Archive for January, 2013


What a day in Canadian history! Today marks the 97th anniversary of suffrage for some Manitoba women, and the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R v Morgentaler, which struck down the laws criminalizing abortion.

Take a minute today and think about these seminal events, what change they led to, what was left undone and what more can be done today.

“Have we not the brains to think? Hands to work? Hearts to feel? And lives to live? Do we not bear our part in citizenship? Do we not help build the Empire? Give us our due!” – Nellie McClung

“I can think of all of those women that I have been able to help who were desperate to have an abortion. The act of civil disobedience demonstrated that a cause of this nature could mobilize so many people to create change overall.” – Henry Morgentaler


Here’s an interesting way to mark the 25th anniversary of R v Morgentaler: pro-life organization the Campaign Life Coalition has indexed all Members of Parliament, tracking their stance on abortion (and “traditional” marriage, as a bonus, I guess) based on votes in the house and public comment. Why not look up your MP and see where he or she stands? Note that “pro” abortion members are charmingly labeled “anti-science”.

Here’s a list of federal Ministers who oppose abortion rights:
– Rob Nicholson (Minister of Justice and AG Canada)
– Vic Toews (Minister of Public Safety)
– Peter Van Loan (Leader of the Government in the HoC)
– Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism)
– Gerry Ritz (Minister of Agriculture)
-Ed Fast (Minister of International Trade and Minister for Asia-Pacific Gateway)
– Lynne Yelich (Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification)
– Gary Goodyear (Minister of State for Science and Technology and for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)



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Sent on behalf of the Manitoba Women’s Advisory Council

January 28 marks 97 years since the first achievement for Manitoba’s women’s suffrage movement; some women were granted the right to vote and hold public office in Manitoba. This was the first in a series of steps towards ultimately granting these fundamental rights and privileges to all Manitoba women. The historic battle to achieve the 1916 law was fought by many women, including those in the Political Equality League and other suffrage organizations across the province. With this new law, Manitoba became the first province in Canada to begin to grant democratic rights to women. Women across Canada would wait until 1918 for the same rights in federal elections.

While it has been 97 years since the first group of Manitoba women began equal access to the democratic rights and privileges afforded to most men, we note that many groups of women did not achieve suffrage at that time.  In 1952, Manitoba extended the right to vote to Aboriginal women and men; at the federal level Aboriginal people could not vote without waiving their rights under the Indian Act until 1960. Other groups of newcomer Canadians – such as Chinese, Indo-Canadian and Japanese Canadians – were disenfranchised at the federal level until 1947 & 1948.

While the journey towards democratic rights for some Manitoba women began in 1916, true equality in this regard was not achieved until  44 years later. Today we observe 97 years of suffrage movements on behalf of women and other disenfranchised people, and 52 years of equal access to this fundamental democratic right.

For more information about the history of the suffrage movement in Manitoba, please visit the Manitoba Historical Society at http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/mb_history/32/womenwonthevote.shtml .


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Quebec (Attorney General) v. A, 2013 SCC 5 (also known as “Eric” v “Lola”)

The SCC ruled very narrowly (and complicatedly) Friday that the fact that Quebec’s provincial law does not recognize ‘de facto’ (common law) marriages for the purposes of spousal support and property division following relationship dissolution is constitutional. While a majority of the justices found a breach of s 15 (McLachlin CJC, Abella, Deschamps, Cromwell, and Karakatsanis JJ — Lebel, Fish, Rothstein and Moldaver held that there was no breach), only 4 of the 5 found that all or part of the legislation could not be saved by s 1.

Quebec is the only province of Canada that does not recognize de facto marriages for these purposes. This is particularly interesting when you consider that 31.5% of Quebecois couples are in these relationships.

A major theme advanced by the Lebel J-led dissent (on breach of s 15), and by the Attorney General of Quebec following the release of the decision, was that keeping the law as it is a recognition and reaffirmation of freedom of choice. They point out that people in de facto marriages are free to make any arrangements they wish regarding what will happen to their property if they break up. This raises some questions, like

– “Whose freedom of choice are we talking about?”
– And “When and why do we give priority to freedom of choice over protecting vulnerable people?”
– “In this day and age, is the expected vulnerability or disadvantage of one partner still a common enough concern upon relationship break-up that a certain property division scheme should be mandatory?”
– “What reasons might couples in de facto marriages have for not making the kinds of formal arrangements mentioned in the decision?”

Undoubtedly, this decisions raises lots of other questions, too.

Thanks Margaret Hillick for pointing this out!

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Making History


Kathleen Wynne has become the first woman Premier for Ontario and the first openly gay premier in Canada.

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UVic employment law professor Kenneth Thornicroft undertook a study of all severance pay decisions of Canadian courts of appeal between 2000-11 and discovered that, all other factors being equal, female claimants were getting an average of 6 weeks less severance pay than their male peers.

He then conducted an experiment in which he had his university students negotiate severance settlements for a male and a female employee with identical characteristics. He found not only that the gender bias he’d seen evidence of in the CA decisions occurred with his students as negotiators , but also that the bias (in favour of the male employee) was more pronounced in his female students.

What the heck is going on here?!

(Thanks for the link, Peter Mueller!)

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Interesting. The CBC reports that many NHL players demonstrate substantially weaker performance when they become fathers to newborn babies. The article is written as if a mysterious, inexplicable psychological phenomenon has been uncovered. Would we be equally surprised to hear that new moms were less focused on their sporting careers directly following the birth of a child? Perhaps media attitudes and societal stereotypes about male parenthood are less evolved than many men’s lived realities. Even professional hockey players.


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Today is the 40th anniversary of the landmark US Supreme Court Case Roe v Wade. Let’s celebrate with this quirky, spot on article by Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead.

“Actually, I am surprised they haven’t started spelling it, abwhoreshun.

Yes, women like me are called whores and worse, when, if an accident happens and we choose abortion, we don’t offer the proper amount of remorse and contrition.

It’s got to stop, seriously.”


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R v Ryan (2013)

On Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada stayed charges against Nicole Doucet (formerly Ryan), a Nova Scotia woman who attempted to hire a hit man to kill her abusive husband. They called the failure of the authorities to come to Doucet’s assistance “disquieting”. (See R v Ryan, 2013 SCC 3 at para 35)

Today, Nicole Doucet gave a raw, honest interview on CBC Radio’s the Current, describing the desperation she felt when she tried to pay someone to kill her husband after years of terrifying abuse. It is particularly gut-wrenching (cliché, yes, but warranted here) to hear her describe being repeatedly turned away when she sought assistance and protection.

As law students, it’s not every day we get to hear from the people whose lives come to form the law we study. This is definitely worth a listen. Link below:

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The attached infographic was sent to the FLF by a contributor to LearnStuff.com.

Also, it’s worth noting that the graphic reflects numbers from the US. So, the numbers in Canada would likely be a bit different, but I think the trend is similar.equal_education_unequal_pay

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