Category Archives: What we’re thinking/reading/doing (IFLS blog)

What’s interesting these days?

Suzanne Bouclin @ Osgoode Feb 10: “Reforming Prisons, Reforming Women: Ann Vickers and Abortion Law”

event poster

On February 10, the IFLS and Law Arts Culture will be co-hosting the following talk by University of Ottawa Professor Suzanne Bouclin:

Reforming Prisons, Reforming Women: Ann Vickers and Abortion Law
Talk by Suzanne Bouclin of the University of Ottawa 
Wednesday February 10, 2016 
12:30-2pm
Rm 2027, Osgoode Hall (Keele campus) 

Please RSVP at bit.ly/osresearch, using the event code BOUCLIN.

Abstract:

Women in Prison (WIP) movies are a relatively obscure and often under-read body of films. The central theme of this talk is that many of these films provoke us to reconsider whether prisons for women should exist at all. I have argued elsewhere that WIP movies are a site of women’s legal subjectivity and agency and I am currently refining a theory of WIP movies’ generic conventions to further that assertion. The aim of my work is not to establish whether WIP films reveal anything about the actual conditions of incarcerated women. These films vary in their cultural verisimilitude. And while a particular film may hold considerable truth-value, it is often more fictionalized and mediated version of the prison experience that hold the most critical potential.  Thus I suggest an iconological standpoint in relation to WIP movies that takes seriously their potential to leave us feeling unsettled about prisons, about the women who are warehoused in them, and about the crimes with which these women have been accused.  I have generated a (non-linear and non-essentialist) taxonomy of WIP films that emerge during three moments in feminist theorizing and activism that can be loosely arranged as the first, second, and third waves. I conclude that this body of films – this genre – is a shifting and complex feminist jurisprudence. Individual films in inter-textual relationship with a broader body of films present women who negotiate formal and informal legal structures that frame and limit their autonomy and agency. Nevertheless, they also present women who refuse to accept ‘law’ that is externally imposed upon them or the legitimacy of the legal actors that enforce it – whether wardens, child and welfare services, medical practitioners. I examine the dialogical relationship between these representations of women in prison and the manner in which formalized legal institutions and official legal agents label particular women ‘criminals.’ Without a doubt, some WIP movies reproduce the gendered operations and assumptions of criminal law; yet, some do so while also challenging its institutions and apparatuses of power. Moreover, some exemplary WIPs (I highlight one in this talk) offer ways to imagine the violence of state/legal practices and the inhumanity of total institutions to suggest broader gender, race, and class injustices that render particular women more vulnerable to criminalization and incarceration.

The centerpiece of my discussion is the film Ann Vickers. Drawing on the critical methodology of law-and-literature and law-and-film studies, I will engage in a literary and legal analysis of the novel and the film Ann Vickers (1930) and especially how WIP movies’ generic law gets mapped on to the canonical (written) law. I focus on two modes and sites of law: the formal prohibition of abortion and the informal regulation of film’s content under the Production Code during a period of lax regulation. I will explore substantive legal questions around women’s suffrage and access to safe abortion. I will also grapple with jurisprudential questions around the nature of authority, inter-textual dialogue and precedent that emerge when engaging in inter-textual dialogue (here of a novel and its cinematic representation).

Suzanne Bouclin is an Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law (Programme de Common Law en Français). She writes and researches on law and poverty, feminist jurisprudence, law and popular culture, and the regulation of women’s bodies. She recently launched a new iteration of the Ticket Defence Program (TDP)a free mobile legal clinic that offers representation to the homeless and street-involved people who experience social profiling at the hands of police and by-law officers. Dr. Bouclin is also a recent recipient of the Ontario Early Researcher Award for a five-year project which explores the potential for furthering access to justice through new communications technologies.

Cunliffe Talk Follow Up: ReconciliationSyllabus blog on TRC Recommendation 28

In her powerful talk earlier this month about R v Barton and the death of Cindy Gladue, Professor Emma Cunliffe discussed the lack of cultural competency and respect for Indigenous lives shown by the lawyers involved in the case. She was later asked a question about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action regarding legal education. In her answer, she mentioned a recent blog post she had written on the subject, found here.

The blog she was talking about is called ReconciliationSyllabus. It was started by UVic law professors Gillian Calder and Rebecca Johnson last summer as “an invitation to law professors across Canada to gather together ideas about resources and pedagogies to support recommendation #28 of the TRC Calls to Action: the call for us to rethink both what and how we teach in our schools.” Here is a story about the blog’s origin.

The TRC Calls to Action that speak most directly to legal education read as follows:

  1. We call upon the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to ensure that lawyers receive appropriate cultural competency training, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal– Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.
  1. We call upon law schools in Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and antiracism.

You can see all 94 Calls to Action here, and the entire TRC report can be found here.

Since the blog’s launch, Professor Cunliffe and several other Canadian law professors (many of a known feminist bent) have taken up the invitation to reflect on the TRC’s recommendations. Check it out here, if you haven’t already: https://reconciliationsyllabus.wordpress.com/about/.

Here are some further thoughts about the Calls to Action

from UVic Dean Jeremy Webber:

http://www.slaw.ca/2015/08/04/the-law-schools-and-the-future-of-indigenous-law-in-canada/

from Professors Gillian Calder and Rebecca Johnson:

http://www.canadianlawyermag.com/5620/TRC-offers-a-window-of-opportunity-for-legal-education.html

from Professor Lisa Kerr:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/law-schools-across-canada-debate-how-to-enact-trc-recommendations/article27775570/

Professor Cunliffe’s talk, and the question about the TRC serves as an important reminder not to let this conversation die. Only by carrying the momentum forward can the TRC’s Calls be lifted off the page and into action. Seems like we have a lot of work to do.

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

 

 

Random Girls rule

oh my.  Doctor claims in lawsuit that “out-of-wedlock conception deprived him of the choice of falling in love, marrying, and choosing when to have a child.” Toronto judge rightly chucks it out.  Here.   Such a small thing, but here it is, Saturday night and all the interesting bits of Pride and Prejudice are over, only the mush is left.  So, a few things….

1. the information including the age of the child and age of the woman does seem to open doors for possible identification.

2.    Now THIS is how it’s done:

“But then came the text message at 7:06 p.m. on Aug. 10, 2014, that would shock PP and change his life forever.

DD said she was 10 weeks pregnant with PP’s baby, according to the statement of claim.

PP wanted her to get an abortion.

DD said no.

PP said, “I don’t want to have a baby with some random girl.”

DD said, “This random girl is fine doing it on her own.””

3. the “emotional damage” here, might, with some escalation, approach what at least one Canadian legal scholar (ok, on twitter) seemed to suggest would meet the R. v. Hutchinson [2014] 1 SCR 346 (because there were a surprising number of people who only wanted to talk about Hutchinson in terms of “but what about when the women do it”).  This is in tort, though, obviously.

4. The lawyer who drafted the statement of claim is, mercifully for them perhaps, not named.  Am I being too dismissive of the strength of the claimant’s argument? #notatortexpertunderanydefinitionofexpert.

Source: Doctor sues mother of his child for emotional damages | Toronto Star

NIP: Why Some Men Are Above the Law by Martha C. Nussbaum

Famous men standardly get away with sexual harms, and for the most part will continue to do so. They know they are above the law, and they are therefore undeterrable. What can society do? Don’t give actors and athletes such glamor and reputational power. But that won’t happen in the real world. What can women do? Don’t be fooled by glamor. Do not date such men, unless you know them very, very well. Do not go to their homes. Never be alone in a room with them. And if you ignore my sage advice and encounter trouble, move on. Do not let your life get hijacked by an almost certainly futile effort at justice. Focus on your own welfare, and in this case that means: forget the law.

Source: Why Some Men Are Above the Law | Martha C. Nussbaum

An interesting intervention from the eminent scholar.  One question this leaves open for me is this – how are we defining famous?  I wonder whether in truth it is defined largely in relation to the standing of the woman in question and calibrated to the jurisdiction. Famous enough…