Archive for February, 2013


The above article/video brings to light a rather disturbing fact, that in the US thousands of rape kits go untested!

According to the article, Prosecutor Kym Worthy “and her team would ultimately discover 11,303 untested kits,” in a police storage warehouse (in Wayne County) and Worthy goes on to say that “what’s happening in her city is happening across the country.  From Chicago to Los Angeles to Houston, cities are grappling with thousands of untested rape kits.”

Unbelievable right? I have to admit I am not familiar with the protocols in this area, but I always assumed that if a complainant came forward and had a rape kit done that it would be tested. I never imagined it would just sit on the shelf of a police storage warehouse  forgotten (or at the very least that 11,000 kits would not just be tossed into a warehouse to be forgotten)!

“So far, 600 kits have been tested, and investigators say that they have discovered evidence of 21 serial rapists. Grant money funded the testing of those kits.  Worthy said it costs on average between $1,200 and $1,500 to get each kit tested.”

In 2009, with these rather embarrassing stats prompting them, the Detroit Police Department did an internal review, and from that review it was found that when ” they randomly pulled 36 of the stored rape kits [they] found there were “justifiable reasons” for not testing them.  Those reasons, police say, include victims who refused to prosecute or were uncooperative and assailants who pleaded guilty to lesser charges.”

I have to wonder if we’d find the same thing going on in Canada?

Thank you to Rachael Paquette, a second year law student at Robson Hall, for brining this article/video to the FLF’s attention.



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Check out RH alumnus Corey Shefman’s article in the Jewish Tribune! He takes a look at attitudes toward women that come from the ultra-orthodox branch of Judaism, and what impacts these attitudes have had on Israeli law and communities more generally, despite being representative of a relatively small sub-sect of Judaism. He writes: “Each of us must ask ourselves whether we can personally justify the treatment of women by some in our community as inferior, on the basis of one interpretation of halacha. I am not a rabbi, and do not claim to be able to interpret Torah or Talmud at any sort of advanced level. But I am a Jew and my Judaism does not discriminate.”

Corey Shefman graduated from Robson Hall in 2012.

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According to the above Winnipeg Free Press article “The per-capita rate of violence against Manitoba women is almost twice the national average… A Statistics Canada report found Manitoba had the second-highest rate of police-reported violence toward women for the 10 provinces in 2011.” Saskatchewan was number 1.

The reason for this you might ask? Well the article says that “One expert in the field of family and domestic violence said the situation in Manitoba and Saskatchewan is the result of a combination of inadequate policing and a poor record of dealing with offenders.”

A way to counteract these disturbing results, according to the article, is through “effective prevention and intervention programs.”

Thoughts FLFers? Were you surprised, why or why not? Do you agree with the reasons given for these stats and the preventative measures suggested?

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Hello FLF members,

I just wanted to let you know about a roundtable that we are co-hosting with the Mediators Beyond Borders group:

Mediators Beyond Borders and the Feminist Legal Forum are proud to present “Mediation: The ‘Girly’ Litigation?” – A Roundtable Discussion with Dr. Jennifer Schulz, this Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 12pm in Room 309. Bring your lunch and join us as Dr. Schulz discusses the new paper she co-authored with Robson Hall graduate Jocelyn Turnbull. Hope to see you there!

I have also heard that Jocelyn Turnbull might be skyped into this roundtable (this rumour has not been confirmed yet), so it could prove to be quite interesting if all of the technical difficulties can be worked out!


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— Iceland eyes a nation-wide “Net Nanny” framework with a view to criminalizing access to violent porn —

The Icelandic Ministry of the Interior is considering a legal framework for banning access to violent pornography online. While the “distribution” of porn is already banned in the country, they are now seeking to define “violent pornography” specifically, and to criminalize it by limiting access to some web addresses and making it illegal to buy such material with an Icelandic credit card.

Proponents of the law cite concern for children and their perceptions of sexuality, and that the message of this kind of porn (i.e., misogyny) is so problematic that it needs to be banned from the country (or, at least, it’s slice of the internet) entirely. They say that their position is anti-violence, not anti-sex. They also say that a collective attitude toward raising children is consistent with both Nordic and United Nations principles, and that this framework fits into that approach.

Those who oppose the law, while not necessarily pro-violent porn, are deeply concerned by the prospect of state-imposed limits to internet use and potential impacts on freedom of expression. They look with great concern to other countries where internet content is state-restricted. They also say that if the real issues at the heart of the ban are child safety-related, a better strategy would be to have concerns dealt with at the private, family level.

Yet another situation where rights/valid societal objectives conflict. What should be done? ? ?


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A picture posted to our FB page that we found on the Women’s Health Clinic’s Facebook Page


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A cool sounds event coming to Robson Hall on Wednesday, March 6th at lunch time in room 207!

Here’s a description of what professor McArthur will argue:

“In the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which declared criminal laws against homosexuality unconstitutional, the United States is in the midst of a debate about the scope and basis of sexual liberty. Against traditional moralistic arguments, the Lawrence Court invoked the right to privacy. However, I argue that the notion of privacy the court used is one that remains tied to moralistic ways of thinking, and that as a result there is in the U.S. no recognition of a right to have sex. I further argue that we should insist that courts recognise a different notion of privacy, one that does imply such a right. Though I focus on the United States, the debate has important implications for how we understand our rights in a liberal democracy more broadly.”


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“Should alleged rapists get anonymity until convicted?”

This was the title of a provocative debate on CBC Radio’s The Current yesterday. The discussion was inspired by the comment of a senior UK barrister, who posited that, because the stigma associated with an accusation of sexual assault is so great, even if acquitted, anonymity for an accused might be a good idea.

The panelists in the debate were John Cooper (UK lawyer), Sandy Onyalo (head of the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre) and RH’s very own Prof Bruce MacFarlane. Some really good points were raised on both sides, and bring up some of the following questions:

– Why are those accused of sexual assault more deserving of pre-verdict anonymity than those accused of other serious crimes?
– What impact would keeping an accused’s identity secret have on a complainant? Are there safety concerns for her or for the public at large?
– What impact would keeping an accused’s identity secret have on the criminal justice system, and on the “open justice” principle specifically? Should we be concerned about the implications of “secret trials”? Might this idea actually have a negative impact on the fairness of the trial?
– in light of the advent of social media, are media publication bans at all effective in managing public perceptions of criminal accusations before they are resolved?
– To what extent should we expect law to manage how stories are portrayed in the media at any rate?
– How does the potential of anonymizing sexual assault defendants impact the reality that the vast majority of sexual assaults go unreported, and that even those that are reported frequently collapse before trial? Does this idea propagate rape culture/myths?

Some of our Facebook followers made these comments in response:

Elizabeth Mitchell: “I think one of the most troubling parts of this idea (which is mentioned briefly in the discussion) is that it perpetuates the notion that false accusations of rape are common, when what’s really common is women being assaulted and then not reporting the assault. I say booo to this idea. I also think the points about the open justice principle are really important.”

Mary-Ellen Wayne: “This idea is very strange…and like Cooper and MacFarlane pointed out, it would then make sense to extend it to other types of offences. It could be a huge blow to open justice.”

Elizabeth Mitchell: “Yeah … it’s kind of funny, because I don’t think it’s obvious off the hop that it could actually jeopardize the accused as opposed to protecting their interests, but we all know that not enough openness in criminal process is a bad scene.”

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99 Problems

This picture was something a friend posted on Facebook and I thought I would share it on here 🙂


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Women Fly Free

Hello FLFers,
Here’s an interesting event if you’re looking for something to do on March 9th. Unfortunately, only women and girls fly free, but thought I’d still pass it on 🙂


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