In Memoriam: Nicole LaViolette

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

It is with profound sadness that Nicole LaViolette’s colleagues announce that Nicole passed away on Friday, May 22, 2015.  Our faculty and our community will never be the same without her. 
Nicole graduated from the Common Law Section, winning the gold medal, in 1996.  She joined the Faculty as a professor in the French Common Law Program in 1998 and became a member of the Common Law Honour Society in 2006.  Nicole taught International Law, Human Rights, Refugee Law and Family Law, in both English and French.  She maintained an active academic and community education profile right until the very end, publishing two co-authored books, one on family law and one on cycling law, in the past year. 
Nicole received numerous prestigious awards for her exceptional teaching and graduate student mentoring, her prolific research and publishing, her dedication to faculty administration, and her community service.  In 2014, the Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Ontario honoured Nicole with its Ordre du Mérite; and the Lambda Foundation renamed its award at uOttawa the “Nicole LaViolette Friends of Lambda Prize,” recognizing excellence in research, public policy and laws affecting LGBTI people.  Most recently, Nicole was awarded the SOGIC (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) Hero Award from the Canadian Bar Association.  
Somehow Nicole also found the time to train as a competitive cyclist and skier.  As Dean Nathalie Des Rosiers said when she communicated news of Nicole’s passing to the Faculty “Nicole was a visionary professor, fighting for a just society, just for its immigrants and refugees, just for its LGBT community, just for its poor and vulnerable.” 
Nicole will be remembered for her dedication to others and her tremendous courage, as well as for her many achievements.  All of Nicole’s colleagues at Common Law wish to express their heartfelt condolences to Nicole’s life partner of 24 years, Lisa Hébert, to Nicole’s father, her siblings and the other members of her family.
Details about Nicole’s memorial service will be posted here as soon as they become available.
Last summer, Nicole created an endowment to support two of her most passionate interests:  immigrant and refugee students, and the French Common Law Program at uOttawa.  The “Nicole LaViolette Fund for Immigrant and Refugee Students Enrolled in the Common Law Program in French” will offer funding support to these students and projects promoting their academic and professional success.  Donations made to the “Nicole LaViolette Fund for Immigrant and Refugee Students Enrolled in the French Common Law Program” will be matched 1:2 until June 30, 2015, effectively increasing the value of your gift by 50%. For example, a donation of $20 is transformed into $30.  Donations in recognition of Nicole can be made to the Nicole LaViolette Fund via the contact information below, or by clicking here to make a donation directly online.
Donations can also be made to the “Nicole LaViolette Friends of Lambda Prize,” which recognizes excellence in research on law and public policy issues affecting gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgendered and intersex (LGBTI) people. Online donations to this prize can be made by clicking here.
Donation Contact:
Monique Washnuk
Development Officer,
Common Law Section
613.562.5800 ext. 4992

Ireland Votes for Equal Marriage

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ireland Votes for Equal Marriage


Dr. Sinead Ring

Ireland has become the first country in the world to introduce equal marriage by popular vote. The National Returning Officer made the announcement at 6.57pm local time, announcing that the amendment passed by 1,201,607 votes to 734, 300. That is 62.1% Yes to 37.9% No.

Only one Constituency voted No (Roscommon-South Leitrim -  and that was by a margin of only a few per cent). Dublin South East was the highest YES vote at  74%.  But the rural parts of the country were also strongly in favour of equal marriage: 61.5% in Galway West and 63.8% in Wexford.

The total turnout was 60.5%, which is the highest turnout for a referendum in 20 years (the Divorce referendum in 1995 had a turnout of 62.2%).

The Amendment means that two people of the same sex can legally marry and these couples are afforded the same constitutional protections and rights as married couples of the opposite sex. These constitutional protections include the right to autonomy or freedom from interference by the State. Children of married same sex married couples will be included in the definition of family for the purposes of the Constitution.  See Fergus Ryan’s blog here for more details.

Legislation will now be passed to allow for the amendment to take place. Minister for Justice and Equality and Law Reform Frances Fitzgerald TD stated on RTE Television that the legislation would be passed this summer.

The referendum result is a wonderful moment of victory for the campaigners for Equal marriage. Those of us who worried about the idea of a public vote for a minority’s fundamental civil right to marry have to think again as the country is swept along in a tide of joy and political awakening.  Just check this link out to see what I mean:

Of course this vote is also about more than marriage; it speaks to a new political engagement of young people, of a new separation of Church and State. And it feels wonderful. 

Marriage Equality Referendum in Ireland

Friday, May 22, 2015

Today Ireland will the only place in the world where the electorate will have a choice whether to enshrine marriage equality in its basic law. Voters will choose whether to vote in favour or not of the following proposed amendment to Article 41 of the Irish Constitution:

“Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

Further details can be found on the Referendum Commission’s website. Details of legal opinion in favour of marriage equality can be found over at Human Rights in Ireland.

The Amendment has deep links to Canada. As Angela McConnell notes in her chapter in Defining Events (Manchester UP: 2015) the campaign for full marriage rights for same-sex couples by MarriagEquality has its roots in a 2004 case taken by Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan. In 2004 Katherine and Ann Louise were married in Vancouver. They sought to have their marriage recognise by the Revenue Commissioners in Ireland to avail themselves of tax benefits accruing to married couples in Ireland. While the action was unsuccessful, the case (the KAL case, as it became known) drew attention to the inequality of treatment of same sex couples under Irish law.

Civil partnerships were made legal in Ireland in 2011. However as Fergus Ryan explains here there are significant differences between civil partnerships and marriage under the Irish Constitution, which specifically protects marriage as a the “natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights and superior to all positive law.”

The referendum has been unprecedented in how engaged people have become with the democracy. The organisation YES Equality has organised canvasses all over Ireland, with social class being reported as an influencing factor in how people will vote.  Emigrants, mostly victims of the recent recession that hit Ireland’s young people particularly badly, do not have the right to vote if they have been away for more than one and a half years. I am one of those people. However, many of the 60,000 emigrants who left more recently are making the journey home from the UK, Canada and Australia).

One of the most striking aspects of the YES campaign has been its creativity: See here and the poignant Noble Call against homophobia by artist Panti Bliss in the Abbey Theatre last year.  In April, a four story mural of a gay couple embracing went up in South Great Georges Street in Dublin city centre. This week the artist Joe Caslin unveiled a sister mural on the side of castle in Galway. The picture accompanies this post. 

Anyone wishing to follow the referendum over the next few days should use the twitter handle #Marref.

Is it fair to make a public appeal for a live organ donor?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

University of Ottawa Professor Jennifer Chandler spoke with CBC News on Wednesday about the need for more people to register their willingness to be deceased donors in order to address the need and to reduce risks to live donors. (segment starts at 2:29)

Prof. Rosemary Cairns-Way on the Kokopenace decision

The Supreme Court of Canada today handed down their decision in  Kokopenace. This case treats the right of Aboriginal people to be tried by a jury of their peers.

uOttawa law's Prof. Rosemary Cairns-Way has published here on this case.

Shifting Paradigms, Enduring Legacies: Reflecting on the 1970 Royal Commission on the Status of Women

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Shifting Paradigms, Enduring Legacies: 
Reflecting on the 1970 Royal Commission on the Status of Women

Amber J. Fletcher, Assistant Professor, 
University of Regina

Alana Cattapan, PhD Candidate, York University

From April 16-19, 2015, a group of feminist activists and academics met at York University to reflect on the legacy of the 1970 Royal Commission on the Status of Women. Entitled Shifting Paradigms,Enduring Legacies: Reflections on the Royal Commission on the Status of Women at 50, the symposium provided an opportunity to reflect on the effects of the Royal Commission in Canadian society prior to its 50th anniversary in 2020. A number of keynote speeches and panels were held over the four days to recognize the work of the Commission and the ongoing experiences of marginalization that many women in Canada face today.  

The Royal Commission, which began in 1967 and released its report in 1970, was the product of extensive participatory consultation on issues affecting Canadian women. Public consultations across the country, along with 468 briefs and 1,000 letters from citizens, informed the work of the Commission and were reflected in the 167 recommendations made in its report to the Government of Canada. Almost fifty years later, some of the Commissions’ recommendations – such as equal pay legislation and matrimonial property rights – have been (at least formally) addressed. Many others, particularly those related to substantive equality, are yet to be realized. 

Symposium participants were asked both to reflect on these legacies of the Commission, as well as to envision future priorities and directions for gender equality in Canada. In the contributions and the conversations that ensued, a number of important themes emerged.

One of the key themes of the symposium was nostalgia. A number of speakers reflected on how the Royal Commission affected their lives and how it inspired their work. Several speakers described the consultation processes of the Commission, describing how its hearings were a critical moment of engagement for many women across Canada, that is, a means for women to be heard and recognized by the state in a way that may not have occurred otherwise.  Some speakers also spoke of nostalgia for the sense of possibility and the public engagement that occurred at the time of the Commission, and this was repeated by younger scholars reflecting on a time that they did not themselves know. The lament for a time when change seemed more possible was apparent throughout the symposium, that is, a time when a strong relationship between feminists and the state was seen as an inroad to improvements in the material conditions of women’s lives.

In a majority of the presentations, a sense of nostalgia and loss was tied to the ascendance of a neoliberal paradigm that focuses on the privatization of once-public services and an individualization of once-collective concerns. The decline of the Keynesian welfare state and the related changes to economic and social relations has also come with a neo-conservative politics committed to the home as the site of social reproduction and a re-inscribing of traditional gender roles and “family values.” At the same time, the neoliberal paradigm has brought an increasing internationalization of care work, a trend profoundly shaped by globalized and racialized forms of inequality. In her presentation, for example, Meg Luxton spoke of the “Global Care Crisis,” in which Canadian women’s increased participation in waged labour, combined with their ongoing disproportionate responsibility for unwaged work, and the lack of social services (including a national child care policy) has led to increased dependence on paid care services provided by women as precarious temporary workers.

Indeed, a common thread throughout the symposium was the impact of internationalization on Canadian public policy in the years since the Commission. While some participants highlighted the negative implications of transnational policy regimes like free trade, others had used transnational mechanisms strategically to create positive change. Shelagh Day, for example, discussed how the Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) has used international law to hold the Canadian state accountable for missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The Women’s Movement in Canada
The symposium also brought an opportunity for critical reflection and analysis of the Commission’s relationship with the Canadian women’s movement, both then and now. Many participants felt that the Commission had strengthened the feminist voice inside the federal government, as evidenced in the subsequent creation of the Status of Women Canada (SWC), and in civil society through the creation of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC). However, others contested this view, debating whether the Commission’s achievements have been exaggerated or romanticized by some activists over the past five decades. In a keynote address, Monique Bégin (who was Executive Secretary of the Royal Commission and went on to serve as a Liberal MP and cabinet minister) shared her critique of the Commission report, noting that despite the changes it inspired, the Commission failed to consider some areas critical to enabling women’s equality, including violence against women. In general, however, most participants agreed that the Commission’s legacy for the Canadian women’s movement has far outweighed its shortcomings.

Shifting Paradigms
The name of the symposium—Shifting Paradigms, Enduring Legacies—suggests both that the Royal Commission altered the direction of the women’s movement in Canada, and that another paradigm shift is needed. Participants presented a number of concrete steps and specific solutions for Canadian social and fiscal policy, but running throughout the discussion was the role of the state: what is the future role of the Canadian state for gender equality in Canada? Can the currently neoliberal state be reclaimed as an equality seeking mechanism? Should it be reclaimed?

In general, participants agreed that the state as a mechanism remains useful and that “the state” should not simply be conflated with the governing party. The diverse presentations showed the usefulness of multiple levels of government, including provincial and transnational levels, as sites for feminist action. Despite the variety of lenses they brought to the question of the ideal future state – lens that include human rights, intersectionality, decolonization, and social justice – symposium participants presented a vision for a more gender-equitable Canada over the next fifty years.

The authors would like to acknowledge the symposium’s organizer, Professor Barbara Cameron of York University, whose hard work made this successful symposium possible. The symposium was organized through the York Centre for Feminist Research and was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Amber J. Fletcher is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Social Studies at the University of Regina. Her research examines the interaction of gender, climate change, and public policy with a particular focus on women in agriculture.

Alana Cattapan is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at York University and a research associate at Novel Tech Ethics at Dalhousie University. Her work interrogates the relationships between citizenship, social policy, bioethics, and gender. @arcattapan

Elaine Craig and Ellen Gabriel discuss violence against Indigenous women on the McGill Law Journal Podcast

The McGill Law Journal has just posted a podcast discussing the Pickton case and missing and murdered Indigenous women with Elaine Craig and Ellen Gabriel.

Elaine Craig published a paper on these issues in the McGill Law Journal in 2014. It is available here. Here is the abstract:
Women are disappearing. Sixty-nine of them disappeared from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver between 1997 and 2002. Northern communities in British Columbia believe that more than 40 women have gone missing from the Highway of Tears in the past thirty years. The endangered do not come from every walk of life. Most of these women are Aboriginal. Many of them are poor. To be more precise then, poor women and Aboriginal women are disappearing. Aboriginal women in particular are the targets of an irrefutable epidemic of violence in Canada today.

Robert Pickton is thought to have murdered almost 50 of the women reported as missing from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver between 1997 and 2002. The criminal prosecution of Robert Pickton involved an 11-month jury trial, two appeals to the British Columbia Court of Appeal, an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, 12 million dollars in defence counsel legal expenses, a two million dollar upgrade to the New Westminster courthouse, nine million dollars in Crown counsel expenses, 12 million dollars in judicial/trial support and management costs, and 76 reported judicial rulings. This paper, through a combination of discursive and doctrinal analysis of these 76 decisions, examines what was (not) achieved by the Pickton trial. It discusses three areas: the judicial representation of the women Pickton was prosecuted for murdering; the implications of the jury’s verdict in the Pickton proceeding and; the impact of the Pickton trial on the families of the women he murdered.

The paper starts from the premise that it is correct to characterize these murders as a product of collective violence. Colonialism, political and legal infrastructure, and public discourse – and the race, class, and gender based hegemonies that these processes, institutions, and practices hold in place – produced a particular class of vulnerable women, the police who failed them, and Robert Pickton. The paper concludes by suggesting that the outcomes of the Pickton prosecution both highlight the limitations of the criminal justice system and offer an analytical framework for examining other institutional responses (such as the Missing Women’s Inquiry) to the kind of collective violence that gave rise to the Pickton circumstance.

Research & Writing for Equality*

* The Latest & Greatest from SSRN

 Jane Bailey has posted a new article on SSRN, entitled "Gendering Big Brother: What Should a Feminist Do?" Here is the abstract: 
Set in the context of an imaginary dialogue between a straight, white, middle-aged radical feminist law professor and her Cyberfeminism student, this paper explores various theories about stereotypes and other tools of discrimination, as well as the emancipatory potential of digitized communications for equality-seeking groups. It suggests that the Snowden revelations about widespread government surveillance of citizens and concerns around “big data” present an opportunity for coalition between feminists and civil libertarians on the issue of surveillance. In the final analysis though, the paper cautions that this context may simply reflect a moment of interest convergence in which collaboration is unlikely to produce real change for subordinated groups unless the discriminatory tropes that disproportionately expose members of subordinated groups to surveillance are first addressed.
  The full article is available here.
Designed by Rachel Gold.