As set out in the Gift Agreement which established the Shirley E. Greenberg Chair for Women and the Legal Profession at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, in 2005:
The ‘Shirley E. Greenberg Chair for Women and the Legal Profession’ is designed to strengthen University of Ottawa teaching, research and administration as they relate to feminist perspectives on law. It is also designed to maintain and develop links between women in the legal academy and women in the legal profession.
The Chair builds upon the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section’s international reputation as a leader in the field of social justice initiatives by engaging both internal and external communities in feminist legal research, curriculum development, mentoring and a variety of lectures and colloquia.
The holder of the ‘Shirley E. Greenberg Chair for Women and the Legal Profession’ works with an existing group of scholars, all committed to women’s equality through law, to encourage women to enter the profession, to train legal professionals to deliver services to women, to connect women in law school with women in the legal profession, and to further law reform and research impacting on women as clients and women in the profession.
This year the Chair was held by Professor Elizabeth Sheehy. On my own behalf as well as faculty and students, I would like to acknowledge, with gratitude, the extraordinary gift that Shirley Greenberg has made to us. This gift has allowed us to undertake research, education, training and support for women students and faculty and to help build and maintain feminist community. I believe that in turn this gift contributes to the enrichment of the legal profession and the public good. I hope that the brief accounting of the Chair’s activities for the past year will give a flavour of the wonderful experiences and opportunities this generous gift makes possible.
Annual Activities of the Shirley E. Greenberg Chair in 2013-2014A. Shirley E. Greenberg Lecture Series
The 2013-14 Greenberg Lecture Series successfully drew audiences of students, professors, staff and members of the general public to hear critical and engaging speakers discuss their research and advocacy. At each talk a light lunch was provided to all. Speakers generally presented for 45 minutes, allowing ample time for questions and interaction with members of the law school’s feminist teaching faculty, and the broader feminist community.
This year, the Greenberg Lecture Series included the following presentations:
1. September 11, 2013
"L’indemnisation des victimes d’actes criminels : from conflicting rationales to constitutional protection"
Nathalie Des Rosiers
Dean of Common Law
2. October 1, 2013
“Why Entrepreneurial Thinking is For Everyone”
This speaker provided 50 copies of the new book, The Startup of You, to the law students who attended
“Strategy is nothing without taking thoughtful risks. As law students continue to push themselves to stand out in an increasingly competitive job market, they’re looking for new ways to communicate who they are and how they can make a difference. Join Bedrock’s founder and University of Ottawa Faculty of Law alumna, Leila Banijamali, for a discussion about treating your career like a startup by fostering your curiosity, increasing your tolerance for risk, and thoughtfully executing in order to create meaningful opportunities for yourself.’
Leila Banijamali, LLB (U Ottawa 2004), LLM (IP) (Golden Gate 2005)
She is a Startup Attorney in San Francisco. By 24 she had launched her first of three successful tech startups, Musiclick, a royalty-free audio download site. Now, at 34, she is the founder and principal attorney at Bedrock, a San Francisco-based law firm that is passionate about helping innovative companies to launch and grow. Aside from working on her own startup ventures, Banijamali has counseled and helped launch hundreds of other tech startups within the last three years and has led negotiations for numerous young startups with Facebook, GE, Johnson & Johnson, Time Warner, Disney, Clorox, LinkedIn, Groupon, and Living Social.
3. October 2, 2014
"Women as Patients not Spare Parts: Examining the Relationship between the Physician and Women Egg Donors"
Professor, Common Law
4. October 21
Lecture for First Year Property Law students: Indigenous relationships to land
Elder, Author (Halfbreed, Stories of the Road Allowance People), Educator
5. November 20
“160 Girls Making Legal History”
Executive Director for the equality effect: “The equality effect uses human rights law to make the rights of girls & women real, so that they can be safe from sexual violence, get an education, and fulfill their economic potential.” This talk focused on the equality effect’s monumental legal victory in which 160 girls in Kenya successfully sued in discrimination for police failure to enforce the law prohibiting defilement of girls
6. February 5, 2014
“Secularism, Neutrality and Women¹s Equality: Facing Quebec¹s Bill 60”
Professor, McGill University, Faculty of Law
7. February 18, 2014
"Defending Battered Women on Trial by Elizabeth Sheehy: Voices in Response"
Elizabeth Sheehy, Leighann Burns, Kim Pate, Rosemary Cairns Way, Angela Cameron, Vanessa MacDonnell and Rakhi Ruparelia
Professors, Lawyers and Advocates
8. March 5, 2014
“Advocating for Indigenous Women’s Equality in International Fora”
Indigenous lawyer, professor, activist and leader
9. March 25, 2014
“The Gender of Legal Ethics: Privilege, Diversity and the Future of Legal Professionalism”
Joint Legal Professionalism-Greenberg Lecture
Professor, Faculty of Law, University of British Columbia
B. Greenberg Internships: Fostering Feminist Lawyering
This year I decided to focus on local needs for feminist lawyers by generating training opportunities with Ottawa organizations. I approached Sunny Marriner, ED of the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre and Leighann Burns, family lawyer and head of Harmony House, a second stage housing in Ottawa for abused women. Both women devised internships that would further their community-based advocacy work for survivors of sexual assault and wife assault and provide legal training and experience for feminist law students.
Harmony House: Jill Lewis
This summer I completed the Women and the Law Internship with Harmony House Women’s Shelter. The purpose of this internship was to introduce the student to particular barriers abused women face in the family law system. The project had two goals: to introduce the student to contradictions between what is written about violence against women (VAW) and the actual experiences of women attempting to leave; and to train the student to be an effective family law advocate for these women. The following is a description of the activities and assignments I completed during this Internship.
During the first stage of the project I was introduced—through academic articles— to the VAW issues surrounding family law and the family law court system. These issues included child safety during custody litigation, common myths associated with VAW, how to assess alleged abuse and the overlap between the family law courts and the criminal courts. This provided me with a theoretical foundation to help form my analysis for the cases and experiences I would later confront.
I then spent two weeks attending the court house to observe family law trials. Here, I observed the process of going to trial and the heightened emotions involved. I recorded my observations of two cases that involved allegations of abuse. I then analyzed these findings—through the provided academic articles—to critique the reaction these women received when alleging spousal abuse. I identified many patterns that were highlighted by VAW academics.
The next step was to become familiarized with the written documents produced during a family custody case. I spent a day at Harmony House going through my supervisor Leighann Burns’ pleadings in order to understand how continuum records are assembled and filed. I then spent three weeks at the Court House’s Family Law Division. Here, I pulled three files at a time until I found cases involving domestic abuse. I used a file system (created by students last summer) to record at which stage of the case the abuse was alleged; the lawyers involved; the orders granted; and the judges presiding. Once I found approximately 18 useable cases, I created a report that unpacked patterns I had observed.
I also completed a short memo on a research question for the Ottawa Police Violence Against Women Advisory Committee. The Committee wanted to know how they could perform case reviews without the involved parties’ permission. Moreover, they wanted an example of a community within Ontario who were already conducting these reviews. I spent two weeks contacting VAW organizations, following up via email and phone, and conducting my own research on the topic. Through numerous referrals, I was eventually connected with Sergeant David Hennick of the Hamilton Police Service, Victims of Crime Unit. During a phone meeting with Ms. Burns and myself, Sgt. Hennick explained a conference they had on this particular question. He sent us his presentation, which outlined the legal authority that allows victim groups to conduct reviews without explicit permission. I followed this discussion with a short memo outlining the question, contacted organizations, and the discussion with Sgt. Hennick for Ms. Burns to bring to the Advisory Committee.
I then moved on to a larger memo regarding assessment factors used during trial. Specifically, I researched a tool developed by Dr Peter G. Jaffe (PPP Screening), which he recommends should be performed by lawyers and judges during the interim hearing stages of trial. This topic arose through my case reviews, where I became concerned that court professionals were overlooking major factors that Dr Jaffe identifies as warning signs of further harm. I used the memo to unpack whether such screening could be conducted at such an early stage of trial. I found that Australia had adopted Dr Jaffe’s screening tools into a policy called The Family Violence Best Practice Principles, which recommends the screening be done at an early stage. I also found that B.C.’s newly reformed Family Law Act now includes a list of assessment factors—similar to Dr Jaffe’s—which must be observed when violence has been alleged. I concluded that the screening could be performed during the beginning stages of a family law trial. However, there are still concerns regarding training of judges and credibility of assessment.
For the final stage, I was given the opportunity to complete my own written pleadings and oral arguments. I was given a fact scenario, from Ms. Burns’ previous cases, and had to complete the necessary forms and affidavit for child custody. I then performed my oral arguments for a motion to gain a restraining order, child support and sole custody. Ms. Burns provided oral and written feedback on both elements.
This Internship was an incredible experience and I gained unique skills throughout the summer. Compared to my classmates who worked in firms, I feel I gained more unique knowledge of the court process. While I was at the court house I was able to learn a great deal from the filing clerks, speaking with legal assistants and observing self-represented individuals. I was able to speak to this experience during my articling interviews, which my interviewers found unique and interesting. Further, being able to work in a field I was so passionate about gave me the chance to find an articling firm that also reflected my interests. I am happy to say, I was offered a position with a firm that has a family law division dedicated to gender rights and helping survivors of domestic violence. This fellowship was an amazing experience and I am so thankful to have been chosen for this incredible program.
Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre: Joanna Berry
During the summer of 2014, a University of Ottawa law student was provided a fellowship (the Women and the Law Fellowship) to support the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC) in its role on the newly-formed Advisory Group to Ottawa Police Chief on Violence Against Women (VAW-OPS Advisory Group). The objectives of the VAW-OPS Advisory Group are to examine and improve the police response to violent crimes against women in Ottawa. The VAW-OPS Advisory Group is comprised of representatives of various community-based organizations leading the campaign to eliminate violence against women, as well as high-ranking officials from Ottawa Police Service (OPS). Members of the VAW-OPS Advisory Group form three sub-committees – the Research, Response and Prevention Sub-committees – that undertake projects in their respective focus areas.
The Women and the Law Fellow contributed mostly to the Research Sub-committee, but also participated in joint meetings of the Research and Response Sub-committees. The fellow’s main task was to develop the framework for an original study led by the Research Sub-committee. This study, due to launch in the winter of 2014, will provide women an opportunity to give direct feedback regarding the effectiveness of police response to incidents of violence against women.
Specific Activities of the Fellow:
This fellowship provided the student with an opportunity to play a critical role in the development of an innovative research project designed to assess the experiences of female survivors of male violence with the Ottawa Police Service (the Study).
Specifically, the Women and the Law Fellow:
- Identified and reviewed social science and legal literature on the police response to violent crimes against women.
- Attended meetings of the VAW-OPS Advisory Group and the Research and Response Sub-committees. While attending meetings, the fellow:
- Carefully recorded the ideas, concerns and opinions of meeting attendees, particularly with respect to the design and implementation of the Study.
- Presented ideas and identified potential ethical and logistical issues regarding the design and implementation of the Study. The fellow’s meeting contributions were informed by her literature review and previous qualitative research experience.
- Drafted a report to the Research Sub-committee based on meeting outcomes and the fellow’s independent research. This report:
- Identified research design options and protocols commonly used in studies recording the experiences of survivors of traumatic violence, including the various approaches to research participant recruitment and Study implementation.
- Summarized the strengths and limitations of each research design option.
- Identified ethical considerations.
- Drafted an original semi-structured interview instrument to be administered to Study participants.
- Revised the interview instrument according to the feedback provided by Research Sub-committee members. The interview instrument was the topic of several Research Sub-committee meetings. Ultimately, eleven drafts of the instrument were produced.
- Began preliminary drafting of an application to the University of Ottawa’s Office of Research Ethics and Integrity.
** Note: with the arrival of the 2014-215 academic year, the fellow hopes to continue serving the VAW-OPS Advisory Group as a volunteer.**
This fellowship had both direct and indirect beneficiaries.
- Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre
- Ottawa Police Service
- New Directions
- Harmony House Women’s Shelter
- University of Ottawa
- Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa
- Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women
- Other VAW-OPS Advisory Committee members & agencies
- Girls and women in Ottawa attempting to report Violence Against Women (physical/sexual) to Ottawa Police Service (past/future)
- Women-serving agencies in the Violence Against Women sector
- Researchers designing methodologies for community consultation in Violence Against Women
Contribution to the ORCC:
The Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre is a proactive, anti-racist, feminist organization working to end all forms of sexual violence. We counsel and support women, educate for change and work to create a safe and equitable community. As is the case in all frontline, independent women’s support and advocacy organizations, ORCC frequently struggles with a lack of human resource capacity negatively impacting our ability to contribute fully to critically important projects.
The Shirley Greenberg Fellowship allowed ORCC to participate in the Research Subcommittee of the OPS-VAW Advisory Committee work on a level the organization would not otherwise have reached. Through the efforts and acumen of the Fellow our organization was able to ensure that the research methodology took account of the diverse experience and social locations of survivors of violence against women, and ensure that their expert knowledge and experience was a research priority for the OPS-VAW Research Subcommittee. Through the Fellowship our organization enjoyed greater capacity to offer critical analysis to research and methodological questions to ensure that survivors’ experiences of policing form a foundational component of future police planning, as per the stated priorities of the OPS.
The Fellow further supported the work of the centre by allowing ORCC to maintain a strong voice on multiple committees, including a subcommittee evaluating Response directly. The Shirley Greenberg Fellowship allowed ORCC to focus critical energy in the most demanding areas while moving the work forward in all.
Our centre further benefitted through our connection to Joanna Berry, a passionate advocate who will go on to be involved in numerous projects of critical importance to women experiencing violence and/or inequity. We expect that the relationship forged through the Fellowship will continue to benefit both ORCC and the community well past the life of this project.
Contribution to the Community & the Administration of Justice:
Problematic police responses in cases of violence against women are a pervasive, and thus far unresolved, social ill, and frequently bring the administration of justice into disrepute. An extensive literature exists conclusively demonstrating that negative attitudes & beliefs among police services, widespread ‘rape myths’, and women’s inequality all have measurable impacts on both policing and conviction rates in VAW cases.
This fellowship focused on developing methods to give women survivors of violence in Ottawa a meaningful opportunity to have their experience of reporting VAW heard, documented, and incorporated in planning moving forward for improving police response. This crucial element of consultation has the potential to illuminate issues that can only be identified through review of individual experience, and it further privileges the voice of women experiencing violence in what is otherwise an imbalanced power dynamic.
The support of the Fellow allowed meaningful instruments to be developed collaboratively, in time frames that would otherwise be unachievable. Significant portions of administrative work, ethics preparation, and best practice in both consultation and institutional ethnography were achieved as a direct result of this Fellowship, and will go on to be implemented long after the Fellowship completes.
Contribution to the Student:
“It is an honour to have worked as the Greenberg Women and the Law Fellow for the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre. The opportunities afforded through this fellowship have made for truly enriching personal and professional experiences.
For instance, the program allowed me to directly participate in a critical public interest project that was outside the scope of work I typically undertake related to gender-based violence and survivor protection. My active involvement with the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) had, prior to the fellowship, framed my exposure to survivor advocacy through the lens of the Canadian refugee protection system. Now I have experience with this kind of advocacy work in a new context: municipal-level law enforcement.
Also, through this fellowship I became acquainted with inspirational community members and organizations heading the campaign to eliminate violence against women in Ottawa. These new relationships have already proven invaluable. The mentorship I have received from these passionate community leaders has invigorated my commitment to collaborative, community-based work. My mentors further provided me, relatively new to the Ottawa scene, with an introduction to city’s feminist-activist network. With fuller knowledge of local resources and gender-rights initiatives, I feel better-equipped to serve my community.
Finally, the fellowship offered early exposure to legal work animated by fundamental values of human rights and social justice advocacy. The knowledge and skills acquired through this professional experience have helped me step closer to my ultimate career goal of establishing a legal practice devoted to the advancement of human rights and social justice.”
Joanna Berry (JD and MA Candidate; Women and the Law Fellow of the ORCC)
C. LEAF Ottawa Persons' Day Breakfast
The Greenberg Chair made a substantial contribution to the Ottawa chapter of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) for its annual “Person’s Day” breakfast. Ottawa's 2013 Persons Day Breakfast marked the 84th anniversary of the famous Edwards v Canada case. It was held Friday, November 1, 2013 at the National Arts Centre (NAC), Fountain Room from 7:30 am to 10:00 am. Focusing on the controversial Quebec Charter of Values, this event facilitated discussions on how the proposed Charter would impact women. Amy Award, Human Rights Coordinator of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, and Nathalie Des Rosier, Dean of the Common Law section of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law were the featured speakers at this bilingual event.
Students, professors, members of the legal community, and other friends of LEAF attended the sold out event, which was dedicated to long time LEAF supporter Alison Dewar. Alison passed away October 17th, 2013.
D. Women and the Legal Profession Course
The Greenberg Chair provided funding to enable Kim Pate, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, to continue teaching the ‘Law and Society: Defending Battered Women on Trial’ course (CML 3374F) in the winter 2014 term. The course, designed by Professors Elizabeth Sheehy and Kim Pate, is aimed at preparing future lawyers to defend battered women caught up in the criminal justice system and at developing a package of materials to aid defence lawyers charged with this important task.
E. First Year Common Law Jane Doe Lecture
In 1998, more than a decade ago, the woman know as ‘Jane Doe’ won a landmark legal victory, holding the Toronto Police Service liable for the violation of her constitutional right to equality and for the failure to warn her of the threat of a serial rapist. Presented by Jane Doe herself, the annual Jane Doe lecture focuses on the sex equality related tort and criminal law issues raised in the Jane Doe case.
Again this year, on October 17 2013, the Greenberg Chair sponsored Jane Doe’s annual lecture for all First year and National Program students. Her talk, “The Politics of Rape”, filled all three rooms of the Gowling Moot Court to capacity and garnered a standing ovation from the students. This annual lecture provides an excellent opportunity for Torts and Criminal Law professors to integrate a significant feminist issue into their courses and for students to embark upon difficult but important conversations about sexual assault and law’s response.
F. Women’s Legal Mentorship Program
The Greenberg Chair again provided core funding of $5000 for this program, described as follows:
The WLMP is a comprehensive feminist legal mentorship program developed by women studying law at the University of Ottawa. The goal of the WLMP is to help women to develop a support system that will help them throughout their legal careers. The program — the first of its kind in Ontario — facilitates peer-to-peer mentorship, student-lawyer mentorship and professional development workshops.
Their enrollment for peer mentorship for 2013-14 was 205 members, and for the matching student-lawyer mentorship they managed to match 64 women students with women lawyers. In addition the WLMP hosted a number of leadership and professional development workshops aimed at their members. A more complete description of their activities is found in their annual report for 2013-14, attached.
G. Sponsorship of the Women, Law and Human Rights Research collection on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN)
The Greenberg Chair continues to pay the annual fee to host the SSRN ejournal, Women, Law and Human Rights, edited by Professor Elizabeth Sheehy and Professor Lucie Lamarche, Gordon Henderson Chair and Director of the Human Rights Research and Education Centre. As described on SSRN: “This eJournal distributes working and accepted paper abstracts related to Women, Law and Human Rights. This eJournal is interested in a wide range of topics and interdisciplinary work is invited. Des articles peuvent aussi être soumis en français - Los artículos pueden ser presentados en español. We welcome abstracts of articles in French and Spanish as well.
This ejournal increases our Faculty’s research visibility, as well as confirming our exceptional faculty strengths in feminist analysis and human rights research.
H. The Canadian Journal of Women and the Law
The Canadian Journal of Women and the Law (CJWL) is the only feminist law journal in Canada and is once more housed at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, with Professor Rosemary Cairns Way at the helm as English Language Co-Editor. With the support of the Faculty of Law and the Greenberg Chair, we are able 1) to offer release time to the faculty member taking over the editorship and 2) funding support to a student editor position (shared with the Faculty and the University of Ottawa work study program for students). In addition, the CJWL created additional unpaid student editorships that allow students to learn important editing and research skills in the service of feminist legal publishing. The journal offers a scholarly home for Canadian feminist analysis, provides publishing opportunities for colleagues and students, and offers relevant and topical employment opportunities for feminist student editors.
I. Fourth Annual Emerging Issues in Public Law Conference: May 22rd, 2014 - Keynote by Dr. Jennifer Nedelsky
Following a tradition begun in 2011, the Greenberg Chair sponsored the keynote address at the fourth annual Emerging Issues Conference organized by the Public Law Group at the University of Ottawa. This year’s speaker was Dr. Jennifer Nedelsky, Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Toronto. She presented “The Case for Social Norms of Compulsory Care—and the Radical Restructuring of Work to Make it Possible”, work that forms part of her forthcoming book in which she makes the case for restructuring our society so that the work of “caring”—for children and for aging parents, among others—is distributed fairly and in a manner that enriches all of our lives.
J. Pro Bono Students Canada Launch Event / Lancement du Réseau national d’étudiants pro bono
On September 18, 2013, the Greenberg Chair was a co-sponsor of the Pro Bono Students Canada launch event held at Fauteux Hall. The launch event was followed by a reception in the Tsampalieros Atrium. This year’s speakers were Leilani Farha from Canada Without Poverty, Cynthia Westaway from Borden, Ladner Gervais and Alex Neve from Amnesty International. The purpose of this event is to motivate and inspire student volunteers as they begin their placements with PBSC.
K. Human Rights Film Festival, October 24 until October 26, 2013
The Greenberg Chair agreed to share the costs of this new initiative organized by the Human Rights Research and Education Centre in collaboration with the Canadian Film Institute. The inaugural edition of the Film Festival tackled, in both fiction and documentary films, compelling human rights issues focusing on gender, globalization, political repression and aboriginal rights. Five films (four Ottawa premieres) from Afghanistan, India, the U.S.A., and Italy were presented. The Festival coincided with the 40th anniversary of Costa-Gavras’s searing drama about the 1973 military coup in Chile, MISSING, starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek. Joyce Horman of the Charles Horman Truth Foundation introduced the film at the opening gala evening. Other films were: Hi-Ho Mistahey! (award-winning at TIFF 2013), Mohammed to Maya, Wajma: An Afghan Love Story and dimmi che destino avrò (My Destiny). Most of the films tackled women’s experiences and issues (even “Missing” – which was the focus of an important post-screening discussion – had a sub-plot about the effects on the wife, Joyce Horman, who has continued to seek truth and confront the male-dominated military-industrial complex). Other films addressed Aboriginal women’s struggles, freedom to choose love in Afghanistan, and the work of a woman human rights lawyer in Paris acting for Roma.
L. eGirls Workshop and Conference, March 29, 2014
“eGirls, eCitizens: Putting Theory, Policy and Education into Dialogue with the Voices of Girls and Young Women”
The Greenberg Chair contributed $10,000 to this workshop and conference, organized by Professors Jane Bailey (Common Law) and Val Steeves (Criminology). At the workshop on March 28, 2014, a group of Canadian, US and UK scholars discussed papers they had prepared for consideration for inclusion in a book to be edited by Professors Bailey and Steeves. Half of the Greenberg money was earmarked for the travel and related expenses of young graduate and law students to submit papers for feedback and discussion at the workshop and to attend the conference the next day. Five papers were selected for presentation and each woman therefore received feedback in advance on her paper from a feminist professor as well as a group dinner before the event to connect with her faculty mentor. The Conference was a spectacular event. It kicked off with a one woman play “Half Girl/Half Face” and included academics talking about their research as well as presentations by young feminist leaders like Julie Lalonde (Draw the Line campaign) and Cherry Smiley (Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry). The forthcoming book incorporating papers from the workshop and conference will include the paper of one of the young feminists sponsored by the Greenberg money to participate.
M. Mother-Load: Transnational Perspectives on Maternity, Law, and Medicine, 6 March 2014
“Abortion Law and Medical Practices in the UK”
Professor of Law, University of Birmingham
The Greenberg Chair made a financial contribution to the above-event organized by Professor Christabelle Sethna, Women’s Studies
N. Perspectives on Profiling, February 7, 2014
With Selwyn Pieters, Marlyse Dumel and Anne Weinstein
The Greenberg Chair contributed funding to support the Black Law Students’ Association launch of this well-attended panel on racial profiling.
O. Jocelyn Formsma Delegate for the National Indian Child Welfare Association
The Greenberg Chair contributed to the travel costs for Jocelyn, a second year law student, to travel to Geneva to represent the NICWA meet the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Her report follows.
Report from the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination August 10-15, 2014 – Geneva, Switzerland
The United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) met from August 12-30, 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland for the 83rd session. The CERD is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by its State parties. All State parties are obliged to submit regular reports to the CERD on how the rights are being implemented. States must report to the CERD and the committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of concluding observations. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are also welcome to submit shadow reports to provide context to the reports from the State Parties that the CERD will consider in forming the concluding observations. The United States of America was reviewed from August 10-15, 2014.
I attended the CERD committee review of the United States of America (US) in Geneva, Switzerland as a representative for the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) along with the NICWA Executive Director, Terry Cross. NICWA submitted a shadow report regarding the concern about the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the State child welfare system and the reasons for overrepresentation, which included the non-compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act. Our participation was facilitated by two organizations. The first, the United States Human Rights Network (USHRN), facilitated the civil society participation and the second, the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), facilitated the Indigenous peoples caucus participation.
During the CERD session in Geneva, Terry Cross and I participated in:
- Preparatory meetings before the CERD meeting in Geneva via conference calls with both the USHRN delegation and Indigenous peoples caucus convened by the IITC
- USHRN orientation and Indigenous peoples caucus meeting upon arriving in Geneva
- Meeting with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to discuss common points of interest and advocacy
- Breakfast meeting between Indigenous peoples caucus and CERD members
- Civil society informal briefing with all CERD members
- Civil society informal consultation with the US State Department delegation
- Breakfast meeting between civil society and CERD members
- Civil society meeting with the UN Deputy High Commissioner of Human Rights
- Indigenous peoples side event with CERD members
- Meeting with US Bureau of Indian Affairs representatives
- US formal review by CERD
- Debrief sessions with civil society and Indigenous peoples caucus The CERD members asked 3 questions that NICWA put forward regarding child welfare. The US State Department delegation provided responses to those 3 questions on record.
In addition, the CERD included recommendations regarding Indigenous child welfare in their concluding remarks.
“24. While acknowledging the steps taken by the State party to recognize the culture and traditions of indigenous peoples, including the support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples announced by President Obama on 16 December 2010, the issuance of Executive Orders 13007 and 13175 and the high-level conferences organized by President Obama with tribal leaders, the Committee remains concerned at: ... (d) The continued and previous removal of indigenous children from their families and communities through the United States child welfare system;
Recalling its general recommendation No. 23 (1997) on indigenous peoples, the Committee calls upon the State party to: ... (d) Effectively implement and enforce the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 to halt the removal of indigenous children from their families and communities....”
NICWA’s participation in this meeting was highly successful. I have no doubt that our issues made it into the questions and the final observations because of our successful in-person advocacy in Geneva. Terry Cross and I took every opportunity to speak to both the CERD members and the US delegation representatives to talk about why the issue of the removal of Indigenous children was so important and how that removal violated the rights of the Indigenous children. In addition to the recommendations outlined in the NICWA shadow report and executive summary, NICWA also discussed cross-border issues. Indigenous children from Canada, Mexico and South America often have families and communities located in the US, but are not recognized as American Indian and therefore are unable to access services under the Indian Child Welfare Act. This issue was raised with the CERD members as well as the US delegation as an area that requires more information and attention.
Preventing the unnecessary removal of Indigenous children from their families and communities is a global issue. Canada, Australia, and, now, the US all have recommendations from the CERD committee regarding the issue of Indigenous child removal. It is recognized that much of the work must occur domestically. NICWA will continue to advocate in both domestic and international mechanisms. The results from this CERD session are satisfactory and have provided the beginnings of an international record of recommendations that the US is required to report on in the future and make domestic efforts to remedy.
I would like to acknowledge the financial contributions of the Greenberg Chair (Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa), the Ontario Office of the Provincial Child Advocate, Incominidios, USHRN and Isabel Metcalfe. Without their contributions, I would not have been able to attend in person.