The Guys Get Together and Talk About Internet Governance

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On February 27 I attended the CIRA-hosted Canadian Internet Forum. This forum is an annual, national event that involved a physical conference site in Ottawa, and a national webcast. The forum’s laudable objective was to solicit from Canadians “their thoughts on the development, deployment and governance of the Internet in Canada.” The day featured two morning panel discussions with a total of 7 speakers. Topics discussed included the controversial Bill C-30 (the online spying bill), digital intellectual property issues, internet security, government regulation of the internet, net neutrality and other issues that are frankly crucial to the evolution of the internet as a space for citizen engagement, creativity, innovation, communication and democratic values.

Jane Tallim, the Co-Executive Director of the Media Awareness Network spoke on the morning’s first panel. She referred to herself as the only non-dude on that (or any other panel). She was right. She was also one of a smattering of non-dudes in the very large audience. On leaving the women’s washroom during the first break, I overheard two women commenting that at least the dramatic underrepresentation of women at the forum meant there were no line ups for the women’s toilets. (Women’s washrooms are a recurrent theme in histories of exclusion and the politics of equality, so the comment was particularly apt). The panelists were also all white, and it is a safe bet to say that most, if not all, were over 40.

What is one to think about an internet forum that is so overwhelmingly white, male and middle-aged? Where is the real diversity of voices we are told that the internet nurtures and supports? This was both a missed opportunity and a sobering statement on internet governance in Canada.

Teresa Scassa is a Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa. She is also the Canada Research Chair in Information Law

Black Law Students Association of Canada 21st Annual Conference

Thursday, February 23, 2012

This past weekend, the Black Law Students’ Association of Canada (BLSAC) hosted its 21st annual conference in Windsor, Ontario. The conference was characterized by a mass participation of lawyers, judges and students, all of whom have a vested interest in creating the best conditions in the legal community for racialized peoples. The weekend was filled with panels and sessions on human rights, social justice, articling and health & wellness, to name a few.

The conference also hosted the Julius Isaac Alexander Diversity Moot in which the Faculty of Law Ottawa team Farida Adam and Taslenna Shairulla won first place, Farida also winning best oralist. The team was coached by Professor Suzanne Bouclin and Faculty of Law graduate Jacquline Beckles.

BLSAC also honoured Professor Joanne St. Lewis with the National Hero Award for her 18 years of service to black law students across the country. She has offered her time and energy into seeing black law students’ succeed and for that BLSAC honoured her many years of gracious service.

Congratulations to all for a successful weekend.

Next year’s conference will be held in Ottawa February 21-24 2013.

Greenberg Lecture Series and the Professionalism Speaker Series

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Professor Rosemary Cairns-Way presents :

"Reconceptualising Professional Responsability: Incorporating Equality"

Thursday Feb. 23rd, 2012 FTX room 147B

Pod cast of UBC's Marlee Kline Memorial Lecture: Professor Hester Lessard

Professor Hester Lessard , of the University of Victoria, gave the 2011/2012 Marlee Kline Memorial Lecture on Social Justice at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Law. Her talk is entitled "Jurisdictional Justice and the"Dream of Democracy":Missing Voices in the Struggle for Insite"

You will find a podcast of the event here.

Registration is now open for the Feminist Legal Studies Queen's conference on

Friday, February 10, 2012

Women, The Charter, and CEDAW in the 21st Century:
Taking Stock and Moving Forward

March 2-3, 2012
Queen's University Faculty of Law
Kingston Ontario

This conference is open to anyone interested in equality and women's issues, including students, faculty, members of community organizations, workers, policy analysts, managers and administrators, government employees, and professionals.

Please register in advance with Melissa Howlett at
There are no registration fees for students, those on low incomes, or voluntary workers; those who can afford to contribute toward the food expenses of this conference are asked to pay a $50 registration fee upon arrival. Information on conference hotel rates can be obtained from Ms. Howlett.

Details of the program, speakers, and schedule can be found at

The focus of this conference is on identifying and strategizing solutions to the many challenges women currently face -- from financial and economic discrimination to racism, violence, and lack of social, cultural, political, and environmental policies that meet women's needs. Speakers with diverse backgrounds of engagement in legal and legally-related issues from across Canada and internationally will address these issues over the course of the two days of this conference.

Contact information is provided on the above webpage, or contact Bita Amani or Kathleen Lahey with any questions.

We hope to see you there, and please circulate this to anyone who might be interested!

Bita Amani and
Kathleen Lahey
Feminist Legal Studies Queen's

Statement from the Black Law Students Association of Canada

The Shoulders on Which We Stand.

We, the Black Law Students’ Association of Canada (BLSAC) acknowledge that Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP published an advertisement in the Orbiter Dicta newspaper that was viewed by some students as culturally insensitive. The ad has been retracted with an apology.
Slavery is relevant in discussions of social justice lawyering and access to justice. Poverty, low/under employment and high incarceration rates, coupled with media misrepresentations of Black, Aboriginal, and other marginalized peoples are the continuing legacy of slavery and oppression. Experience has taught us that ignorance often leads to the trivialization and further marginalization of oppressed peoples’ histories.

Davies has been a sponsor of our national conference for several years. We commend the firm for promptly addressing the issue by removing the ad and apologizing to the offended parties. By doing so, it reaffirmed its commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Further, Davies demonstrated that when dealing with cultural sensitivity issues, of most importance is not the unfortunate occurrence, but how the matter is handled after the issue is pointed out.
We hope that Davies and our other partners will seize this opportunity to work with student organizations such as BLSAC, to promote diversity, inclusion and greater cross-cultural understandings.

F.I. v F.I.: What to do when Feminist Issues Conflict?

Every once in a while, I read something that makes me doubt what I thought I knew to be right. The recent editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal “‘It’s a girl!’ – could be a death sentence” written by CMAJ’s then interim Editor-in-Chief Dr. Rajendra Kale is such an article.

According to this editorial, female feticide happens in North America and the male-to-female ratio in some ethnic groups is distorted to a point unexplainable by nature. Dr. Kale supports a simple solution to prevent the selective abortion of female fetuses: postponing the disclosure of the sex of the fetus until after about 30 weeks of pregnancy – a time at which it is very difficult to obtain an abortion – unless this information is medically relevant (e.g. to manage a sex-linked illness).

I thought this seemed wholly reasonable. It also seemed to me to be consistent with the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, which states that “no person shall knowingly, for the purpose of creating a human being, perform any procedure or provide, prescribe or administer any thing that would ensure or increase the probability that an embryo will be of a particular sex, or that would identify the sex of an in vitro embryo, except to prevent, diagnose or treat a sex-linked disorder or disease” (AHRA s. 5(1)(e)).

Kale states that “[p]ostponing the transmission of such information is a small price to pay to save thousands of girls in Canada.” I agree. Buying baby clothes in the “gender appropriate” colour, for example, doesn’t seem all that important to me. Interestingly, gender-neutral baby clothes, which gained in popularity beginning in the 1960s, remained popular until the mid-1980s, when pink and blue became colours associated with girls and boys, respectively. According to this article on the Smithsonian website, a big reason for the change was the development of prenatal testing which allowed for the identification of the sex of the fetus.

Here’s where I started to doubt myself: according the National Post Dr. Kale’s proposal has received support from conservative groups but opposition by pro-choice advocates.

I have always been pro-choice. I have always thought that it was the woman’s decision alone to determine whether to end her pregnancy, and her reasons for doing so were nobody’s business. All of a sudden, I’m faced with a fact situation that makes me want to limit the information available to women that they might wish to consider when deciding whether to have an abortion.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada responded to Dr. Kale’s editorial, stating, “the SOGC feels strongly that it is the cultural values and norms in specific segments of the Canadian population that must change to ensure that females are not confronted with procedures and intolerant environments before or after they are born.”
It’s true that the ideal solution would be to effect social change so that there was never any preference for one sex over the other. But that would be a very slow process at best. Don’t we need to do something in the interim?

I have some reconciling to do...

Madelaine Saginur is the Executive Director of the Centre for Law, Technology and Society at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law.
Designed by Rachel Gold.