Tag Archives: open letter

Women, the Constitution & the Senate: via LEAF

embattled conservative senator pamela wallin

This is about more than just Pamela Wallin’s taxi expenses!  Canada’s LEAF (Women’s Legal Education  & Action Fund) requested intervention in the upcoming (November 13-15_) Senate Reference (see Maclean’s mag background information here) but they report that the compressed timelines due to the fast tracking of this reference led to LEAF needing to request late filing, a request which was denied by LeBel J. on 2013-06-14.

Here is a link to LEAF’s memorandum of argument in the intervention request, and here is a little snippet:

4. Inclusion and equality, including equality of women and men, are fundamental principles of our democracy. 

5. Given these fundamental organizing principles, Canadian women have an expectation that electoral and appointment processes will include appropriate measures based on current knowledge and analysis to ensure equality of access and result. Such processes must promote the substantive equality of Charter rights-holders, recognizing the importance of reflecting the diversity of Canadian society and achieving overall gender balance in the composition of the Senate. Senate reform must avoid processes that will result in the underrepresentation of women and minority groups. 

6. LEAF seeks to intervene in this reference in order to assert the necessity of taking the rights of women and minority groups into account in all constitutional processes and changes touching upon Canada’s democratic institutions given the important role they fulfill with respect to law and public policy. 

This is from LEAF’s  Open Letter to the First Ministers of Canada which demands that women be consulted on Senate Reform:

The outcome of this Referencewill affect the manner in which Senators are chosen in the future. Any new selection and/or election processes must address the historic underrepresentation of women, minorities and Aboriginal peoples in Parliament. Over almost a century from women’s first right to hold office, and almost half a century from the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, women do not yet even approach gender parity by population, let alone attaining, as a matter of course, the level of participation historically accorded to men. (2)

The undersigned do not take a position with respect to the division of powers aspects of the Reference, nor do we take a position on the preferred route to reform of the Senate.  We rather urge that all governments ensure that whatever process is undertaken, the mistakes of past constitutional amendment processes will not be repeated.  Any such process must take into account the established principles of constitutional law.  Women in Canada and other Charter rights-holders have a right to be included in any Senate reform process and any Senate reform process must promote substantive equality for women and minority groups.

h/t Mary Jane Mossman