Category Archives: News

This is how you build a movement: CAMWL invites us to go Beyond the Niqab

The Canadian Association of Muslim Women in Law has had a lot to respond to of late.  Here’s their most recent – a list of 8 actions we can take to support women’s equality.  Follow them on twitter at @camwlnews.

Do you think it’s unacceptable to deny women citizenship because of what they wear? Do you think the endless debates about women’s clothing are a distraction from the real issues we should be talking about this election season and every day? If you answered yes, you are part of a large, strong, and diverse community […]

Source: Beyond the Niqab: 8 Ways You Can Improve Women’s Equality in Canada – Canadian Association of Muslim Women in Law

We can do more than just voting.

Incidentally, can I call attention to the way that CAMWL put in #4 and #6

4. Condemn police racial profiling, which disproportionately targets Black and other racialized communities in Canada.

6. Demand Canada investigate and end the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, of whom there are thousands, to say nothing of the countless Indigenous people killed and scarred by residential schools, disproportionate incarceration, and systemic dispossession.

and nehiyaw educator Tasha Spillett‘s article for CBC the other week?

When I heard the words “barbaric cultural practices” fall from the mouth of Conservative candidate Kellie Leitch late last week, I instinctively wanted to pick up the phone. Not to report on practices at variance with this narrow conception of “Canadian values,” but because I felt a searing urgency to check-in with my sisters.


That said, it wasn’t the women from my own indigenous community that drew my concern following Leitch’s election broadcast. It was, instead, a grave worry for the well-being of my Muslim sisters, their families and their communities.

There are more of these moments. They build and break my heart, to see communities reaching out to each other despite their own tough times, to see these connections recognized and forged.   This is how we will build our movement.


Recently Published: “Nonpracticing Female Lawyers: Why Did They Leave and Where Are They Now?”

Check out this recently published paper, co-authored by Ellen Schlesinger, the current Student Success and Wellness Counsellor at Osgoode:

Ellen V Schlesinger & Lee Butterfield, “Nonpracticing Female Lawyers: Why Did They Leave and Where Are They Now?” (2015) 14:2  The Canadian Journal of Career Development/Revue canadienne de développement de carrière 47.

pic of EllenFrom the abstract:

Since a greater proportion of female lawyers leave the law profession, the present study investigated women lawyers’ decisions to transition from the practice, their feelings at the time they decided to leave, and the characteristics of their current careers. Thematic Analysis of the interviews with nine female participants highlighted the nature of legal work and family responsibilities as the main reasons participants left the legal profession. Most participants reported experiencing anxiety, depression or burnout at the point they decided to change careers. Participants described their transition into new careers, the characteristics of their new work, and reflected on their decision to leave. Implications for career counsellors are considered.

The full article is freely available online on the Canadian Journal of Career Development website.

Ellen worked as a lawyer and legal research consultant for 8 years prior to becoming a counsellor. She specializes in working with professionals, lawyers and law students. As a counsellor, she has worked at Vancouver’s Downtown Community Court, Sheway, and the Adler centre.  See her website here for more information about her impressive work experience and current practice.

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.