Category Archives: News

Natasha Bakht on the Niqab

photo of Natasha BakhtUniversity of Ottawa Law Professor Natasha Bakht has recently published a pair of op-eds critiquing the view that religious face coverings such as the niqab are “anti-woman.” They are well worth a read and can be found here (Ottawa Sun), and here (TVO).

The federal ban on wearing a face covering while taking the Oath of Citizenship has become an important election issue in recent days, following a Federal Court of Appeal decision (Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) v Ishaq, 2015 FCA 194) which dismissed the government’s appeal from a Federal Court decision finding that the ban was unlawful (Ishaq v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2015 FC 156).

The case was brought by a Muslim woman named Zunera Ishaq who has competed all of the steps towards becoming a Canadian citizen except the ceremony.  Ishaq says that she is unable to comply with the requirement to remove her niqab at the ceremony due to her faith.

A few favourite quotations from the op-eds:

Zunera Ishaq, the woman at the centre of the niqab-citizenship controversy has specifically said “It’s precisely because I won’t listen to how other people want me to live my life that I wear a niqab. Some of my own family members have asked me to remove it. I have told them that I prefer to think for myself.”

A central tenet of modern feminism is that we listen to the voices of women. We do not assume that we know what is better for them. The prime minister has made up a fictitious threat to women’s equality, essentially suggesting that niqab-wearing women have been duped. But there are real issues involving vulnerable women that need our government’s attention. In the past two decades, more than 1,000 Indigenous women have gone missing or have been murdered in Canadian communities.

(Ottawa Sun)

We could learn some things from niqab-wearing women and their quiet, determined conviction. I imagine it is not easy to wear a full-face veil in a country where the prime minister distorts facts in order to rile up public resentment. But they have persevered in their daily lives, going to work, raising their children, explaining their choices when asked and speaking out, as all Canadians should when faced with discrimination.


Professor Bakht has written extensively on the rights of niqab-wearing women. Her work was cited by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 2012 case about a sexual assault complainant who sought to testify while wearing the niqab (R v NS, 2012 SCC 72). She’s also an Indian contemporary dancer and choreography, which is just so cool.






Rape’s Long Shadow

The Globe & Mail recently published this article about the long-term consequences of sexual violence, featuring Amanda Dale, Executive Director of Toronto’s Barbra Schlifer Clinic and a fellow Osgoode graduate student.

Picture of Amanda Dale
Amanda Dale

A couple noteworthy points from the article:

  • Social responses to women who disclose sexual violence make a difference.

Research suggests that the reception a woman gets the first time she discloses her attack can shape her experience of trauma. With supportive reception, survivors’ psychological distress can lessen, making them less susceptible to re-victimization. But women who are dismissed when they speak up for the first time often do not talk about it again, a silence that can be extremely detrimental.

  • The current rise in awareness and disclosure needs to be matched by an increase in front-line services.

It’s irresponsible to raise awareness without raising the capacity to receive these stories,” Dale says. “We got 30 calls last week. We don’t want to keep those women waiting for a response. They’re ready. They’re calling.

Also interesting is the continued use of the term “rape” in this and other recent articles, despite the fact that rape was replaced by sexual assault in the Canadian Criminal Code back in 1983. Wondering about the reasons for this (somewhat ineffective) change in wording? See here for a helpful overview.



Introducing Dana Phillips: IFLS Graduate Student Coordinator

picture of Dana PhillipsThe IFLS has hired a graduate student coordinator for 2015-16! Dana Phillips  completed her J.D. at the University of Victoria, and articled at the National Judicial Institute in Ottawa.  She is currently completing her master’s thesis in criminal law and feminist legal theory at Osgoode Hall Law School, under the supervision of Professor Benjamin Berger.

In her doctoral work beginning this fall, Dana will continue to explore the themes of her master’s research under Professor Berger’s supervision, with an added focus on evidence and epistemology.

Her work with the IFLS will focus on connections between the IFLS and students (both JD and graduate students), social media and a few other projects.  Got ideas on what the IFLS could offer students? Let us know! More on these initiatives later – when the summer writing blitz slows down.

Co-Directors: Ruth Buchanan at the IFLS

Photograph of professor ruth buchananSo happy to announce that Osgoode professor Ruth Buchanan will join me and we will be co-directing the IFLS over the coming year. You can read more about Ruth’s work here, and you can find her on twitter as @ruthinguelph. She is a scholar of law and development, law and inequality, critical legal theory,  and law and film, and her publications cover a wide range of topics. Recently she has been the director of the Osgoode Graduate Programme, and running Osgoode’s Law.Arts.Culture speaker series.

Over the next year (my sabbatical year), Ruth will be dealing with more of the IFLS events and speakers, whereas I will be looking more at the (sadly neglected I know) web presence and the possibility of affiliations and institutional relations for the IFLS.

We’ve also hired a graduate student, more on that shortly, to support this work (in particular Ruth’s interest in finding ways that the IFLS can engage more with graduate students, and keeping up the blog).

Ruth and I are excited about the possibilities of co-directorship and deepening/widening the IFLS’s connections to the feminist legal community over the coming year(s).  Stay in touch with us, let us know about your news. Emails here.