Today: METRAC at Osgoode (Tamar Witelson & Joanna Hayes)

METRAC4thFebJoin us today for the second in this IFLS series

Community, connections, commitment: Conversations at Osgoode
Tamar Witelson & Joanna Hayes of METRAC
Tuesday February 4th 1230-230 in Osgoode Hall 2027 (Faculty Lounge)

Legal Director Tamar Witelson & Legal Information Coordinator Joanna Hayes work for one of Toronto’s most dynamic and community engaged agencies. METRAC is a non-profit committed to the rights of women and children to live their lives free of violence and the threat of violence. METRAC also has not one but TWO legal information websites: Ontario Women’s Justice Network (OWJN) and Family Law Education for Women (FLEW)
Joanna & Tamar will discuss the work METRAC does, how they work together, their career paths, and what working in the not-for-profit sector is like. Poster available here.

From our last session, with Farrah Khan and Deepa Mattoo (click here for more)

I really enjoyed today’s conversation. It was one of the best lunch hour talks I have been to at Osgoode. I appreciated the nuance, sensitivity, and palpable commitment Farrah and Deepa exhibited towards their advocacy and work. (Osgoode 3L)
It’s so rare to hear dialogue that’s both interesting and truly candid. I felt like I got a real glimpse into the work they’re doing, and what is at stake in current feminist legal activism. It also helped me think about what the current needs are in Toronto, and how I could envision responding to them. (Osgoode 1L)

Joanna Hayes is a lawyer and the Legal Information Coordinator for METRAC’s Community Justice Program, where she is responsible for developing and delivering accessible legal information and public legal education for women and youth affected by violence. She has a varied legal background, having worked in many social justice and public interest legal organizations with a focus on immigrant and refugee rights, women’s rights, and increasing access to justice. Before joining METRAC, she articled with the Ministry of the Attorney General, where she assisted counsel at the Ministry of Labour with prosecutions under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Employment Standards Act. Joanna has worked at the Office of the Integrity Commissioner of Ontario providing legal research and policy recommendations on whistleblowing legislation. She has also done legal work in Kenya to increase access to justice for marginalized groups and in South Africa with respect to the rights of women and girls, intimate partner violence and sexual offences.

Tamar Witelson is the Legal Director at METRAC, heading METRAC’s Community Justice Program, which develops and delivers in-person, online and printed legal information and education to community support workers, and to women who have experienced abuse and violence. Tamar develops and delivers training, and has presented at seminars and conferences about human rights and diversity issues. Tamar’s legal background has spanned the public and private spheres, with a focus on equality and human rights law. Before joining METRAC, Tamar was staff lawyer at the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), where she launched an equality rights website for legal news and analysis. She has served as Counsel at the Constitutional Law Branch of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, and as Counsel at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, working on the transition to the Tribunal’s current direct access model. She also had a private practice in union-side labour and human rights law, following her Clerkship at the Supreme Court of Canada. Before becoming a lawyer, Tamar worked for twelve years in television news, political and current affairs.

CANCELLED: Dean Penny Andrews at Osgoode on New Strategies for Pursuing Women's Human Rights


Please note that flight cancellations have led to this talk being cancelled.  With apologies to all who were hoping to attend today.



Dean Penelope Andrews (Albany) will be at Osgoode Monday February 3, 2014,  and will speak from her latest book, From Capetown to Kabul: Rethinking Strategies for Pursuing Women’s Human Rights (Ashgate) 1230-230 in room 2027.  Please RSVP to Lielle Gonsalves,

The author examines and compares gender inequality in societies undergoing political, economic and legal transformation, and looks at two countries – South Africa and Afghanistan – in particular. These two societies serve as counterpoints through which the book engages, in a nuanced and novel way, with the many broader issues that flow from the attempts in newly democratic societies to give effect to the promise of gender equality. Developing the idea of ‘conditional interdependence’, the book suggests a new approach based on the communitarian values which underpin newly democratic societies and would allow women’s rights to gain momentum and reap greater benefits. [from the publisher]

Ruthann Robson reviewed the book for Jotwell, here.

More about Dean Andrews from the Albany website, here:

Dean Andrews, who was born and raised in South Africa, has extensive international experience, including teaching at law schools in Germany, Australia, Holland, Scotland, Canada and South Africa. An annual award in her name—The Penelope E. Andrews Human Rights Award—was inaugurated in 2005 at the South African law school of University of KwaZulu-Natal. Along with numerous other awards, she holds a “Women of South Africa Achievement Award,” as well as Albany Law’s Kate Stoneman Award, which she received in 2002.

In 2005 she was a finalist for a vacancy on the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the highest court in South Africa on constitutional matters. She has consulted for the United Nations Development Fund for Women, and for the Ford Foundation in Johannesburg, where she evaluated labor law programs. She earned her B.A. and LL.B from the University of Natal, Durban, South Africa, and her LL.M from Columbia University School of Law, New York.

She has published extensively on topics centered on gender and racial equality, South African legal issues, Australian legal issues, and international justice.

Dean Andrews will also be speaking to Professor Dayna Scott’s International Environmental Law class on Monday afternoon on the right to water in South African (constitutional) law.


LGBT Equality Litigation in the Caribbean, now avail on video

Back in November, IFLS hosted LGBT Equality Litigation in the Caribbean, an event put together by Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights (see original post here). The other day, we hosted another Envisioning Panel, looking at the recent decision of India’s Supreme Court to overturn a lower court decision which struck down s.377 of the Indian Penal Code.  Here’s the original post advertising the panel.  As soon as Envisioning has video, we will post that.

Please do check out Envisioning’s website, here.  You can find full video of the LGBT Equality Litigation in the Caribbean panel  at Envisioning’s Vimeo site (or via the event’s page on their website), here.   Thanks especially to Nancy Nicol and the rest of the envisioning team for allowing us to host.


Sexual Violence – against men & boys in Conflict Situations (Report from UN Workshop)

Catching up on all the things the profs send for posting – my colleague Sean Rehaag sent this UN Workshop Report from  December 2013 via the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict) to me some weeks ago, sorry for the delay.  Looks very interesting. 

Much important academic work has been done both to deconstruct gender stereotypes and biological essentialisms, and to theorize women’s rights. In the fields of international activism, policy and practice on conflict-related sexual violence, however, the discussion about gender has been blurred with and frequently subsumed into a necessary struggle for women’s rights in the face of historical indifference to the widespread  subordination of women. Notwithstanding the importance of this struggle, the resultant discursive and policy  focus on sexual and gender based violence as a women’s rights issue has become, from a policy and  humanitarian perspective, a serious obstacle to prevention of and response to conflict related sexual and  gender-based violence against men and boys, as practitioners lack both awareness of the issues, and the  appropriate experience and skills with which to respond to male survivors.  The predominance of this paradigm is evident in the fact that in most people’s minds, whether in rural villages  in eastern DRC or in the corridors of power in key donor states, the field of ‘gender’, and the sub-field within  that of SGBV, is understood to be about women. SGBV scenarios are populated by male perpetrators and  female victims. pp8-9

Full report here.  Includes Key resources starting at p 22.  Slides from the July 2013 workshop, here.

Exec Summary here.

Research Confidentiality, in the context of Criminal Law

A judge has blocked Montreal police investigating a brutal killing from gaining access to a university researcher’s taped interview with the alleged killer, a decision that expands researchers’ rights to collect confidential information, much as journalists do.

via Researcher’s taped interview with alleged killer Magnotta off-limits to police – The Globe and Mail.

Thanks to Emma Cunliffe (UBC) for sending this decision from the Quebec Superior Court on a certiorari application to quash a search warrant issued against two criminologists at the Unversity of Ottawa.  The project in question ran from 2004-2008 and was called Sex Work and Intimacy: Escorts and their Clients.   Worth a read, for everyone who does research, or who is still an evidence fanatic.  Wigmore, folks.