Archive for December, 2010

The wonderful Sally Hawkins in a based on a true story film about pay equity in England. An inspiring feminist movie that should remind us how far we’ve come and how much we have yet to do.

This one might be worth an FLF field trip down to the Globe!

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With this term drawing to a close, the FLF is looking ahead to some exciting events in the new year. We have some great guests coming to facilitate roundtables and we are just thrilled at how the winter term is shaping up.

So save the date for…

January 13 at noon social justice talk with Prof. Debra Parkes and Meghan Daniel

The FLF is pleased to support this event being hosted by the faculty. Ms. Daniel and Prof. Parkes are writing a paper together entitled “The G20 Protests, Mass Arrests and Mass Detention: Fundamental Freedoms and (Un)Common Criminals” and their talk will focus on legal issues arising from the G20 protests and their aftermath.

Debra Parkes is an Associate Professor at Robson Hall. Prof. Parkes teaches and researches in the areas of constitutional and human rights law, criminal law, employment law, prisoners’ rights, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, sentencing and penal policy and equality rights.

Meghan Daniel is a former Robson Hall student who is now a lawyer with Klippensteins in Toronto. Klippensteins is a small, progressive, justice-centered law firm. Ms. Daniels was a legal observer at the G20 protests and her story of that event is emblematic of the human rights issues arising from the mass arrests and mass detentions.

This is definitely an event you won’t want to miss!

January 21 at noon – roundtable with Dr. Emma Cunliffe

Emma Cunliffe (UBC, Faculty of Law) will be joining us to lead a roundtable on feminism and evidence law. This will be a great discussion for both those who have taken evidence and those who haven’t. The specific topic of discussion is TBD, but we are so excited to host Dr. Cunliffe to discuss feminist perspectives on evidence law.

Dr Emma Cunliffe is an Assistant Professor at the UBC Faculty of Law.  She won the Killam Prize for Teaching Excellence in 2010 and has pioneered the use of problem-based learning in her classes at UBC.  Dr Cunliffe’s research focuses on expert evidence in homicide trials, particularly expert medical evidence.  Her forthcoming book (Murder, Medicine and Motherhood: Hart, 2011) considers the role of sudden infant death syndrome and normative conceptions of motherhood in child homicide prosecutions in the early 21st century.  In her current work, Emma is considering the social and legal context in which 20 parents and caregivers were wrongly accused of murder by Ontario pathologist Charles Smith.  In addition,Emma is conducting the first comprehensive survey of admissibility decisions regarding expert evidence in Canadian courts, in an effort to identify whether some types of expertise are scrutinized more closely than others by judges and lawyers.

February 17 at noon

We will be partnering with the Manitoba Aboriginal Law Students’ Association (MALSA) to host Celeste MacKay.  Celeste will be discussing the human rights of indigenous women. Celeste’s advocacy work has focused on the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and this event will take into consideration the Declaration in a feminist context, tying in violence, discrimination rights, rights related to economic, social and cultural rights and the right to self-determination

Céleste McKay is a Métis woman from Manitoba, with a background in social work and law. In 2007, Céleste received her LL.M. degree from the University of Ottawa which focused on the international right to health of Indigenous women in Canada.  She has worked in the areas of human rights, policy, research and advocacy work, both nationally and internationally, primarily on behalf of Indigenous women’s organizations. Céleste is a Consultant on Human Rights and International Affairs.

We’re working on something exciting for March and will be sure to alert everyone when we have more details!

Happy holidays!

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The Supreme Court has granted leave to appeal on a landmark pay equity case. The Canada Post union, Public Service Alliance of Canada, has been ensnared in a battle with Canada Post over their 1983 claim that female Canada Post employees were being discriminated against as they were receiving less pay than men in similar jobs.

For more on this story, head to


And for a related story, check out


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Take a study break and check out this interesting story on a  current legal challenge in Quebec:


Should Quebec law provide greater rights to common law couples? Why should or shouldn’t rights such as spousal support be extended to unmarried couples?

It is interesting to note the high number of common law relationships in Quebec and the fact that the majority of children in Quebec are born outside of marriages.

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If you can’t make the sunrise memorial on December 6th but would like to honour the memory of the women who died and join in solidarity in the fight on violence against women,  a memorial being held at the U of M is a good way to do it.

The Womyn’s Centre is hosting a memorial at the Fireside Lounge from 12 – 3 on December 6th.


Join the Womyn’s Centre join for a memorial service in honour of these womyn, and to bring attention to the ongoing issues of gender-based violence in our society. These womyn will not be forgotten, and we will continue to fight the oppression and harm caused by gender-based violence.

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The U of M Womyn’s Centre will be holding a commemorative display in University Centre at the Gallery of Student Art from December 6th to 10th.

More information:


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On Thursday Nov. 25, Bev Froese from the Public Interest Law Center ran our final roundtable event for the 2010 calendar year.


Bev’s presentation focused on the 2004 Human Rights Complaint on behalf of women inmates regarding the alleged discrimination based on sex, race and disability at the hands of the Portage Correctional Facility. The case had two main issues. First, women’s unique needs were not being met by the prison facility. Secondly, women were not being treated equal to male prisoners in other Manitoba facilities.


Almost immediately the question arises: What is Equality?   Is it treating everyone the same?? Or treating people differently to reach the same outcome?? Can it be both??


One of the most obvious violations taking place surrounded the need for women to have pre-natal vitamins available to them within the prison. This is a unique need that only women require, so although these vitamins are not offered to any prisoner in Manitoba regardless of their sex it becomes quite clear that the outcome of this decision is one of sexual discrimination.


Portage Correctional also has no ramp or elevator access for disabled individuals to access the facility which is clearly discrimination. There were also issues surrounding the lack of mental disability programming and the ways in which the staff dealt with inmates who suffered from various addictions or mental disabilities. One of the racial discrimination arguments against the facility rested quite heavily on the lack of cultural workers and cultural support being offered to the inmates.


Ultimately a settlement was reached through mediation which allows for the Women’s Program Advisory Committee to improve the short term and keep an eye on the long term goals and needs of the inmates. There will be a new prison facility built in the near future that should address the physical needs of inmates. The agreement also promised to develop specialized programs for women, increase support for aboriginal women and increase the availability of sacred spaces.


The roundtable finished with a short discussion about confronting myths around equality in an effort to normalize the ideas and take substantive equality out of a “special” category and into everyday life.

So how do we draw attention to the special needs of groups of individuals without having the rest of society feel that the group is getting special attention or benefiting unfairly at everyone else’s expense??

Just some food for thought…

*Jocelyn Turnbull is a second-year student at Robson Hall. She spent her summer working for the Manitoba Bar Association.


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On December 6, 1989, 14 women were murdered at l’Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal. A man named Marc Lepine walked into an Engineering class, separated the males and females, and began shooting. In the span of a 20 minute attach, Lepine killed 14 women at the University before killing himself. These women died because they were women. 10 other women and 4 men were injured in Lepine’s attack.

In 1991, December 6th was established by Parliament as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women to commemorate the deaths of these young women in gender-based violence, and to raise awareness and promote reflection by Canadians on the issue of violence against women in our society. This is a day to remember and think about women who have died as a result of or have been affected by violence. It is also a day to consider how you as an individual, and we as a group of law students can make a difference in the still sobering statistics on violence against women.
This year marks the 21st anniversary of the Montreal Massacre. Despite the time that has passed since this tragic event, violence against women is still a pervasive reality in the lives of many Canadian women. Status of Women Canada offers these statistics:
Women and girls are more likely to experience certain types of serious violence and assault:
  • on average, 178 females were killed every year between 1994 and 2008;
  • in 2008, there were 146 female victims of homicide in Canada. Of these, 45 were victims of spousal homicide; and
  • young women are particularly vulnerable. Between 1997 and 2006, young women (aged 15 to 24) were killed at a rate nearly three times higher than for all female victims of spousal homicide. During the same period, the rate of sexual assault for girls (under age 18) by family members was four times higher than for boys.

Some groups of women in Canada are particularly vulnerable to violence:

  • the spousal homicide rate for Aboriginal women is more than eight times that for non-Aboriginal women;
  • immigrant women may be more vulnerable to family violence due to, among other things, economic dependence, language barriers, and lack of access to resources; and
  • senior women are twice as likely as senior men to be victims of violent crime perpetrated by a family member.
While December 6th falls at a very busy time of year for law students, the Feminist Legal Forum feels it is important to mark the day. Take a moment to pause, consider and reflect on the posters that the FLF’s December 6th Committee has made and will be displaying in Robson Hall on December 6th. Buy a white ribbon, or stop to ask those selling the ribbons about the campaign.
We would also like to invite everyone to participate in a candlelight vigil march down Broadway and sunrise memorial at the Legislature on the morning of December 6th.
The sunrise memorial will be held at the Legislature and begins at 8 am on December 6th. The guest speaker at this event will be Ms. Stephanie Forsyth (President and CEO, Red River College). Please note that Manitoba Status of Women has asked people planning to attend the memorial to RSVP at 945-6281, and this should be done as soon as possible. There will be a collection of unwrapped toys at the memorial  for children at the Central Park Women’s Resource Centre. Contributions are welcome!
Members of the FLF will be attending, and we are planning to bus back to Robson Hall following the memorial in time for morning classes.


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