Tag Archives: Estair van Wagner

CFP: Gendered Dissent, Democracy and the Law: A workshop on the gendered face of Canada’s crackdown on dissent


via Osgoode graduate students Estair van Wagner and Charis Kempuis:

Gendered Dissent, Democracy and the Law:

A workshop on the gendered face of Canada’s crackdown on dissent


May 12-13, 2014  Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto, Ontario

The Gender & Dissent Working Group of the Dissent, Democracy & the Law Research Network and the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies invite proposals for papers and other interventions to be presented at a workshop that aims to bring scholars and advocates together to consider the gendered dimensions of dissent in Canada and Quebec.

The Workshop:  This two-day workshop will bring a small and diverse group of legal scholars and advocates together in Toronto to theorize, and respond to, the challenges faced by advocates and civil society organizations and individuals working on issues of gender equality in Canada and Quebec.  In many cases, these challenges stem from governmental use of legal and extralegal measures that undermine the capacity of individuals, civil society organizations and institutions to participate in public debate on key policy issues at the local, provincial or federal level.


Gendered Dissent, Democracy & the Law  Concerns about the increasing constriction of legal and political space for civil society organizations in Canada resonate with global discussions about the restriction of dissent and other efforts to control public dialogue about government policy and action. While the nature of the state-civil society relationship is a site for ongoing debate, the freedom to critique and oppose government decisions and positions is an essential element of ensuring healthy democratic institutions and practices, including the protection of fundamental human rights.


In Canada, a combination of legal and policy measures have functioned to reduce the legal, financial and political space available to civil society organizations, particularly those whose work and public positions differ from those of the government. A number of specific methods employed by the federal government to restrict dissent have been identified through preliminary research by the Voices-Voix Documentation Project: the threat or revocation of charitable status, defunding, harassment/privacy violation, withholding information, interference with independent institutions, surveillance, and vilification/smearing.  In some cases, rhetorical vilification has carried implicit or even explicit overtones of criminalization.[1] Media reports have pointed to the Voices-Voix research in highlighting the federal government’s attack on dissent.[2] Further theoretical inquiry into the impact of such tactics on democratic institutions and practices, at all levels of government, is an essential component of understanding the relationship between dissent and democracy.


Research undertaken to date indicates that women and gendered-focused civil society organizations attempting to critically discuss government policy decisions are the target of legal and extralegal measures that undermine their capacity to participate in public debate and dissent on important policy issues. In particular, it appears that these practices have impacted those working on gender and socio-economic equality. While the application of these measures to women and groups working on gender issues appears to be part of a broader shift in the relationship between the state and civil society, a close examination of the gender-based features of this shift has the potential to bring specific nuance and insight into the political nature of this shift. The Gendered Dissent, Democracy and the Law workshop will be a focused examination aimed at documenting and theorizing gender and dissent in Canada. We also acknowledge that this focus has limitations, particularly with respect to how one draws the boundaries between ‘gender’ issues and other civil society issues. As such, we encourage debate on both the substantive issues articulated here, as well as the very terms of their articulation.


Call for Submissions:  

We welcome interventions from scholars, civil society organizations and advocates that aim to:

a)     Document and describe specific instances and impacts of particular state measures, at any level of government, on public advocacy efforts and/or civil society organizations working on gender issues in order to develop an empirical picture of the problem;

b)     Document and describe state support for organizations whose work and public positions support current policy goals, and other promotional tactics, towards the construction of representations of public “agreement” or “support” for specific policy decisions and/or constructions of gender, nationhood and race;

c)      Examine the historical context of the relationship between the state and public advocacy efforts and/or civil society organizations working on gender issues to explore whether the current restriction of dissent is qualitatively different than in the past, and if so, how;

d)     Critically consider whether and how state practices targeting dissent are distinctive when they are aimed at women or gendered groups; and,

e)     Draw links between particular instances to identify broader themes with regards to the constriction of legal and political space for advocates and civil society organizations working on gender equality issues and the relationship between dissent and democracy.


Please submit proposals along with a CV for each author to genderanddissent@gmail.com by February 21, 2014. Proposals should be approximately 250 words in length and should identify whether the intervention will be offered as a scholarly paper or in another format, such as a case study or report or multimedia presentation. Papers (approximately 10 pages in length) will be circulated by the organizers 10-days in advance of the workshop; other interventions will be shared in advance as appropriate.


We regret that participation in the workshop will be limited to a small group. We anticipate that we will be unable to accept all of the proposals we receive. However, it is our hope that the workshop will launch ongoing inquires into this topic and related issues. We will communicate both the results of the workshop and plans for follow-up events with all applicants and we look forward to future collaborations.


The organizers aim to have scholarly paper submissions published in a special issue of a selected law journal. Contributions which take other forms will be published or otherwise shared in collaboration with our civil society partners as appropriate.


Travel Funds

Although we have limited funds, we may be able to provide modest support and assistance with travel and accommodation expenses.  If you require assistance to attend the workshop, please provide the details of the cost for return travel to Toronto and accommodation and indicate other funding sources you have identified/applied to as well as the portion of your expenses you are able to cover. We will notify accepted participants of any funding we can offer as soon as possible.

[1] The Voices-Voix civil society coalition was formed in 2010 in response to concerns about the restriction of political space for civil society organizations. The Documentation Project aims to research and record specific cases: http://voices-voix.ca/en/facts. Since September 2013, the Dissent, Democracy & the Law Editorial Board has undertaken to conduct peer-reviewed research that advances the digital publication of the Documentation Project. A description of the Board and its members can be found here: http://voices-voix.ca/en/editorial-board-2013-2014.

[2] For example, see Linda Diebel’s November 2013, “Meanness is a way of life in Ottawa” in the Toronto Star: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/11/20/meanness_is_a_way_of_life_in_ottawa.html.

Law's Slow Violence Guest Post: Estair Van Wagner on Slow Violence, Property Law & Dephysicalization

As part of the Law’s Slow Violence workshop hosted by Osgoode Hall Law School next week (June 14) (complete information here or at the bottom of this post), we have solicited guest posts from academics attending the workshop and interested in the issues. 

Find the other four posts here.


Today, Osgoode Graduate Student Estair Van Wagner offers her thoughts – from Australia – on property law and the challenges of our advocacy relationships with people and places.


Slow Violence, Property Law & Dephysicalization


I have been thinking about property a lot lately. At the moment, I am living in Australia and studying with the property law scholar Nicole Graham, author of Lawscape: Property, Environment, Law (OHLJ book note here). While this means I am regrettably missing this week’s workshop, it has been an amazing few months of thinking, talking and writing. Naturally, this means that my reading of Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor has a great deal to do with property. But, it also has me thinking about law and lawyers, and the challenges of our advocacy relationships with people and places.


Rob Nixon brings the writer-activist into view as a critical figure in struggles for environmental justice. He describes a number of literary interventions that have brought communities and ecosystems “into imaginative focus” (160) in order to counter the rhetoric of progress that pushes development forward, literally erasing the lives and homes and livelihoods of those who stand in the way.


Nixon’s discussion of mega-dams and Arundhati Roy brought to mind one of my favourite passages in Graham’s book: “The strangeness and crises of people-place relations prescribed by modern property law are increasingly evident from disputes over property rights where what has been lost has not been the right, but the place” (164). Transformative land uses like mega-dams literally remove places and the complex networks of people place-relationships in which they are embedded. Indeed, I am reminded of the highly contested nature of mega-dam construction everyday as I pass a 30-year-old “No Dams in South West Tasmania” sign on my way home from the ferry.


Nixon convincingly argues that Roy as the activist writer has made places and people-place relationships visible in the face of the “affectless language of technospeak” (169). But what role do lawyers have in making the complex spatial and temporal damage of this kind of slow violence visible? Can legal interventions bring this kind of loss into focus? In my view, this depends on the possibilities for lawyers to learn from the literary interventions examined by Nixon. The writer-activists he points to demonstrate the need to think, write and talk about property differently. As lawyers we need to learn that it is possible, and necessary, to reimagine property if we are going to productively engage with Nixon’s “resource rebels.”


While some of the other writers Nixon discusses are themselves founders of the movements with which their writing is engaged, Nixon describes Roy as having become a “vital translator” for an environmental justice movement. For me, this notion of the vital translator raises important questions about role of the lawyer. After all, much of what lawyers do is to translate the experiences, the heartache, the outrage, and the stories behind the cases they work on into language that the formal legal system can understand. But this work is always fraught with difficulty.


The work of the lawyer as translator is particularly problematic in the context of conflicts about land and ecosystems because the dominant legal constructions of property leave little or no space for the articulation of people-place relations. As Graham argues, “Modern legal discourse is both closed to questions of place in disputes over property and disrupted by claims that place matters” (20). As a result, the best (read most likely to succeed), argument in the context of a legal proceeding may have little or nothing to do with the spatial or temporal connections to place that communities articulate in a particular conflict. In fact, as Nixon’s description of the “mobile adaption” of floodplain peoples makes clear, the very basis of a people’s ability to sustain and survive in a particular place becomes the basis of their legally sanctioned dispossession in contemporary property law: “Thus, through the logic of a selective enlightenment that discriminates against environmentally viable mobility, a deep temporal belonging is made shallow by the designation ‘informal residents’” (165).


Graham’s work gives us some insight into how property law is able to transform this relationship of belonging to the land into the informal, and possibly insurgent, existence that Nixon describes.  She points to the “dephysicalized” nature of contemporary property law and links it directly to the types of maladapted land use practices that the mega-dams exemplify (2). By dephysicalization Graham is referring to modern Anglo-American law’s treatment of property as purely about abstract rights rather than material things and places. She traces this concept of property from John Locke right into today’s law school classrooms and shows how courts transform disputes about real places and relationships into arguments about abstract rights (162). Lawyers, Graham argues, practice this dephysicalized paradigm of property, maintaining the irrelevance of place to property in the resolution of land use disputes (161). But what does this practice of dephysicalization look like?


Deborah Martin, Alexander Scherr and Christopher City’s “Making law, making place: lawyers and the production of space” provides some insight into this process. Their research is an attempt to explore the “relationships between lawyers, clients, and the cultural construction of space or landscape” and the role of lawyers in “place-making” (181-82). The questions they raise about the process of translation from community concerns to legal argument point to the unexamined role of lawyers in producing spatial norms and relations:


How do lawyers involved in land-use conflicts understand and enact the place frames of their clients in their problem-solving? How do they conceptualize their own understandings of land in light of community place frames, the land use conflict and the relevant law? What happens to community interests in the transition from geographic discourse about place and community to legal discourse of rights, processes, and remedies? What is lost or gained or altered in translation? Do lawyers and their clients remain bound by traditional legal regimes, or do they escape them through solutions that negotiate the discontinuity between those regimes and community place frames? (182-183)


Martin, Scherr and City describe the work of lawyers in land disputes as translation, but also as transformation. Transformation captures the moves through which meanings articulated by the community are lost, but also through which meaning is added as the lawyer selects the appropriate legal concepts and rules to engage with and introduces her or his own values about place and spatial relations (183). It is both less and more than translation because in many circumstances what was understood as a strong moral claim has been replaced with a weak legal one, as was the case in the conflict that they studied, where the production of the legal argument “altered the client’s powerful desire for security and stability into unstable and insecure legal claims” (186).


This conception of lawyers as ‘transformers’ provides some insight into the relative ability of legal interventions to make slow violence visible. Nixon describes Roy’s essays as “intimate assaults on the calculated opacity, the profoundly consequential tedium, of the technocratic report that camouflages violence while clearing a path for it in a language scoured of emotion” (169). In contrast, lawyers are tasked with transforming claims about specific material places, based on complex people-place relations of belonging, into cognizable legal claims about abstract rights. It is precisely the emotion and material effects of environmental degradation that are left out of legal arguments and decisions, as they are transformed into abstract principles and concepts. The form in which legal arguments are materialized – the factum, the book of authorities, the Orders and Reasons for Decision – resemble the “weighty, leaden genres” of feasibility studies and environmental impact reports far more than Roy’s “small, nimble” essays.


So, the question I am left with is, how does the role of lawyer as ‘transformer’ relate to the role of the writer as ‘translator’ in environmental justice struggles? And, perhaps more importantly, what can we as lawyers learn from Nixon’s examination of these vital translators and the way they have brought unimagined communities into imaginative focus? I turn to Graham again for a starting point: “If we want to know how to reshape our property law, we have to look no further than the landscape because it is the landscape that reveals our place in the world and the opportunities and limits of our connection with it” (206). Perhaps we can understand literary interventions like Roy’s essays as demonstrating the value of looking no further than the places at stake in land use conflicts. Perhaps we can imagine the possibility of translating relationships into claims without transforming them into abstractions.






Law’s Slow Violence Workshop June 14, 2013


poster for event contains same intormation as text on page

Law’s Slow Violence: A workshop at Osgoode Hall Law School

Friday June 14 2013

930AM to 430PM     Osgoode Hall Law School IKB 1014

with Rob Nixon, Rachel Carson Professor of English at the  University of Wisconsin-Madison,

Author of  Law’s Slow Violence & the Environmentalism of the Poor, HUP 2012

Registration is Free but Limited

RSVP www.osgoode.yorku.ca/research/rsvp  Event Code SLOW

Copies of the book are available at the York University Bookstore.

Order the book from Harvard University Press here  Order the book from Chapters/Indigo bookstores here.

Read Professor Dayna’ Scott’s review of the book (published in the Osgoode Hall Law Journal) on SSRN, here:

With gripping urgency, Rob Nixon’s book “Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor” seeks to reveal the “occluded relationships” between transnational economic actors and the things that tie them to particular places, such as labour, land, resources and commodity dynamics.

He brings into view the bodies caught in the middle – those that have been raced and erased, made invisible, and wiped away — by exposing the violence perpetrated against them across time and space. Nixon’s work is a broad synthesis of a seemingly disparate set of literatures in post-colonial studies, eco-criticism and literary studies. His arresting narrative engages three primary concerns: the phenomenon of “slow violence,” the environmentalism of the poor; and the role of the writer-activist in the work of making the first two ‘visible.’

Slow violence, in Nixon’s conception, is “a violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all.”

Because he views a major aspect of the critical challenge to be representational – the problem of devising “stories, images and symbols adequate to the pervasive but elusive violence of delayed effects” – Nixon focuses on the storytellers themselves. And the storytellers he chooses are the writer-activists that have inspired an environmentalism of the poor, primarily in the Global south. They include Arundhati Roy, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Abdulrahman Munif, and Jamaica Kincaid, among others. They are all figures who, like Nixon, demonstrate a stubborn resistance to liberalism’s urge to “locate violence outside law.” Instead of treating law as that which contains violence, they plainly confront its complicity.


The organizers gratefully acknowledge

the financial support of

the Dean’s Conference Fund,

a Harry Arthurs Collaborative Grant,

Osgoode’s Law.Arts.Culture initiative.

the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies,

& York’s Vice-President’s Research and Innovation

the work of

Natalia Angel (Osgoode Doctoral Candidate)

the administrative & organizational expertise of

Lielle Gonsalves and Jody-Ann Rowe-Butler




Rob Nixon is currently the Rachel Carson Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Professor Nixon received his Ph.D. from Columbia University and is the author of London Calling: V. S. Naipaul, Postcolonial Mandarin (Oxford University Press); Homelands, Harlem and Hollywood: South African Culture and the World Beyond (Routledge); Dreambirds: the Natural History of a Fantasy (Picador); and Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Harvard University Press 2011). Professor Nixon is a frequent contributor to the New York Times; his writing has also appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, London Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, Village Voice, The Nation, The Guardian, Outside, Chronicle of Higher Education, The Independent, Critical Inquiry, PMLA, Social Text, Slate, South Atlantic Quarterly, Transition, Cultural Critique, Contemporary Literature, Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies, Ariel, Modern Fiction Studies, New Formations, and Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire. He has published over ninety journal articles, essays, and book chapters.  Professor Nixon teaches environmental studies, postcolonial studies, creative nonfiction, African literature, world literature, and twentieth century British literature. He is a former chair of the Border and Transcultural Studies Research Circle and is affiliated with the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, the Center for Culture, History, and the Environment (CHE), the African Studies program, and the Creative Writing Program.  Professor Nixon has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship, a MacArthur Foundation Peace and Security Fellowship, and a National Endowment for Humanities Fellowship. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Institute for Research in the Humanities.


Jeremy Baskin is a Senior Associate at the University of Cambridge’s Programme for Sustainable Leadership, a Senior Fellow at Melbourne Business School, and an Adjunct Professor at Latrobe University. In each role he focuses on the implications of social and environmental (un)sustainability for major organizations in business, government and civil society. From South Africa, he was previously a leading trade unionist, anti-apartheid activist and writer. Post-apartheid, he was a senior public servant and advisor to the Mandela Presidency. From 2001 he headed a UK-based global research team, examining the social, environmental and ethical practices of major global companies. From 2005 he has worked at Cambridge University. He moved to Australia in 2007.


Amar Bhatia is completing his S.J.D. in the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto.  His work focuses on the status and authority  of migrant workers and Indigenous peoples under Canadian immigration law, Indigenous legal traditions, and Canadian Aboriginal law.  He received his LL.B. from Osgoode Hall and then articled and worked in union-side labour and employment law in Toronto before returning to graduate school, where he received the Howland Prize in U of T’s LL.M. program.  His article entitled “The South of the North: Building on Critical Approaches to International Law with Lessons from the Fourth World” (2012) appeared in a special symposium issue of the Oregon Review of International Law on Third World Approaches to International Law.  Another recent publication entitled “In a Settled Country, Everyone Must Eat’: Four Questions About Transnational Private Regulation, Migration, and Migrant Work” appeared in the German Law Journal (Dec. 2012).


Ruth Buchanan is Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School.  She has research and teaching interests in the areas of law and development, international human rights, international economic law, critical legal theory, and law and film.  Her work frequently engages with issues of legal pluralism, resistance and affect.  She is a co-editor of Reading Modern Law: Critical Methodologies and Sovereign Formations (2012).  She has authored numerous articles and book chapters, including “Writing Resistance into International Law” (2008) International Community Law Review and “”Passing through the Mirror: Dead Man, Legal Pluralism, and the Deterritorialization of the West.” (2011) She holds an LLM and an SJD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has also taught at the University of British Columbia, the University of New Brunswick, and University of Melbourne law schools.


Bryony Halpin is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at York University.  She holds a Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration from Ryerson University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Concordia University.  Before joining FES, Bryony was awarded a Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation water policy fellowship and conducted research for the non-profit sector in New York, Mumbai and Toronto.  She has been a course director at both York University and Ryerson University.  Bryony’s work is centered on environmental justice, racialization and the postcolonial city.


Douglas Hay is a Professor at York Universtity, cross-appointed to Osgoode Hall Law School and York’s Department of History since 1981, teaching the comparative history of criminal procedure, punishment, and crime, and the history of private law in the common law world.  He is co-director of a continuing international project on the evolution of the contract of employment (Hay and Craven, Masters, Servants and Magistrates in Britain and the Empire, 1562-1955 (2004) and other titles.)  Recent work includes the history of the English high court’s criminal jurisdiction (Crown Side Cases in the Court of King’s Bench, 2010), and Professor Hay is presently writing about the administration of the criminal law in Georgian England.  He has published on the history of English and Quebec criminal law; comparative history of criminal procedure; social history of crime; judicial biography; courts and their political significance; and the history of employment law.  He has been a visitor at Yale, Warwick, and Columbia law schools, and has been on the boards of the Canadian Historical Review, Law and History Review, the Law and Society Association, and the American Society for Legal History.


Sonia Lawrence is Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School. She graduated from the University of Toronto’s joint LLB/MSW program, and went on to serve as law clerk to Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of the Supreme Court of Canada.  With the help of Fulbright and SSHRC Fellowships, she then attended Yale Law School where she focused on constitutional equality issues and welfare administration.  A past member of the Board of Parkdale Community Legal Services, Professor Lawrence has also provided expertise to the African Canadian Legal Clinic, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), and the Court Challenges Program.  She is the case comments editor of the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law.  Her work centers on questions of equality and includes examinations of the Supreme Court of Canada’s equality jurisprudence, the influence of feminism in Canadian law, sentencing regimes for ‘drug mules,’ diversity on the bench, and section 28 of the Charter.  She is the Director of the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies and the chair of the Academic Policy Committee.  She teaches first-year State and Citizen (constitutional and public law) as well as Perspective Option/upper-year seminars including Law, Gender, Equality.  Professor Lawrence runs a blog for the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies at http://ifls.osgoode.yorku.ca/ and is on Twitter as @OsgoodeIFLS.


Karin Mickelson is Associate Professor at The University of British Columbia, Faculty of Law. She has taught in the areas of international law, international environmental law, real property, environmental law and legal theory, and has supervised and co-supervised graduate students in a wide range of areas including international environmental law, international legal theory and international human rights. She has also served as the faculty advisor to UBC teams participating in the Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition.  Professor Mickelson’s research activities have focused on the South-North dimension of international law; for example, she has explored the possibility of identifying a distinctive Third World approach to international law in “Rhetoric and Rage: Third World Voices in International Legal Discourse” (1998) 16 Wisconsin International Law Journal 353-419, and has analyzed the failure of international environmental law to respond to the concerns of the South in “South, North, International Environmental Law, and International Environmental Lawyers” (2000) 11 Yearbook of International Environmental Law 52-81.  Her current research focuses on the impact of developing countries on the evolution of international environmental law. She is also a contributor to leading Canadian casebooks on international law and environmental law.


Usha Natarajan is an assistant professor in the Department of Law and the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies. She first joined AUC in 2010 as a visiting assistant professor of international law in the Department of Political Science.  Professor Natarajan has a multidisciplinary academic background, with a PhD in international law from the Australian National University, a MA in international law from the United Nations University of Peace, and an LLB (law) and a BA (art history) from Monash University. She has taught international law at the Australian National University, and worked with various international organizations including UNDP, UNESCO and the World Bank. She has worked with law initiatives in Asia, including Indonesia during its democratic transition, and in post-independence Timor Leste. Natarajan serves as a legal research fellow on human rights and poverty eradication at the Center for International Sustainable Development Law at McGill University. Recent publications include ‘Fairness and International Environmental Law from Below: Social Movements and Legal Transformation in India’ (2012) and ‘TWAIL & the Environment: The State of Nature, the Nature of the State and the Arab Spring’ (2012).


Pooja Parmar is the inaugural Catalyst Fellow and visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School. She has recently completed PhD in law at the UBC Faculty of Law. The focus of her doctoral research was a dispute over groundwater that began with adivasi (indigenous) protests against a Coca-Cola plant in Kerala, India. Based on extensive legal, ethnographic and archival research, her dissertation explores how claims central to such disputes are inadequately understood.  Pooja received her LLM degree from UBC Law and her LLB degree from Panjab University in India. She has practiced law in New Delhi for several years, and has taught at UBC Law and Osgoode Hall.  Her research interests include legal pluralism, intersections of law and colonialism, indigeneity in a global context, human rights, law and development, and TWAIL. Her most recent paper titled ‘Undoing Historical Wrongs: Law and Indigeneity in India’ was published in the current issue of the Osgoode Hall Law Journal.


Sundhya Pahuja is a professor in the Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne and the director of the Law and Development Research Programme at the Institute for International Law and the Humanities.  Pahuja’s scholarship is concerned with the relationship between international law and institutions and the question of global inequality. She researches, writes and teaches in the areas of law and development, international law, law and globalisation and legal theory.  Her work engages with the practice, and praxis, of international law and development through political philosophy, political-economy and postcolonial theories. She has worked as a research associate in international law and human rights at the EUI in Florence, practiced as a commercial lawyer, and for several years chaired the committee of management at the Darebin Community Legal Centre.  She is currently a member of the organising committee of the Legal Theory Interest group of the European Society of International Law and serves on the editorial boards of the Australian Feminist Law Journal * and the Law, Social Justice and Global Development Journal *(LGD) based at the University of Warwick.  Her latest book, Decolonizing International: Development, Economic Growth and the Politics of Universality, was awarded the American Society of International Law Certificate of Merit.


Dayna Nadine Scott is Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. She joined York in 2006 after completing a SSHRC Post-Doctoral Fellowship at McGill’s Faculty of Law and a Hauser Global Research Fellowship at NYU. Professor Scott’s teaching is in administrative law, environmental law, risk regulation and international environmental governance. She recently completed a SSHRC-funded research project in partnership with environmental justice activists from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, near Sarnia`s Chemical Valley, which tackled the issue of chronic pollution on an Ontario reserve. The project applied a critical, feminist perspective to the examination of law’s treatment of the “risks” of long-term, low-dose exposures to pollutants.  Professor Scott’s publications cover topics from international law’s “precautionary principle” and the regulation of toxic substances to the challenges posed for law and environmental health activism by the emerging endocrine disruption thesis.  She is interested in questions of environmental regulation and governance from an interdisciplinary perspective, especially work that interrogates the interaction between local and global modes of governing and ways of knowing.  The chapter, “Pollution and the Body Boundary: Exploring Scale, Gender and Remedy” appears in the recent volume, Feminist Perspectives on Tort Law, edited by Janice Richardson and Erica Rackley (Routledge, 2012).   Professor Scott is the editor of `Consuming` Chemicals: Law, Science and Policy for Women`s Health, forthcoming from UBC Press, and the Director of the National Network on Environments and Women`s Health. She is currently working on research related to the environmental justice implications of the pipeline decisions being contemplated by the National Energy Board.


Kate Sutherland is Associate Professor and Assistant Dean, First Year, at Osgoode Hall Law School.  She joined Osgoode’s faculty in 1998, and has taught law at the University of Saskatchewan. She has served as law clerk to Chief Justice Antonio Lamer of the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as Chief Justice E. D. Bayda of the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan. Professor Sutherland is former Acting Director of the Centre for Constitutional Studies at the University of Alberta. She was the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship in 1995 and the Law Society of Saskatchewan Gold Medal in 1989.  Professor Sutherland has written and presented in areas such as charter equality rights, sexual harassment, childhood sexual abuse, and tort law. She has served as editor or co-editor of several publications, including Review of Constitutional Studies, Constitutional Forum, Points of View, and Saskatchewan Law Review . Professor Sutherland has also written several literary pieces, including “The Necklace” in The New Quarterly , Winter (1997), Summer Reading: A Collection of Short Fiction (Saskatoon: Thistledown Press, 1995), and “Lucia” in Prairie Fire (1992).  Professor Sutherland’s community involvement has included her work for the Boston AIDS Care Project, University of Saskatchewan Women’s Centre, Her Story Calendar Collective, Saskatchewan Action Committee on the Status of Women, and the Saskatchewan Writers Guild.

Voice, Agency, Gendered Tropes: Grad Students work with Feminist Thought

I forgot to take pictures.  Too busy eating and listening.
Thanks to the three panelists, this Friday’s Feminist Friday was another classic set of seemingly unconnected scholarly projects which are twining themselves around each other in my mind.

OHLS PhD candidate Estair Van Wagner spoke about non owner claims in Ontario’s land use planning regimes.  Her work looks closely at the situation unfolding in Melancthon County, Ontario, where a U.S. based company has proposed a mega quarry on what was considered prime farmland.  Estair uses ideas from Davina Cooper, Sarah Keenan, and others to consider how property can be imagined as embedded in a web of relations.

Emily Rosser, from Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies, spoke about her work uncovering the theoretical underpinnings of Guatemala’s major truth and memory projects, exposing the ways in which the attention now paid to gendered violence in conditions of war and civil oppression may fail to challenge older notions of women as victims and objects in human rights discourse.   Here is an earlier piece of Emily’s work on Guatemala.

Using the work of Dr. Lamia Karim and others, Osgoode PhD candidate  Shanthi Senthe illustrated how microfinance models, whether run by major financial institutions or by NGO’s, either fail to provide access to credit for poor women, or provide such access but use gendered notions of honour and shame in order to secure repayment.  Since microfinance is not what many proponents claim it is (that is, fair and equal credit access for women) she argues, it should be regulated as banking is, rather than treated as something small, charitable and harmless which can operate without regulatory measures aimed at consumer protection.  Shanthi’s work focuses on building a model for regulation which aims to provide access to credit without reifying or relying on gendered inequities.
I hope that these women will forgive the extent to which I have no doubt mistated their work!  On the poster for the event you can see “their own words”.  Thanks to the presenters and the faithful audience for attending this last Feminist Friday of the year.  No more Fridays.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from here on in.  Hope to see you there!

Stop the MegaQuarry Sign

Join us. Feminist Friday January 20th: Graduate students work with Feminist Thought

Please RSVP to LGonsalves@osgoode.yorku.ca for catering purposes.    Poster (pdf) here.


Breaking New Ground:  Graduate Students work with Feminist Thought
20 January 2012  130 – 330 Osgoode 2027

“It’s Their Land”: The Role of Non-Owner Claims in Ontario’s Land Use Planning Regime
Estair Van Wagner, PhD Candidate, OHLS 
Using both critical legal geography and feminist perspectives, this work in progress will consider how non-ownership claims about the use of privately owned land are framed in the context of the land use planning process and the treatment of such claims by decision makers.  Whose voices end up being heard by decision makers and whose do not? How do such claims shape both the political and legal context of land use planning decisions in Ontario?


Sexual violence, subjectivity and human rights workers in Guatemala’s CEH and REMHI truth and memory projects


Emily Rosser, PhD Candidate, Graduate Program in Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies


Guatemala’s late-1990s truth and memory projects, the CEH and REMHI, were pathbreakers in decrying sexual violence and illustrating its central role in the genocide against Mayan people. While their claims have helped build a growing movement against impunity, on closer examination they contain major contradictions that imply conceptual confusion and conflict about the meanings of gender violence in this context. In this paper I consider the relationship between gender violence and the multi-layered struggles over identity and subjectivity central to, but often left out of the legalistic, ‘objective’ and empirical style of truth commission reports.


Microfinance – Changing Gender Dynamics
Shanthi Senthe, PhD Candidate, OHLS
This work in progress examines how commercialization of microfinance institutions has shifted its focus of gender outreach. Within this analysis, comparisons between the traditional model of microfinance (which creates an “economy of shame”) and the emerging model (which is profit driven) will be drawn to illustrate gender inequities inherent in both models. To address these challenges, a new model will be proposed.

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