Category Archives: Links we Like

Selected, annotated links. Relevance and quality over quantity.

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:

Here are some further thoughts about the Calls to Action

from UVic Dean Jeremy Webber:

from Professors Gillian Calder and Rebecca Johnson:

from Professor Lisa Kerr:

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.

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.



social media as space of meeting

For all my dear friends and colleagues who are mystified, delightedly mystified, i think, about social media,


This is mainly generational, but not completely, you should know.  Friends who cheerfully call themselves luddites, colleague/friends who relish their self label of dinosaur (you know who you are! Yes. You.).  So this post is not to proselytize.  I don’t for a second think that everyone can or should do this stuff.  BUT, perhaps those folk might be interested in a little illustration of how these things work, that is, the ways in which they are not simply about the technology, but about different modes of sharing ideas.

I think of myself as a person who loves technology, but not for it’s own sake. I want it to help me do what i want to do or give me new ideas about what i want to do.  I usually don’t want to be a “early adopter” – I would prefer that someone else sort through the growing pains, wait till it becomes cheaper and better, and then I want to get in on it.  Otherwise it is too much wasted initial effort of getting up to speed and too many closets full of devices quickly abandoned or “upgraded” (you know who you are too).

For instance, technology helps me procrastinate more passionately.

But it isn’t all that. And “social media” as a subset of technology, enables connections that you might not otherwise be able to make.  Allow me to illustrate with a short collection of tweets between strangers.  Do not be alarmed – this will only take a minute. And it is easy because wordpress allows simple embedding of tweets! Ignore that last sentence if you find it bewildering, or too much information.

I was messing around searching what pops up on twitter if you search #ff (which stands for follow friday, but designates a Tweet in which someone is recommending another twitterer) & feminist (I do this sometimes during moments where i’m “watching” kids movies and shows with my kids, this is a kind of multitasking that, in my view does no harm, because if the show gets problematic, I can hear that happening, demand a pause, force a discussion of the problem, and then get back to my internet messing around). Anyway, this did:

So, i went to check out the Ladydrawers, because that sounded interesting, doesn’t it? Main ladydrawers site here, and the fashion race sex gender project here.
The tweet and the comic made me think (kids also wanted to see them, which obviously is better than TV, so yay for multitasking). On twitter, I said:

(referencing @beatonna is me “tagging” one of my favourite comic authors, Kate Beaton, the artist/author behind Hark, A Vagrant (book & blog) – remember strawfeminists? She will get a little notice that she was mentioned and who knows maybe she is interested and if not easy enough for her to ignore).

@sambradd, whose #ff started this for me, immediately sent me a tip about another artist I should check out, in the process alerting that artist to the conversation by putting her twitter name into his tweet:

And the @ladydrawers folks noted:

And then @makerofnets, the artist Kara Sievewright, also chimed in

You should have a look at her things –
for povnet

Every Tool Shapes the Task from PovNet Society on Vimeo.

her blog is here

Finally, (or at least finally for now), I thought I might have something that these artists might be interested in, and so I wrote

That is me sending all the people in the conversation a link to the IFLS post on Mikimosis and the Wetiko, (“project by the Indigenous Law Research Clinic (Faculty of Law, University of Victoria), the Indigenous Bar Association and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and funded by the Ontario Law Foundation.” see here for the project website), because given the conversation thus far, and the fact that both Bradd and Sievewright are located in BC, they might be truly interested and curious.

So that’s in a nutshell what I get out of it. the possibility of tossing out ideas, making quick connections, sharing the excellent work of others. Whether this turns into anything (possible collaboration on knowledge dissemination a la Mikimosis & the Wetiko, or Feminist Legal moments in graphic form) is another story – but that is always the case with these connections, isn’t it, even the ones you make at the coffee table at CLSA. And browsing through the work of the artists here – really fabulous.

tentative benefits
1. Fast (though it definitely takes time & needs discipline to not take all your time, the interactions described above happened relatively quickly – it’s the volume of what you might do on social media is the problem.
2. doesn’t have to be intellectually vacant
3. allows connection with similar interests across disciplines and outside the academy
Hope you enjoy/understand. If you already understood social media, you probably aren’t still reading.


Why Canada isn't [yet] part of fab new Constitute site with searchable constitutions of the world

This new resource is a great example of what the web can do, as long as smart people put in a ton of work.  It is here. I have tweeted about it already:

Thanks to these folks  we get this  Compare #constitutions. Form & Function seem top notch.

Try searching “Equality regardless of gender”.  h/t @hargreaves_s

but … the #Canadian #Constitution isn’t there! Did they forget to add it to this #toolfordesigninggovernments ? Hmmm.

John O’Dowd ‏@odowdt13h  @OsgoodeIFLS Perhaps they’re waiting until Quebec signs up to it. 😉

I sent them a gentle note pointing out that #canada is an independent state with a #constitution – they should add it. #googleconstitute [not really accurate – I sent them a note in which i talked up the virtues of the Canadian constitution and asked when it would be up or if never, why?]


I sent my note to Tom Ginsburg, one of the three directors of the project (Zachary Elkins (University of Texas, Department of Government), Tom Ginsburg (University of Chicago, Law School), and James Melton (University College London), in cooperation with the Cline Center for Democracy at the University of Illinois), and received:

Thanks for your message!  The absence of Canada is temporary, and our site was supposed to explain why.  For countries that have multi-document constitutions (we’d put Canada in this category) we are still working on the technically difficult project of tagging the texts. 

We’ve now tried to clarify that not ALL independent countries are yet in the data, though we hope it will be just a few weeks before they are (though we’ll probably exclude the UK entirely.) 

We do apologize for the confusion, and rest assured that we think the Canadian constitution is an exceptionally important one, with more relevance for contemporary drafters than our own country’s rather old document. 

exceptionally important!  relevance! youth! and complexity. And not jealousy over these comments of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recommending that countries looking for tips and tricks consider some of the more recent constitutions, including our Charter and the South African constitution  – agreement!  Some commentators, incidentally, said that Justice Ginsburg should resign.

The Constitute site now says:


Currently Constitute includes the constitution that was in force in September of 2013 for nearly every independent state in the world. Certain countries whose constitutional order consists of multiple documents, or whose constitutions are in transition, are temporarily omitted. Soon we will include many of these cases as well as a version of every available constitution ever written since 1789.