Osgoode: Helena Orton Memorial Scholarship (Deadline Monday April 15)

2013 Call for Applications

Helena Orton Memorial Scholarship

APPLICATION DEADLINE:         Monday, April 15, 2013


This scholarship honours the life and work of Helena Orton, whose tragic death in 1997 cut short a distinguished career dedicated to using law as a tool to pursue equality for women, most latterly for women in the workplace.  Helena’s many friends, colleagues and family members have established a graduate scholarship in her name to continue her path breaking work for women through her contributions to legal scholarship and practice.



The scholarship is available to a student undertaking either full-time or part-time thesis graduate studies, at Osgoode Hall or in the York University School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, whose graduate work will explore relationships between law and social equality.  Preference will be given to candidates committed to studying workplace issues of benefit to women.  Candidates will be evaluated on the basis of academic achievement, and demonstrated commitment to equality issues.


Value Up to $5,000.00


One scholarship may be awarded annually; the amount may vary but will be in the vicinity of $5,000.00.


To Apply


The following items must be included in the application:



a)   A cover letter addressing the applicant’s eligibility and qualifications, with reference to the Terms of Award and Interpretive Note

b)   A copy of the student’s thesis or dissertation proposal (for incoming students, taken from the application *; for in-program students, this should be the thesis/dissertation proposal submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies)

c)   An updated CV (for entering students, the CV on file for the admissions application will suffice*)

d)   Two references (taken from the admissions application*)

e)   For in-stream students, a letter from the supervisor describing the extent and quality of the student’s progress in the program.

f) Submit all hardcopy applications to the Graduate Program in Law, 4044 IKB – Osgoode by deadline. Monday, April 15, 2013



The Helena Orton Memorial Scholarship

Helena Orton was a LL.B. student at Osgoode Hall Law School from 1980 to 1982.  While completing her undergraduate law degree, Helena was active in local and national women’s organizations working for social and economic justice.  She graduated in 1982 from Osgoode Hall and was called to the Ontario bar in 1984.

Helena’s search for a feminist law practice took her first to Ottawa to Join Aitken, Greenberg, a respected all-woman family law firm.  As a volunteer with the community-based women’s group Justice for Women, Helena was asked to act as counsel in the first equality rights case championed by LEAF, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund.  Helena successfully challenged the provincial government’s discriminatory spouse-in-the-house rule which was amended following an out of court settlement with then Ontario Attorney-General Ian Scott.

The position of Litigation Director with LEAF brought Helena and her husband Fred Bever back to Toronto in 1987.  During Helena’s six-year tenure at LEAF, the real world of women’s lives was firmly established as the framework for the analysis of legal equality issues.  She was LEAF’s lead counsel in the landmark Moge case at the Supreme Court of Canada, a case which firmly entrenched the principle that spousal support awards in divorce cases must take into account the real economic burdens which divorce imposes upon women in our society.  Helena’s two daughters, Andrea and Gillian, were born during her time at LEAF.

Helena left LEAF to join the Toronto labour law firm of Cavalluzzo Hayes Shilton McIntyre & Cornish in 1993.  As a labour lawyer, Helena continued to champion women’s rights with a focus on workplace equality issues.  Helena made unique contributions in this area of law through her special ability to weave equality rights analysis into the resolution of collective bargaining and employment problems for trade unions and employees.  As always, Helena brought to this work a relentless determination to make the law examine, analyse and address the issues women actually confront in their working and professional lives.

Helena’s life and work were marked by her commitment to finding ways to make the law understand the lived realities of women’s inequality and thereby find remedies to redress these inequalities.


The Helena Orton Memorial Scholarship was established by Helen’s many colleagues, friends, and family members, to support a graduate scholarship, which will both honour and continue Helena’s path-breaking legal work for women in the area of workplace equality rights.


A copy of work done with the support of this scholarship, whether published or unpublished, will be provided to Helena’s family members.  The support of this scholarship will be acknowledged in any published version of work done in connection with the completion of the graduate degree for which it was awarded.





1)         Eligibility: “full-time or part-time thesis”


The award is limited to students pursuing a “full-time or part-time thesis” degree in either Law or Women’s Studies.


With respect to the reference to a “thesis”, the award is intended to be limited to the research-stream (i.e. thesis-based) LL.M. and M.A., as well as the Ph.D. (formally D.Jur.) in either discipline.


“Part-time” refers to the status a student may have within York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies after the mandatory period of three full-time terms for a Masters and six full-time terms for a Doctorate.


2)            Substantive eligibility threshold and primary evaluation criterion: “explor[ation] [of] relationships between law and social equality”


This thematic criterion is meant to play two roles: (i) a substantive eligibility threshold and (ii) an ordinal role in terms of scoring/evaluation weight.  With respect to (i), the applicant’s proposed or continuing thesis/dissertation topic must clearly qualify as “explor[ation] [of] relationships between law and social equality” before the application can be considered.  With respect to (ii), this theme is the primary, or overarching, criterion in terms of substantive fit between the award and the applicant’s thesis/dissertation work.


Whereas (i) operates in an either/or way, (ii) is a question of degree.  The greater the extent to which the thesis/dissertation satisfies this thematic criterion, the greater is the scoring/evaluation weight to be assigned to the applicant.


In terms of the meaning of the thematic criterion, (a) “law” includes not only formal law and legal institutions but also legal policy and social policy connections to legal issues; (b) “social equality” is to be interpreted broadly; and (c) applicants are asked to address, in their application, how they see their thesis/dissertation addressing “relationships” between law and social equality.


3)            Secondary evaluation criterion: “preference…committed to studying workplace issues of benefit to women”


As to the ordinality of this criterion, “[p]reference will be given” means that additional weight will be given to applications fulfilling this subject-matter criterion, and candidates are invited to address this criterion if they feel their thesis/dissertation meets this preference.  It is not, however, a threshold requirement for eligibility.


In terms of the meaning of this criterion, “workplace: and, within that focus, “work” is to be interpreted broadly.


4)            Merit criteria: “academic achievement” and “demonstrated commitment to equality issues”


These two merit criteria are to be assessed and given appropriate weight by selection committee members.


As to “academic achievement”, this includes an assessment of the quality of the application itself in the context of the applicant’s stage of academic work.  Also, whereas entering students need only rely on the application on file for their references, in-stream students must, in addition, arrange for their supervisor to provide a letter assessing the extent and quality of the student’s progress in the year or years since their admission to the relevant York graduate program.


As to “demonstrated commitment to equality issues”, this is different from the subject-matter criterion of “explor[ation] [of] relationships between law and social equality.”  Evidence can include:



  •             Relevant work experience
  •             Involvements in voluntary activity
  •             Writing and research
  •             Participation in social equality movements or related political activity
    • In addressing this criterion, applicants are invited to provide any relevant information on how their involvements in any of the above have influenced their choice of thesis/dissertation work and/or impeded their academic progress.



5)         “Renewable for a second year for a doctoral student”


The Orton Award is not simply an entrance award: in-program students are eligible.  The question arises, however, of what the conditions of renewal are for an in-program student who has already received the award.


“Renewable” means “awarded again.”  The fact of being the current holder of the Orton does not give the holder either a right to automatic renewal or any right to a priority consideration for a second award automatic renewal.  Current award-holders must apply again and be considered on equal terms in comparison with the other applicants.


“Renewable for a second year for a doctoral student” means that a student may not be again awarded the Orton for a second or subsequent year of the LL.M. or M.A..


The situation may arise in which an applicant has received the award for the LL.M. or M.A. and then applies again with respect to the PhD.  “[F]or a second year” must be interpreted in the spirit of the award. No one may receive the award more than twice.  Thus, a student who receives the award for the LL.M or M.A. is eligible to receive the award for a second time for a Ph.D. year, but may not receive it for a third time.


An applicant who currently holds or who has held the award previously does not have to meet a higher standard than other applicants.  As with all in-stream applicants, the academic achievement of the current or past holder of the award includes a contextualized assessment of the progress achieved since the first award.






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