in Canadian Lawyer mag. Written by Jasmine Akbarali & Gillian Hnatiw, partners @ Lerners LLP’s & Gillian Hnatiw
Private Murder, Public Pressure
by Terrine Friday (Osgoode SJD program)
Is homicide a private matter?
The RCMP called the Sept. 10 killing of Shirley Parkinson a “private matter,” and refused to release information about the manner of her death, although they have evidence that her husband killed her before taking his own life.
According to reports, Parkinson, 56, was killed by her husband Donald, 60, before he took his own life on the couple’s farm near Unity, Saskatchewan last month. The victim was a “well-known public health nurse” who worked with women and children in her community.
The RCMP did not, initially, release the fact that Shirley Parkinson was murdered – apparently to respect the family’s wishes. Saskatchewan journalists are now calling on the RCMP to release pertinent information about their investigation.
At first glance this raises the issue of how to balance the public interest and the family’s wish for privacy. There may be some other reason why the RCMP would prefer to keep the case files closed to the public or why the wishes of the next of kin should be respected in this case. But the RCMP’s use of the Privacy Act to keep all specifics from the public, and their suggestion that the family context of this killing rendered it “private” are highly problematic. My own research considers the complicated questions raised in access to information disputes, and focuses on the use of exceptions provided in the legislation to keep data out of the hands of journalists, researchers and the public.
Information about the homicide/suicide in Unity could serve to break the relative silence about domestic abuse, especially amongst older adults. A 2007 clinical study by Sonia Salari, an expert on population aging and social interaction, reveals “[l]ater life intimate partner homicide suicide (IPHS) represents the most severe form of domestic partner abuse and usually results in at least two deaths.” The study shows 96 percent of perpetrators are men and suicide was the primary intent in 74 percent of cases analyzed. A troubling finding is that any history of domestic violence was known to others in only 14 percent of cases. This research, as much as other arguments about transparency, accountability and the salience of the public private divide should lead us to question whether privacy is really the right approach to domestic abuse amongst the aging – or any other sector of society.
Grad students with guest post ideas related to their projects should get in touch with Sonia Lawrence, Osgoode Rm 3026
Two very gendered things that I’m just not sure about. I don’t think I’m worked up enough about them, I’m worried that I’m wrong in both my approach and my general shoulder shrugging about them.
Douglas inquiry victimizing a victim: lawyer – Winnipeg Free Press. I’m not rehashing too much here, check the links for the back story.
Prof Alice Woolley (U Calgary Law) defends the proceedings, saying they are not a witch hunt but journalist/columnist Christie Blatchford says the inquiry is “obsessed with sex”. She quotes Sheila Block, lawyer for Lori Douglas:
Judges, she said, have sex, as “all of us are entitled to” have. She says the panel will hear no evidence that “wearing sexual gear, play-acting, oral sex or clicking a camera during sex will be found to be an impermissible activity, in and of itself.”
Judges have sex?
Ok, seriously, I understand that judges have sex. And I understand that her spouse’s wrongs should not rest on her. And I accept that the complainant’s behaviour here has been less than ideal. But I have a hard time dismissing Alice Woolley’s argument. The problem here isn’t sex. I do think that the nonsense about whether nude pics online make one unfit for the bench needs to be carefully thought through (as I said in this earlier post, “And if we make the pictures themselves – mere nude pictures – their existence, grounds for resignation, then from what I hear about the younger generation, we’re going to have some VERY blackmail-able judges in about ten years….”). But there is a person alleging the judge did them harm as-a-lawyer through unethical actions. She asserts she did not. The inquiry will decide the matter. I have every expectation it will decide it in her favour. I have no doubt that Justice Douglas has been damaged in unjust ways by the press about this situation. What I’m not sure about is whether I think that the CJC inquiry is completely wrongheaded. Some people I really respect think it is. I’m still working it through.
Here’s another thing: German Court Rules Circumcision is Bodily Harm (h/t @blberger) After a hilarious quite possibly inappropriate and pun filled conversation with a couple of colleagues (followed by a brief effort to actually sort through the issues), I’m really confused on this one. Well, not that confused really, but I’m worried about being wrong. I would have said I’m in favour of preserving choices for infants in cases like, e.g., Sheena B and in particular the concurrence which makes the point that rendering the parent’s religious freedom inviolable in the case would have the effect of ensuring that the child never had the ability to exercise any freedom at all (the case, B. (R.) v. Children’s Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto,  1 S.C.R. 315, is about the parental desire to refuse a necessary blood transfusion for their infant, on religious grounds. See Iacobucci and Major JJ. around para 215). I suppose I’m in favour of preventing parents from doing risky things to their infants and children, right? But. I drive my children in cars. I feed them processed food. I let them swim in lakes and ride bikes, and sometimes watch television. I have taught them that princesses are boring, brainwashed is not too strong a word for what I have tried to do on that front. I fed them meat, until one, at age 4, became an ethical vegetarian (so committed that I almost convinced her to stop biting her nails on this ground. Almost). Both my children have been inducted into a faith community through a ceremony of allegiance, before either could possibly make a choice about it. (i didn’t have their ears pierced, though). I avoided the issue at hand because I have two girls (and frankly prior to giving birth had delegated any question on that front to their dad). But raising children means making choices for them. And it probably also requires the weighing of risks and benefits, including the benefit to their soul. Daily. I find the interventions around circumcision tend to require that we ignore that context of parenting. [shrugs]. I could be wrong, but what’s most interesting to me is that I’m not particularly grabbed by the debate at all. I would have thought I’d have a strong view on this. But, I don’t, really. Perhaps that’s just the way it should be. The strong view I do have is that those who are “pure” in their opposition to circumcision had better watch out for all the anti-religious zealots or haters of Jews and Muslims who may flock to this cause. No ambivalence or apathy from me there.
Recent scholarship on male circumcision:
Cut-Off Point – Regulating Male Circumcision in Finland [article] International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, Vol. 25, Issue 1 (April 2011), pp. 100-119 Askola, Heli
Law and Male Circumcision in Australia: Medical, Legal and Cultural Issues, The [article] Monash University Law Review, Vol. 23, Issue 1 (1997), pp. 92-122 Haberfield, Les
Short Changed – The Law and Ethics of Male Circumcision [article] International Journal of Children’s Rights, Vol. 13, Issue 1-2 (2005), pp. 161-182 Fox, Marie; Thomson, Michael
Male Circumcision after the Human Rights Act 1998; 5 J. C.L. 320 (2000) Edge, Peter W.
This book was published Sept. 2011 by OUP in the series “Studies in Feminist Philosophy” (see other books from this series here).
Author Anita Allen is the Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Her faculty page is here. She is also author of Why privacy isn’t everything: feminist reflections on personal accountability and many, many, many law review articles and other publications.
Click here to find Unpopular Privacy at OUP (you can also find a speech she gave titled, Unpopular Privacy: The Case for Government Mandates; Allen, Anita L. published in the Okla. City U. L. Rev. in 2007 here [Heinonline link])
The publisher offers these blurbs, and you can find a video of Prof Allen discussing the book on the UPenn website .
It was reviewed harshly by Eric Posner (U Chicago Law) in the New Republic, here and more favourably on the American Association of Law Libraries blog, here.
Question: Your book is published in the Oxford University Press Feminist Philosophy Series, and yet there isn’t much overt discussion of feminism in the book after the initial chapter. Do you regard this book as a feminist project?
This book subtly reflects insights gleaned from my encounters over the years with feminist scholarship about privacy, equality and freedom. What I believe one learns from feminist philosophy and jurisprudence is why just societies must avoid imposing subordinating privacies on people simply because of their sex or race.
My book rejects the notion that there is a generic liberal or liberal feminist case for or against all coercive privacy mandates. I offer contextually specific assessments of a variety of unpopular privacy requirements, informed by liberal feminist conceptions of privacy, freedom, and equality.
Two of the books eight chapters explicitly address women’s issues. To explore notions of subordinating and liberating privacy, and voluntary and imposed privacy, I devote one full chapter of Unpopular Privacy to US Muslim women’s modesty attire, and another to US and Canadian Supreme Court nude dancing cases.