Category Archives: News

Loujayn Alhokail: Male Guardianship in Saudi Arabia

Last fall, Postdoctoral Research Fellow Adelina Iftene kicked off what I hoped would be a series of guest posts featuring the work of  graduate and postdoctoral scholars at Osgoode who are engaging with feminist perspectives  (see Adelina’s post here).  In this second guest post, I’m very pleased to introduce PhD student Loujayn Alhokail, who studies the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia through a lens of legal consciousness.

-Dana

Male Guardianship in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia it is legally required that Saudi women, of all ages, must have male guardians. Under this legal rule, women are not allowed to travel, continue their education, or have access to certain medical procedures without the consent of their male guardians. Theoretically, women are allowed to have access to most of their other rights that are recognized by the state. However, in reality, the guardianship rule is one part of a multi layered system of laws, policies, and traditions that, combined, puts most of women’s legally recognized rights under the discretion of their male guardians. Such system includes policies such as the ban on women’s driving and gender segregation.

The male guardianship system is historically supported by traditional interpretations of Islamic texts that Saudi Arabia recognizes. Saudi Arabia, as an Islamic state, gains its political legitimacy from enforcing Islamic law, and thus, according to traditional interpretations, enforcing male guardianship over women. The reality is that the male guardianship system is based on very narrow interpretations of Islamic texts. Furthermore, the existence of the male guardianship system causes many negative effects for women. Some Saudi women are unable to access some of their basic Islamic law rights that are recognized by the state because of cultural obstacles that are supported by this system. Such rights include access to marriage, divorce, and inheritance.

Witnessing some of the recent changes that the Saudi state is leading in favor of women’s rights, and observing how the state is limited in its ability to enforce fundamental changes in favor of Saudi women’s rights, have encouraged me to analyze some of the historical and socio-political reasons underlying women’s disadvantaged status in the Kingdom. My current research focuses on the cultural context that leads to normalizing and legitimizing the male guardianship system through a legal consciousness lens. Most Saudi citizens shape their legal consciousness under a culture that explicitly supports the existence of the male guardianship system. In this research, I am particularly interested in the individual experiences that have shaped the legal consciousness of citizens who recognize the negative effects of this system. By analyzing these experiences, I am hoping to move the male guardianship system debate forward while aiming to unblock social change in favour of Saudi women’s rights.

Loujayn Alhokail 

I am currently a Ph.D. student at Osgoode Hall Law, York University. I earned my law degree from King Saud University, Saudi Arabia. I have since then completed my LL.M. in law at Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University where my Thesis looked at the use of marriage contracts to hasten the wheel of change in favor of Saudi women’s rights. I am hoping to use the knowledge that I gain in Canada to help strengthen legal education in Saudi Arabia.

 

 

The Fifth Estate re Wilno Murders: Why Didn’t We Know?

Last night, I watched the most recent Fifth Estate episode, about the murders of Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk, and Nathalie Warmerdam last September near Wilno. The episode asks (shows) how the criminal justice system failed these women and others in abusive relationships. Not a good choice of bedtime material. Be prepared to be outraged (and probably shed some tears).

Osgoode PhD student and long time women’s advocate Amanda Dale has a brief spot towards the end of the episode, where she responds to the due process question in such cases.

Why Didn’t We Know?

In a matter of hours last September, three women were killed near the small town of Wilno, Ontario. The man arrested and accused of their murders, Basil Borutski had a long criminal history, including charges involving two of the three women. How did the system that’s supposed to protect women go so disastrously wrong? Gillian Findlay investigates, with revealing interviews with family members, friends of victims and witnesses

 

 

Good News: Accomplishments

Thanks to Manitoba’s Deb Parkes, a reminder that we should share and celebrate the achievements of women in the academy. Here are three pieces of good news Deb noted. Brighten up the greyish days of January with these.

1. Prof. Angelique EagleWoman has been named Dean of Law, Lakehead University.  She is an accomplished professor from the University of Idaho and a citizen of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation.

I’m adding this link to an article of Dean EagleWoman’s on SSRN called Balancing between Two Worlds: A Dakota Woman’s Reflections on Being a Law Professor (you will find the abstract at the link – the paper was written for a follow up conference after the publication of Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia, discussed long ago on this blog)

2. Sherene Razack (OISE) appointed Distinguished Professor at the University of Toronto.

The idea of interlocking systems of oppression (how patriarchy, colonialism and white supremacy come into operation through each other) is one of her most important contributions to theory and practice.

3. Karen Busby (U of M) received the Dr. and Mrs. H. H. Saunderson Award, the University of Manitoba’s highest honour for teaching.

Prof. Karen Busby challenges her students to do more, be more,
dream more. She not only ignites within them a passion for learning law but inspires them to find their own voice. Prof. Busby develops citizen lawyers who defend human rights and democratic values. She is growing the next generation of advocates for social change—individuals who will fight back against oppression.

Adelina Iftene: Women Aging Behind Bars – Villains or Victims?

AdelinaI am very pleased to introduce this guest post by Osgoode Postdoctoral Research Fellow Adelina Iftene.  Adelina’s research on elderly women in prison exposes the human struggles of a heavily stigmatized and largely unseen cohort at the intersection of age, gender and incarceration.  Her work ties in with other recent Osgoode projects looking at the treatment of criminalized women in Canada, such as PhD student Andrea Anderson’s research on police violence against Black women (see this Huffington Post article), and a new experiential learning course being developed by Professor Janet Mosher in collaboration with the Barbra Schlifer Clinic that addresses the  trend of women charged with domestic violence in Canada. My hope is that this will be the first in a series of posts featuring the work of graduate and postdoctoral researchers engaging with feminist perspectives at Osgoode!

-Dana

Continue reading Adelina Iftene: Women Aging Behind Bars – Villains or Victims?

Ewanchuk (and merit) redux: R v Wagar & Holding Judges Accountable for their treatment of sexual assault complainants

This is a bit of a must read (*i am not describing my own post as a must read! i mean, the work and stories i’m linking to!), and apologies for the ways that I have made it a series of links.  Here’s the short story: Judge makes comments repeatedly throughout a sexual assault trial indicating ignorance of and outright hostility to Canadian law of sexual assault, and “rape shield” provisions.  Acquittal overturned on appeal but without many reasons.  Fabulous law profs write op eds and file official complaint with Canadian Judicial Council.  Within days the Court (!the Court) on which the judge now sits promises he won’t be sitting on any sexual assault cases, indicates that he’ll take gender sensitivity training at his own expense, and quotes the judge’s own apology.  Investigation ongoing.

Interesting parallels and differences here with the saga around complaints about the language used by Alberta Court of Appeal Justice McClung in Ewanchuk (which i will not rehash here, but you can get a flavour from Backhouse, Constance B., The Chilly Climate for Women Judges: Reflections on the Backlash from the Ewanchuk Case (2003). Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 15:1 (2003) 167-93. Available at SSRN:http://ssrn.com/abstract=2283981).

timeline of recent events

late additions in green: i think that these things are worth adding to the timeline.  See “merit”.  

2011: Charges laid in the sexual assault at issue in R. v. Wagar.

March 2012: Judge Camp’s appointment announced.  Alberta premier is Alison Redford. 

December 2013: Premier Redford is cleared after an ethics panel reviews the awarding of a tobacco litigation contract  that could be worth millions in fees, to her ex-spouse’s law firm, Jensen Shawa Solomon Duguid Hawkes of Alberta.  Prior to his elevation, from 2008-12, Judge Camp was managing partner of this law firm. 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/alberta-premier-accused-of-conflict-in-tobacco-case-1.1222056
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/premier-alison-redford-cleared-in-ethics-investigation-1.2451263

2014:  first trial in R. v. Wagar

June 26, 2015: Judge Camp becomes Justice Camp of the Federal Court, approximately one month before the election campaign begins for the October 19, 2015 Federal Elections.

“Judge Camp commenced his judgment by notifying the accused that he was being acquitted, and went on to deliver a lecture to the accused:

The law and the way that people approach sexual activity has changed in the last 30 years. I want you to tell your friends, your male friends, that they have to be far more gentle with women. They have to be far more patient. And they have to be very careful. To protect themselves, they have to be very careful.

The law in Canada today is that you have to be very sure before you engage in any form of sexual activity with a woman. Not just sex, not just oral sex, not even just touching of a personal part of a girl’s body, but just touching at all. You’ve got to be very sure that the girl wants you to do it. Please tell your friends so that they don’t upset women and so that they don’t get into trouble… (Appeal Record, at p 427).

This passage sets the tone for Judge Camp’s reasons for decision: women (or “girls”) are blameworthy, not to be trusted, and men must be protected from them.”

  • November 3

Alice Woolley of UCalgaryLaw regarding what the legal system should do in such cases, also on the Calgary Faculty Blog (ABlawg).

I argue that legal decisions go from being wrong to wrongful when they demonstrate both disrespect for the law and a failure of empathy in regards to the persons who appeared before the court.   In my opinion, Judge Camp’s decision falls within this category; it demonstrates both disrespect for the law governing sexual assault and a pervasive inability to understand or even account for the perspective of the complainant…..

One response to a wrongful decision is censure of the judge by a higher court. That did not happen here. The Court of Appeal’s reasons, while clear and unequivocal in overturning Judge Camp’s decision, are also temperate and measured. They do not criticize the trial judge himself, or suggest that his decision had crossed from the wrong to the wrongful…..

 A judge who merely disrespects the law acts very badly. And a judge who lacks empathy does so as well. But it is the judge who does both, who disregards the law and the people who appear before him or who are affected by his judgments, who acts wrongfully, and whose judgments properly warrant anger and disgust.

  • November 6.  op ed (the date is confusingly listed) Globe & Mail, written by Dal’s Elaine Craig and Assoc. Dean Woolley  (interestingly, in this G&M article, the ED of the CJC seems to be saying that he used his power to initiate an inquiry after reading that op-ed – thus claiming that the official eleven page complaint filed by the four law professors was apparently not the genesis of the investigation – rather, the op-ed that two of them wrote and had published in the Globe worked on its own).
  • November 9, 2015, official filing of an 11page complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council about Justice Camp’s conduct, by professors Woolley and Koshan of the University of Calgary law school, along with Profs Jocelyn Downie and Craig of the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie.

 

  • Also on November 9, 2015, the story starts to diverge a bit from what you might have expected, given Ewanchuk. The Federal Court issued a statement saying in part:

” no new cases will be assigned to Justice Camp that involve issues of sexual conduct or any matter that would raise comparable issues. As well, Justice Camp has agreed to recuse himself from any such cases currently assigned to him”.

  • Justice Camp, through the court, offered an apology (in some newspaper articles, it sounds like these were two separate news releases, but in fact, there is just one):

My sincere apology goes out, in the first place, to the young woman who was the complainant in the matter. I also apologize to the women who experience feelings of anger, frustration and despair at hearing of these events.

  • Later in the day, still November 9, Alice Woolley again, here, on the apology:

Woolley suggests Camp still doesn’t get it.  “Given one of the issues here is his unwillingness to apply the law, I am concerned about the extent to which the statement frames this as an issue of gender sensitivity. His apology is directed toward women, but the fair administration of justice is a concern for every Canadian.”

As a slight aside (although I’m sure this will be asked by more people soon), here’s blogger and Ontario lawyer Lee Akazaki on November 10th (today) asking why the Court is issuing such a statement in the first place (I’m not sure if this is unprecedented, but it sure feels that way).  See here.

 

I’ve just come back from a workshop in the UK about appointing judges and diversity on the Bench.  I also spoke a bit about Lori Douglas’ case – reading the hard work of these amazing Canadian Feminist legal academics in bringing this situation into the open makes me wonder again why on earth we keep getting asked about merit versus diversity when it should be quite clear that we haven’t quite got a handle on merit yet…. (so, last note, from 2013 in the Harvard Business Review the gender focused article, Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.  Justice Camp seems to have practiced business law prior to his elevation to the Bench by the Provincial government of Alison Redfordmond (last name corrected thanks to Eric Adams, who gently pointed out my error, without any reference to ignorant Ontarians or anything!)  Camp’s apology is in fairly stark contrast to his language in the transcript, as revealed in the Crown factum.  That’s some good and speedy sensitivity training.

 

-sonia