seeking an LPP that “includes quality assurance standards” and “provides training on the established competencies.” Many questions remain outstanding. Will there be any preference given to public versus private entities? What level of profit-making, if any, will be tolerated? Will the process for choosing the provider(s) be transparent? What opportunities will there be for input from stakeholders?

(6)   How will possible self-interested behaviour by LPP provider(s) be monitored and checked? Although the third-party provider(s) delivering the LPP have not been chosen yet, it is clear that these will be third-party providers: private or public entities with their own distinct mandates who, without any bad faith intentions, risk self-interested behaviour including, for example, over-emphasizing program success. The multiple lawsuits that have sprung up in the United States against law schools for allegedly misrepresenting their job placement rates stand as important cautionary tales.

(7)   How will the impacts of the two-stream pilot program on equality-seeking groups be measured? A major concern that was repeatedly voiced during the debates preceding the approval of the two-stream pilot program is possible adverse effects on equality-seeking groups. The questions that we need to be asking to effectively evaluate the effect of the pilot program on equality-seeking groups need to be carefully thought through and answers to them need to be diligently pursued. As smartly noted by Omar Ha-Redeye: “[i]nterpretation of quantitative information, especially as it relates to equity-seeking groups, should keep in mind the subtle and insidious manner in which discrimination occur.” Measuring these impacts will not be a simple or uncontroversial process, but it will be an essential process that needs to be transparent and inclusive.

(8)   How will the pilot project be evaluated? In developing its recommendations, the Articling Task Force engaged in a broad-reaching consultation process. In arriving at a decision as to what to do, the deliberations of Convocation were publicly accessible on the Internet. Canadian Lawyer Magazine reports that the debate on Thursday was watched online by about 500 people and that the Twitter hashtag #articling associated with the debate reached the status of being the top trending hashtag in Canada. This type of consultation and transparency, however, is far from routine in Law Society affairs. To take a recent example, on the same day that the pilot program was approved, the fate of the Law Society’s Parental Leave Assistance Program (“PLAP”) was also debated. This debate was not webcast and received, little if, any attention on Twitter. The process for evaluating the pilot project should be robustly consultative and transparent. We must not take it from granted that it will be.
No doubt, there are plenty of other important questions including, for example, a number related to the impact of the two-stream pilot project on the future of legal education. My hope is that these thoughts might be a helpful part of the beginnings of a new phase in our conversations about transitional lawyer training in Ontario. We’ve proven in the months leading up to Thursday’s decision that we care deeply about these issues; let’s not lose the momentum. Decisions about how this new pilot project will be implemented and evaluated will be made soon and there is too much at stake to not be engaged. The fight for a future legal profession that is inclusive, progressive and responsive to the public interest has just begun.






Violence and Homophobia in France

Monday, November 19, 2012

Look here, here and here for media coverage of this week's anti-gay and lesbian protests in France, which culminated in violence against gay and lesbian rights demonstrators.Injuries to gay and lesbian rights demonstrators included broken teeth, bruises, a concussion, and facial injuries.

L'avortement en Irlande et Canada

Le débat sur l'avortement éclate en Irlande, mais il est toujours vivant au Canada
            Récemment le droit à l’autodétermination des femmes au Canada a été mis en péril, bien que momentanément, lorsque la motion 312 a été présentée devant la Chambre des Communes. La motion avait pour but de rouvrir le débat sur le statut du fœtus. Heureusement, la motion, parrainée par le député Stephen Woodworth, a été défaite par un vote 203 à 91. Toutefois, le débat sur l’avortement est loin d’être fini. Il ne faut pas chercher plus loin que la rue Bank ici à Ottawa où les manifestants antichoix marchent tous les jours (mais je m’éloigne du sujet).
            Le sujet qui me dérange aujourd’hui ne se situe pas au Canada, mais bien en Irlande. Le 28 octobre, 2012 Savita Halappanavar, une dentiste âgée de 31 ans et enceinte avec son premier enfant,est décédée suite à des complications avec sa grossesse provoquant une septicémie. Mme Halappanavar s'est présentée à l'hôpital de Galway (University Hospital Galway) avec des douleurs graves.  Les médecins lui ont avertit que les douleurs étaient le résultat d’une fausse couche. Mme Halappanavar craignait pour sa santé et demanda de s'avorter. Malgré les complications sérieuses, les médecins à l’hôpital de Galwaylui ont refusé l’avortement en citant que l’Irlande est un pays catholique. Le mari à Mme Halappanavar croit sans doute que si elle avait eu l’avortement, elle serait encore vivante.
            La constitution d’Irlande interdit l’avortement. Bien qu'en 1992, la Cour suprême de l'Irlande a conclu que l’avortement devrait être permis lorsque la vie d’une femme est mise en péril, l'avortement est toujours interdit dans la grande majorité des situations.
            Le décès de Mme Halappanavar est si tragique justement parce qu'il aurait pu être évité. Cet évènement coïncide avec une enquête débutée en janvier 2012 qui était le résultat de préoccupations que les lois d'avortement en Irlande violent les droits des femmes. Il y a quelques années que la Cour européenne des droits de l'homme a conclu que le manque d'accès aux avortements thérapeutiques en Irlande allait à l'encontre des lois européennes. Le gouvernement Kenny a annoncéle mardi, 13 novembre 2012 que le rapport en question a été finalisé. Le rapport semble recommander des modifications législatives. Nous attendons avec impatience les détails de ce rapport d'importance crucial pour les femmes en Irlande.

Putting your Pants on One Leg at a Time

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Version française ci-bas.

University of Ottawa OUTLAW Executive & University of Ottawa Law Union Steering Committee
Endorsed by:
Galldin Robertson Law; Muslim Law Students’ Association; National Black Law Students’ Association of Canada; University of Ottawa Association of Women and the Law; University of Ottawa Black Law Students’ Association


“How to dress well: Lessons in professionalism and putting your pants on one leg at a time”
As members of Fauteux’s LGBTQA community, the OUTLAW Executive and the Law Union Steering Committee publically respond to a trend of encouraging students to dress in particular ways at school. These ideas are often espoused under the guise of professionalism. We take issue with directives presented at events organized and facilitated by Faculty of Law staff as part of OCI preparation sessions, and echoed in, “You Have the Right to Remain Stylish”, published by Inter Pares on October 31, 2012. We realize the article has been removed, and censorship is not our intention. This response is not directed at any person or article in particular. We respect students’ rights to share ideas on any topic, including fashion. We refer instead to pervasive ideologies of gender and class in our school and future profession. We take issue with putting these forward as professional imperatives essential for success. Further, we wish to acknowledge the recent incident of overt racism in Fauteux. We stand in solidarity with/as law students of colour against racism; these are not separable or isolated incidents. These acts and messages are all about policing who can be a legitimate member of the legal community. We see this response as in line with the Black Law Students Association’s and their allies’ calls to challenge all forms of discrimination.
Elitist, ableist, sexist, racist and gender-essentialist values about presenting oneself in particular ways are not simply facts of law school life. Suggestions that the law is a conservative profession and that this kind of message is inevitable are antithetical to this school’s commitment to social justice. People should not be told how to dress unsolicitedly and not every person who identifies as a woman wears jewelery or a skirt. There is a clear directive behind these “tips”, which is the proposition that if law students do not conform to specific gender and class standards, they will not succeed. This kind of conversation perpetuates the idea that someone's academic and professional qualifications matter less than their ability to dress the part. The fact is that some people cannot or will not dress the part.
The focus on appearance over competence is harmful to women, trans and gender non-conforming people, and students who are economically disadvantaged. Pointing out attempts and failures at passing when it comes to gender and/or class creates real barriers. Recommended clothing choices, such as knee length skirt suits with moderate heels, represent a Western standard of attire. This standard is centered around a white ideal that actively ignores the diversity of cultural and religious backgrounds in our student body. High end stores carry a limited range of sizes that most people will not fit into comfortably, and many cannot afford the prices. Many cannot come to law school precisely because they are not wealthy. Suggesting that it is necessary or ideal to buy expensive clothing excludes students who do not have the financial means, who may live on a fixed income, or who shop strategically. 
Ableist assumptions are also prevalent in these types of conversations. When a person with a visible disability chooses to dress down they are flagged as sloppy and unable to dress well, while for those who pass as "able" or who are not disabled, the assumption is that they have chosen to dress down. People with physical disabilities are discriminated against because mobility aids like canes and orthotics are viewed as unstylish and meant to be hidden. Some individuals are told to suffer without their aids or to conform in order to look the part of a "proper” lawyer. This is a policing of all bodies in all ways. Fatphobia, transphobia, ableism, racism, homophobia, sexism, and classism  are inseparable here.
Professionalism itself is a problematic idea, in part because we hesitate to interrogate it for fear of failing the standard. Suggestions have been made that the way law students (especially feminine presenting women) look could directly affect their job prospects and the references they get from professors. The notion that the way students present has any bearing on the willingness of a professor to write a strong reference letter is disrespectful to our professors and suggests a lack of academic integrity. These implications take this conversation out of the realm of mere opinion. 
The notion that these are “friendly” tips is often presented as a defense to this kind of policing of gender and class. In conversation about the appropriate response to these tips, a colleague said this:
“[I mean] 1) To refuse the pleasantries of a discourse that wields 'well-meant advice' and 'being nice' as one of the most common tools used to police gender in grossly conservative ways.
2) Keeping things in the realm of the objective and logical loses, for me, the real core of what is going on in a situation like this - means that those being policed and quietly urged to look normal are required to feel nothing in order to respond - to not be angry or hurt, to deny what happens to those experiencing inequality. Objectivity and angry feelings of injustice aren't mutually exclusive and don't undo one another. I feel quite capable of taking apart a bad syllogism using logic, but I also FEEL the policing of feminine propriety as a personal wrong that is done every day to me […] and the people I love and admire. "Acting badly" or "being angry and taking it personally" is an option that is denied by just the sort of pleasant femininity forwarded [in this dialogue]. And it's an option I want. I don't use it often, but I think that we - all of us thinking about these kinds of things - need to spend some time considering why we feel so uncomfortable when girls stop being nice” (quoted with permission).

The false notion that women are only as good as they look, and that there is only one way to look good, is antiquated and should be rejected. Surely there are more productive conversations to have about how to cultivate a professional reputation. Perhaps professionalism could be redefined as a commitment to not exposing your colleagues to damaging narratives of necessary conformity.
It is misleading to frame the article in terms of individual opinion. We make no assumptions about the motivations of the author or the editorial staff of Inter Pares. In fact, we are sure that the article was meant to be light hearted. However, it is indicative of the messages that women and gender non-conforming law students get regularly from (big) law firms and school representatives on how to present themselves in interviews and at jobs. Defining this as a "singular opinion" hides the repeated and compounding nature of these conversations and the harmful impact that they have.
OUTLAW and the Law Union would like to call on their members and colleagues to shift the focus away from appearance, and toward ideas.
Signed,
University of Ottawa OUTLAW Executive & University of Ottawa Law Union Steering Committee
Endorsed by:
Galldin Robertson Law; Muslim Law Students’ Association; National Black Law Students’ Association of Canada; University of Ottawa Association of Women and the Law; University of Ottawa Black Law Students’ Association



Leçons de style, leçons en professionnalisme?

Signé,

Les membres de l’exécutif d’OUTLAW  & les membres du Comité de pilotage de l’Union du Droit (Law Union) de Université d’Ottawa

Appuyé par :

Galldin Robertson Law ; L'association des étudiants musulmans en droit ;L'association des étudiants noirs en droit de l'Université d'Ottawa ; L’Association femmes et droit de l’université d’Ottawa ; L'association nationale des étudiants noirs en droit du Canada .


En tant que membres de la communauté LGBTQA, de l’exécutif de l’Association des étudiants LGBTQ en droit (OUTLAW) et du Comité de pilotage de l’Union de droit (Law Union) de l’université d’Ottawa, nous répondons publiquement à une tendance dominante constatée à la Faculté de droit, qui encourage les étudiants à se conformer à certains normes vestimentaires.  Ce courant qui exerce  une pression à se conformer, se présente souvent sous le couvert du professionnalisme.  Nous contestons l’importance injustifiée accordée à la « façon appropriée » de se vêtir, tel que manifesté dans le cadre de certains évènements organisés par la Faculté de droit.  Les séances de préparation en vue des entrevues sur le campus (en anglais, les « OCI ») sont un exemple qui illustre  l’imposition de ces normes.  Cette tendance s’est manifestement révélée, entre autres, dans l’article paru dans le numéro du 31 octobre 2012 d’Inter Pares « You have the right to remain stylish ».  Nous constatons, d’ailleurs, que cet article fut supprimé de la page web où il fut initialement publié, et nous affirmons que la censure n’est pas notre objectif.  La présente ne cherche aucunement à cibler une personne ou un texte particulier. Nous considérons comme étant primordial le respect du droit à chacun d’exprimer et de partager ses opinions. Plutôt, nous contestons certaines idéologies largement répandues imposant des normes suggérant des présuppositions stéréotypées  quant au genre, aux sexes et aux classes, comme étant des impératifs professionnels essentiels à la réussite. De plus, nous tenons à dénoncer l’incident de racisme survenu récemment dans l’édifice Fauteux. Nous exprimons solidairement notre rejet face au racisme avec --et en tant qu’-- étudiants de couleur de la faculté. Nous sommes conscients qu’il ne s’agit pas d’un incident isolé, mais plutôt d’un acte qui s’inscrit dans un schéma de racisme systémique. La présente est conforme avec les appels de l’Association des Étudiant(e)s noir(e)s en droit, ainsi que ses alliés contestant toutes les formes de discrimination.

Les valeurs élitistes, capacitistes, sexistes, racistes et essentialistes véhiculées par les discours sur « comment bien se présenter » ne sont pas anodines. L’opinion que le domaine du droit est une profession historiquement « conservatrice », et donc que ce genre de discours est inévitable, semble antithétique vis-à-vis du mandat de la Faculté de droit d’oeuvrer vers une plus grande justice sociale. Les étudiants et autres personnes ne devraient pas se faire constamment dicter de manière non sollicitée les normes concernant la façon appropriée de se vêtir et de se présenter. Par exemple, ce ne sont pas toutes les personnes qui s’identifient en tant que femme qui portent des jupes et des bijoux. Les normes vestimentaires disséminées par le milieu académique du Droit et la profession juridique semblent suggérer que si les étudiant(e)s en droit ne se conforment pas à ces normes, qui sont intimement liées à des préconceptions liées au genre et à la classe, ils ne réussiront peut-être pas. Ce genre de proposition perpétue l'idée que les qualifications académiques et professionnelles d’une personne sont moins importantes que sa capacité à s’habiller conformément à une norme qui leur est imposée parfois directement ou indirectement.

L’insistance sur les questions d’apparences, plutôt que sur les questions de compétences est nuisible notamment envers les femmes, les personnes de sexe non-conforme et transgenre, et les étudiants qui sont économiquement défavorisés. Ces normes, et la différenciation qu’elles créent au sein de la population étudiante, produisent de réels obstacles pour plusieurs personnes. Par exemple, les vêtements conseillés « pour le succès » (tels les habits avec jupes à la hauteur des genoux et les talons hauts moyens) traduisent généralement des normes vestimentaires occidentales, et occultent souvent la diversité culturelle de ces normes à l’échelle internationale. En d’autres mots, les normes vestimentaires imposées découlent d’un idéal « blanc », qui ignore activement la diversité et les pratiques culturelles et religieuses des étudiants. L’on oublie que plusieurs personnes ne peuvent tout simplement pasavoir accès aux études en droit, puisqu’ils n’ont pas les moyens, ou parce qu’ils perçoivent des barrières par rapport à ce cheminement professionnel qui peut paraitre parfois assez exclusif.  Avancer l’idée qu’il est nécessaire, ou idéal, d’acheter des vêtements couteux marginalise les étudiants qui n’ont pas les moyens financiers, ni peut-être le gout, de s’habiller « convenablement » ou « avec style ».

De plus, plusieurs présomptions capacitistes prévalent dans ce genre de discours autour de la manière appropriée de se vêtir. Lorsqu’une personne ayant un handicap visible décide de s’habiller de façon décontractée, il y a une tendance à penser que cette personne ne sait pas s’habiller convenablement, tandis qu’un style décontracté chez une personne qui semble être non-handicapée laisse croire qu’il s’agit plutôt d’un simple choix.  Les personnes avec des handicaps physiques sont discriminées puisque les aidants à la mobilité, telles les canes pour marcher, ou bien les prothèses, sont perçus comme n’étant pas très « stylés » ou élégants. Certains individus souffrent sans leurs cannes ou leurs prothèses, mais ressentent la nécessité ou la pression de devoir se débrouiller sans eux, afin de se conformer à l’image projetée d’un(e) avocat(e) soigné(e) et professionnel(le).   Il s’agit de la manifestation d’une règlementation accrue des corps. Dans cette vue, les phénomènes de « fatphobia », de transphobie, de capacitisme, de racisme, d’homophobie, de sexisme, et de discrimination fondée sur la classe sont tous des phénomènes intimement reliés. 

De plus, la notion de « professionnalisme » en soi est problématique, puisqu’elle semble hors-de-portée de tout réel dialogue;  plusieurs n’osent pas interroger publiquement ce que signifie véritablement le professionnalisme, ainsi que l’importance accordée aux apparences, par peur d’être marginalisés par leur non-conformité.  Il est parfois avancé que l’image physique projetée par les étudiant(e)s (et particulièrement les étudiantes plus « féminines ») pourrait directement influencer leurs chances d’obtenir de bonnes références des professeurs, par exemple. Cette idée même est un affront et un manque de respect et de considération envers les membres du corps professoral, puisqu’elle suggère un manque d’intégrité académique.

L’imposition des normes concernant les apparences physiques et vestimentaires est souvent présentée sous le couvert de simples « conseils d’ami ».  Dans le cadre d’une discussion avec une collègue, cette dernière exprima ceci, concernant l’inhabilité générale de remettre en question ce genre de règlementation institutionnelle des corps :

“[I mean] 1) To refuse the pleasantries of a discourse that wields 'well-meant advice' and 'being nice' as one of the most common tools used to police gender in grossly conservative ways. 2) Keeping things in the realm of the objective and logical loses, for me, the real core of what is going on in a situation like this - means that those being policed and quietly urged to look normal are required to feel nothing in order to respond - to not be angry or hurt, to deny what happens to those experiencing inequality. Objectivity and angry feelings of injustice aren't mutually exclusive and don't undo one another. I feel quite capable of taking apart a bad syllogism using logic, but I also FEEL the policing of feminine propriety as a personal wrong that is done every day to me […] and the people I love and admire. "Acting badly" or "being angry and taking it personally" is an option that is denied by just the sort of pleasant femininity forwarded [in this dialogue]. And it's an option I want. I don't use it often, but I think that we - all of us thinking about these kinds of things - need to spend some time considering why we feel so uncomfortable when girls stop being nice” (quoted with permission).

La notion que les habiletés professionnelles d’une femme ou de toute personne se mesurent par son apparence et sa façon de se présenter, et ce, selon un standard normatif de ce qui est la « bonne » façon se s’habiller, doit être rejetée. Assurément, l’on pourrait cultiver des discussions beaucoup plus pertinentes et productives concernant les façons de développer une réputation professionnelle dans le milieu juridique. Par exemple, le professionnalisme pourrait être redéfini comme étant un engagement d’une personne envers ses collègues de ne pas les exposer à des récits de conformité obligatoire.

Dans cette vue, il est déroutant de simplement qualifier un article tel que celui publié dans la revue Inter Pares comme étant une opinion individuelle et isolée, bien que nous sommes certains que l’article n’avait pour but que d’être un commentaire léger.  Nous n’avançons pas de présuppositions quant aux motifs des auteurs et rédacteurs.  Cependant, il importe de noter qu’un tel article est symptomatique d’une tendance plus vaste et systémique créant un malaise parmi plusieurs étudiants et personnes dans la profession juridique, dont les femmes et les personnes non conformes au genre, ou transidentitaires/transsexuelles. Étiqueter ce genre d’article comme étant simplement une opinion singulière masque, en fait, la nature essentialiste de ce genre de discours normatif, et les impacts négatifs qu’ils peuvent exercer.

L’Association des étudiants LGBTQ en droit (OUTLAW) et le Comité de pilotage de l’Union de droit (Law Union) de l’université d’Ottawa voudraient inciter leurs membres et leurs collègues à prôner un discours qui s’éloignerait de l’importance démesurée accordée aux apparences, et qui valoriserait plutôt les idées et les compétences professionnelles.

Signé,

Les membres de l’exécutif d’OUTLAW  & les membres du Comité de pilotage de l’Union du Droit (Law Union) de Université d’Ottawa

Appuyé par :

Galldin Robertson Law ; L'association des étudiants musulmans en droit ;L'association des étudiants noirs en droit de l'Université d'Ottawa ; L’Association femmes et droit de l’université d’Ottawa ; L'association nationale des étudiants noirs en droit de Canada .



1 in 10 University of Ottawa students uses food bank

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Read this story : In the five years since the Univeristy of Ottawa's student federation started a food bank, use among students has increased more than tenfold.

Donate to the University of Ottawa's food bank.

Black Law Students Condemn Racist Attack

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


 





The Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA), Ottawa chapter is a group of law students at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. We work to sustain an environment in which all students are respected and our right to exist, to learn and to be celebrated is affirmed.


Recently, this environment of respect was jeopardized as the word “NIGGER” was scratched in a bathroom stall in the Faculty of Law. This event is related to a variety of comments, memes and online conversations that have threatened the mental and emotional sanctity of racialized students, specifically Black law students, here at the Faculty of Law over this academic term. In the wake of the historic re-election of the first U.S. Black president, we are sadly reminded we do not live in a post-racial era.

 We write collectively to the law school community, as well as the broader community for three reasons. First, we affirm our right to attend law schools and other institutions of higher education, places we have been traditionally denied access. We access these opportunities as equals. Second, we condemn the racist epithet scrawled onto the bathroom stall as a cowardly reflection of discrimination that many students have felt during their time in law school. Third, we avow for ourselves and for future students who will walk through these corridors of power, that we have an incontestable right to gain an education free from harassment. We assert our right to exist free from racist presumptions of assumed incompetence and the fear that our colleagues will verbally and physically assault us because we are Black students. We are human beings and we will be treated with respect.

We stand in solidarity with the Dean of the Faculty of Law, faculty members, other groups, colleagues and allies who stress the importance of respect to all peoples. We stand in solidarity with those who are harassed on a daily basis because they are different. We stand in solidarity with those from marginalized communities who are told they are not worthy to access higher education.

The Black Law Students Association of the University of Ottawa will be holding a press conference this Friday to publicly denounce racial injustice in all its forms. You will hear from a variety of brilliant student leaders and activists. Join us.

Friday November 9 2013
Time: 2:30 pm
Room: Norton Rose Classroom (FTX 302)
The Black Law Students’ Association – Ottawa Chapter

Seizing the Opportunity: Lawyer Licensing and Legal Education for the Future

Monday, November 5, 2012

Seizing the Opportunity: Lawyer Licensing and Legal Education for the Future

Professor David Wiseman

The Ontario legal community is being presented with an historic opportunity to forge a new partnership between legal regulators and educators on the nature and content of professional licensing and education. To seize this opportunity, we need to bring together all the stakeholders at a table that is set for open identification of wants and needs(and interests and impacts), meaningful engagement with issues, difficult discussions about resources and collaboration on innovative problem-solving.  The law schools and legal regulators should have equal seats at the table, which ought to be at arms-length from both, and which should also include law firms and lawyers, practitioner associations, Legal Aid, legal clinics, pro bono law, law students, equality-seeking groups and the general public(to name the most obvious).  The results could usher in a new horizon of experiential legal education with integrated lawyer licensing that harnesses the profession’s practical expertise and promotes knowledge and skills for systemic advancements in access to justice.  Imagine!


Unfortunately, the leaders of Ontario’s legal community are falling over themselves to squander this opportunity.  The most obvious culprit is the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Articling Task Force, but there is plenty of blame to go around, including Ontario’s Law Deans.I will come back to that, but first let me update you on where we are at in the process. 


In the continuing saga of the review of articling in Ontario, last week the LSUC Benchers voted to postpone debate (the session is web-archived) on the Final Report of the Articling Task Force until later in November.  The debate will force a choice between two options arising from a split in the Task Force’s views: a MAJORITY POSITION involving retaining articling (but layering on back-end quality assurance) and introducing a professional legal training course (PLTC) alternative OR a MINORITY POSITION of abolishing articling and moving to post-licensing requirements and supports.

In an earlier blog-for-equality I have already reviewed the disappointing lack of any real effort to improve access to justice via either option.  But the problems go well beyond that.  Lurking in both options is a world in which legal regulators set the knowledge and skills requirements for lawyer licensing while downloading the practical training to law schools.  In this future, law schools do all the work for no say (and, for that matter, no pay for the programs).  Of course, many practicing lawyers will continue their invaluable participation in law school education, but we’ll be collectively walking to the beat of the legal regulators’ drum.  Having barely recovered from the tin-ear process of the Federation of Law Societies establishmentof common requirements for the common law degree (Harry Arthurs has written a powerful critique of that process and its results and a recent FLS news release  suggests further meddling is imminent), the law schools have been offered a mostly deaf ear by the Articling Task Force.  But there is an opportunity buried in it all.

To be sure, the law schools were permitted to make submissions on the earlier Consultation Report of the Articling Task Force and, indeed, were specifically invited to make submissions on the idea of integrating a version of PLTC into their existing 3 year programs.  This idea was based on the vision of the Carnegie Report on US legal education, which emphasized a need for increased experiential learning.  Only 3 faculties(Ottawa, Windsor and Queens) provided written submissions – which may seem damning on those that didn’t, until one sees how little attention was paid to those that did.  Collectively, the faculty submissions clearly expressed enthusiasm for experiential learning and mentioned the significant experiential programs already offered.  At the same time, it was clearly expressed that expansion of these programs would have curriculum impacts that would require careful consideration by faculties and their Universities, that any expansion would depend on finding new resources, that the LSUC’s own rules and enforcement practices had been a barrier to law student legal assistancein the past, and that there would need to be a specific process of collaborative consultation and planning with the law schools before any integrated PLTC could be contemplated.  So, in other words, these faculties were happy to engage the idea, but felt strongly that it would have significant ramifications that deserved a proper process of engagement and a collaborative approach to planning and resourcing.  Other faculties have expressed similar enthusiasm (see Dean Sossin’s blogpost on this) outside the Task Force process and, indeed, are already proceeding to enhance their experiential curricula.

But you’d barely know this from reading the Task Force’s Final Report.   The majority report accepts the law schools’ view that the idea of integrated lawyer licensing raises ‘complex and nuanced’ issues but largely fails to acknowledge that there is significant experiential learning already occurring and that the law schools are enthusiastic about doing more.   Rather, the majority takes the position that its option leaves the door open to integrating PLTC and that it would be a missed opportunity not to explore the idea further.  I agree – but how about we collectively explore the idea before deciding the future of the licensing system?  Indeed, if the majority is serious about wanting this exploration, why don’t they propose to Convocation that we take time to do this before deciding?

For its part, the minority report takes a swipe at law schools as being ‘generally resistant’ to more ‘practical training’ and for ‘raising concerns about the implications on their curriculums and the changes to legal education that could result.’  According to the minority, this is because law schools are more interested in ‘teaching academic courses’ than undertaking ‘practical training’.   Just to be clear, I doubt this is a critique of the traditional first-year black-letter law courses (which, it should be noted, at most law schools either integrate or are complemented with lawyering skills components) – rather, this is an attack on courses that are more directly oriented to critical thinking about law and social justice(and which, for that matter, often seek to develop skills of law-reform oriented lawyering!).  At any rate, to say the least, the minority is misrepresenting the position of those faculties that did make submissions.  Ironically, the Consultation Paper did not even raise the option of abolishing articling.

Whichever option is chosen by the LSUC, there will be significant ramifications for legal education, but no-one has had time to work out or work through what those may be. It would be better to work that out, as best we can, before we decide which option to pursue (and in what way) – indeed, we need to work this out in order to decide.  Moreover, whatever option is chosen, it will no doubt require collaboration between the profession and academia – if we think about what that collaboration might look like, we may develop even better options (see, for instance, Dean Felthusen’s recent contribution in Precedent magazine).

The Task Force says it is interested in exploring these issues.  If it is serious, it should propose exploring them through a meaningful process involving all stakeholders.  For their part, the Ontario Law Deans ought to set aside their history of competitiveness and faux co-operation and collectively take up the offer of exploration.  Moreover, the Law Deans would be best to propose a process that is at arms-length from the regulators, who seem unwilling to listen properly to law schools (and other stakeholders). The failure of law schools to achieve a better result from the FLS process should be sufficient motivation for a different approach this time around. We don’t have to end up with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model, if that’s what law schools are worried about – but it is in the interest of all law schools to have a say in objectives and options.  And this is the last best opportunity we may have.
Designed by Rachel Gold.