The Barbara Betcherman Memorial Lecture was established in 1985 to honour an outstanding law student and lawyer who died in 1983 at the age of 35. An Osgoode silver medalist (LLB ‘74), Betcherman became a federal prosecutor and later served on a Royal Commission investigating alleged police brutality. She co-founded the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, and worked as a director of legal research on the CBC’s Ombudsman program. In 1980, she published her first novel, Suspicions, which became an international success.
The Barbara Betcherman Memorial Fund was established at Osgoode in 1985 and over the next 20 years the Fund, through special lectures, sought to develop and promote ideas about women and the law, including sex equality, feminist theory, and applied legal research in areas of law with a significant impact on women.
The bi-annual lecture attracted many notable speakers over the years including Maude Barlow, Justice Rosalie Abella, Catharine MacKinnon, bell books, Alanis Obomsawin, Justice Bertha Wilson, Margaret Atwood, June Callwood and Gloria Steinem.
The Memorial Lecture continued until 2005, its 20th anniversary, after which the Betcherman family – Irving and Lita-Rose and their three sons – and friends of the family felt it was time for a change. After a good deal of discussion involving the family, Professor and then Director of the IFLS Mary Jane Mossman, and then Osgoode Dean Patrick Monahan, it was decided that more effective use of the Fund could be made by directing it to a Distinguished Visitorship for the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies. Now, Osgoode hosts a Barbara Betcherman Distinguished Visitor to the Institute for periods of up to two weeks. The Visitor gives a public lecture, but also has time to engage in discussions with students and faculty. Since this change, Distinguished Visitors have included Nicola Lacey of LSE and Margaret Thornton from the Australian National University. For a complete list of Barbara Betcherman Lecturers and Distinguished Visitors, please click here.