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Archive for June, 2011

This week, the Ontario Court of Appeal will hear a provincial and federal appeal on the controversial Bedford decision. In that decision, a lower level Ontario judge declared certain existing prostitution laws invalid. Keep your eyes and ears peeled in the coming weeks and months for what will undoubtedly be a much discussed decision of the Ontario C.A.

Here’s a really great discussion from Monday’s episode of the Current on CBC radio, featuring two sex trade workers on opposite sides of the debate:

\http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2011/06/13/ontario-prostitution-law/

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FLF members who were lucky enough to attend this year’s round table with Dr. Emma Cunliffe entitled “What Feminism can Teach us About Expert Evidence” (read Dayna’s excellent summary here: https://feministlegalforum.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/what-feminism-can-teach-us-about-expert-evidence-roundtable-summary/) may recall that the discussion touched on mothers wrongfully accused of murdering their children by ‘rogue’ experts. One such rogue is Ontario’s Charles Smith. Once well respected in the field of forensic child pathology, he has since been the subject of a public inquiry into his autopsies. As a result of the inquiry, a serious doubt was raised on at least 13 convictions which had been premised on his expert testimony.

Though never convicted, Tammy Marquardt spent fourteen years in prison following the death of her two year old son. It was Charles Smith who performed the autopsy. During her incarceration, her two other children were given up for adoption.

This week, the Crown decided to drop the charges against Marquardt, partly due to the flawed evidence of Smith. CBC Radio’s As It Happens featured an excerpt of Marquardt’s comments following her release. Though brief, they provide chilling insight into the experience of a mother wrongfully accused of murdering her child. The clip can be heard here, at approximately minute 10:40.

http://www.cbc.ca/video/news/audioplayer.html?clipid=1979330311

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Many of our readers will be familiar with the well-known sex discrimination case of Janzen v. Platy Enterprises Ltd., [1989] 1 S.C.R. 1252. A Manitoba case, it established that sexual harassment is sex discrimination, and thus illegal in Canada. Further to that, it also recognized the vicarious liability of employers in instances of sexual harassment perpetrated by employees. Finally, it provided a somewhat expansive and flexible definition of sexual harassment. The Supreme Court decision can be found here: http://www.canlii.org/en/ca/scc/doc/1989/1989canlii97/1989canlii97.pdf.

The female complainants in the case, Dianna Janzen and Tracy Govereau, endured degrading and humiliating treatment at the hands of cook Tommy Grammas. The restaurant owner refused to intervene or address the harassment. They were both 21 years old when they filed their complaints with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. They would enter their 28th years before the matter was resolved in the Supreme Court.

Recently, B.C. lawyer and author Stephen Hammond wrote and recorded an interview with Dianna Janzen. She is now 50 years old, and has developed a profound and fascinating persepctive on her experiences as a victim of sexual harassment and a human rights crusader. Nearly 30 years after the incidents that led her to make a complaint, she still perfers not to discuss the details of the abuse. The interview describes the “emotional rollercoaster” Janzen experienced during the years her case was before the courts, noting the dejection she felt following the decision of the Manitoba Court of Appeal (which held that sexual harassment was not sex discrimination). When the Supreme Court finally found in favour of Janzen and Govereau, overturning the Court of Appeal, Janzen said she initially  “didn’t feel anything, actually”. After enduring the extreme stress of not only the harassment, but also the extended legal proceedings, Janzen’s sense of personal vindication took time to develop.

The interview is fascinating. Now the mother of two nearly-full-grown children, Janzen’s relfections on her experiences as a younger woman are measured but profound; she speaks of her transformation from “victim” at 21 to “success” at 50. She now wishes to share what the experience taught her with young people, wanting them to know their rights and feel empowered to stand up for themselves if they face discrimination, based on sex or otherwise.

You can read or listen to the interview here: http://www.stephenhammond.ca/dianna-janzen.php#.

 

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