Chair's Report 2009-2010

Posted on Thursday, December 30, 2010

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 related 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.

2009-2010 was the third year of Professor Martha Jackman’s term as Greenberg Chair.

Annual Activities of the Shirley E. Greenberg Chair in 2009-2010

Shirley E. Greenberg Lecture Series

The 2009-2010 Greenberg Lecture series was again a great success, drawing a monthly overflow audience of students, professors and members of the general public, who were treated to a sandwich lunch and a stimulating presentation by members of the law school’s feminist teaching faculty.
 
This year, the Greenberg Lecture Series included the following presentations:

Oct. 7 – Professor Jennifer Chandler, ‘The Relationships Between Law, Technology and Equality’ (joint Greenberg/Technology Law Lecture Series)

Oct. 28 – Professor Nathalie Chalifour, ‘A Feminist Perspective on Carbon Taxes/Les taxes sur le carbone: une perspective féministe’ (Joint Greenberg/Environmental Law Lecture Series)

Nov. 4 – Professor Lucie Lamarche, ‘Promouvoir la justice sociale à l’heure des droits humains/This is a Faculty of Law and Human Rights are Rights: Where Does Social Justice Fit?’ (Joint Greenberg/Social Justice Lecture Series)

Nov. 11 – Professor Kathryn Trevenen, ‘From Hip Hop to Human Rights: Lesbians Queer the Mike’

Jan. 6 – Professor Joanne St. Lewis & Professor Assumpta Naniwe, ‘Enjeux et défies de la participation de la femme burundaise aux élections’

Feb. 17 – Professor Maggie Chon, ‘Global Intellectual Property Intersectionality” (Joint Greenberg/Technology Law Lecture Series)

Feb. 24 – Professor Angela Cameron, ‘Restorative Justice and Intimate Violence: Gender, Power and Justice’

Mar. 3 – Professor Doris Buss, ‘Is International Law Feminist?’ (joint Greenberg/International Law Lecture Series)

 

Law Student Research Assistantship

During the summer of 2009, the Greenberg Chair sponsored a student summer research assistant position, filled by second year law student Meagan Lepage.  Ms. Lepage’s research project involved the creation of an extensive annotated bibliography of traditional and web-based sources on women’s rights in relation to the environment, health and reproduction and HIV/AIDS, violence (both conflict and domestic violence), customary law and legal pluralism, religion, international law, international development, feminism, socio-economic rights, property and inheritance laws, child rights, the media, and useful case law and legislation. The bibliography was created in support of a new project in the Human Rights Centre at the Faculty of Law (POWER Africa/Canada), designed to assist Canadian equality rights experts and to provide information and support to women in Africa to engage in their own advocacy initiatives, law reform and litigation.

In reporting on her experience Ms. Lepage stated:

“The research position was certainly an interesting and worthwhile experience. I was able to further develop my legal research and editing skills, and to gain insight into a field of the law I hope to one day work in. The knowledge base I acquired from completing the research will be an advantage in further studies on the subject of women’s rights.  The research assistant position has not only reinforced my desire to work in the development field with a focus on women’s and children’s rights, but has allowed me to renew my passion for the area of study and the field of international law and human rights. It was a unique experience for a law student, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of the project.”

 

Annual Women’s Alumni Tea & Talk

The annual Tea & Talk for Women Graduates was held on September 26th, in the Quebec Suite at the Fairmont Château Laurier.  Hosted by Greenberg Chair Professor Martha Jackman, this year’s Tea featured guest speaker Michelle Flaherty (LL.B. 1998, Common Law Honour Society, 2008), who spoke about her experiences as a Vice-Chair of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, to which she was appointed in October 2008 following an impressive law practice in the areas of human rights and employment.

While enjoying an afternoon of tea, sweets and lively discussion, women graduates, students and faculty traded news of careers and family, renewed and made new connections, and exchanged anecdotes about their time at the law school. 

 

LEAF Ottawa Persons’ Day Breakfast

On October 17, 2009, LEAF Ottawa held its annual Persons Day Breakfast in the Confederation Ballroom at the Ottawa Westin Hotel.  LEAF Ottawa is the only entirely student-run Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) caucus in Canada, and the members of the LEAF Ottawa executive are all students at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law.  The Greenberg Chair subsidized the cost of 75 tickets, enabling law student to attend the Breakfast for only $10.  The keynote speaker at the Breakfast was Professor Constance Backhouse in recognition of the 80th anniversary of the 1929 ‘Persons Case’ which ruled that women are persons under the law – a momentous step enabling women to participate in all aspects of Canadian public life.

The LEAF Ottawa executive thanked the Greenberg Chair for its support throughout the year, noting the importance of the Chair’s contribution to the success of the LEAF breakfast in particular.

 

First Year Common Law Jane Doe Lecture

On October 27, 2009, the Greenberg Chair sponsored the annual Jane Doe lecture at the law school.

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, which focuses on the sex equality related tort and criminal law issues raised in the case, is attended by all first year law students, as well as by upper year law and women's studies students.  This year’s lecture occupied the Marion Auditorium – one of the largest on campus.

 

Women and the Legal Profession Course

The Greenberg Chair provided funding for release-time to enable Kim Pate, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, to continue co-teaching the ‘Women and the Legal Profession: Defending Battered Women on Trial’ course (CML 3374D) with Professor Elizabeth Sheehy in the Winter 2009 semester.  Professors Sheehy and Pate’s course 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.

 

Other Activities of the Shirley E. Greenberg Chair in 2009-2010

Reception in honour of Professor Catherine MacKinnon

On June 13, 2009 the Greenberg Chair hosted a reception and informal discussion in the Panorama Room of the National Arts Centre with Dr. Catherine MacKinnon, Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School, in honour of Dr. MacKinnon being awarded an honorary doctorate in law from the University of Ottawa at the Spring 2009 Convocation.  Some three dozen women faculty members and graduates had an opportunity to meet with Dr. MacKinnon and to hear her discuss her groundbreaking feminist legal scholarship and law reform efforts, including in her most recent work applying feminist legal theory in the area of international criminal law and practice.

 

Critical Torts book

The book Critical Torts, edited by Professors Sanda Rodgers, Rakhi Ruparelia and Louise Bélanger-Hardy was published by Lexis-Nexis.  The book, which originated as a Greenberg Lecture during Professor Rodgers’ tenure as Greenberg Chair, engages with various issues in Canadian tort law from a critical perspective, and includes assessments of the tort law response to institutional abuse, the treatment of welfare benefits in damages calculations, tort law remedies for environmental degradation to aboriginal lands, racial discrimination and racist defamation, wrongful birth actions and the impact of disability discrimination, mental distress as tort damage, the use of tort law in claims of torture and responses to sexual violence.  The collection provides a snapshot of the potential and limitations of tort law as a progressive force for social change.

Pursuant to the publication agreement between Professor Rodgers and Lexis-Nexis, the royalty payments forCritical Torts, in the amount of $5,952 for 2009-2010, were deposited to the Greenberg Chair account.

 

Feminist Legal Activism at Fifty : Critical Reflections/50 ans d’activisme féministe en droit : réflexions critiques

On May 13 & 14, 2009, the Greenberg Chair hosted a major national symposium on the theme: “Feminist Legal Activism at Fifty: Critical Reflections/50 ans d’activisme féministe en droit: réflexions critiques.” The symposium, which took place in the 12th floor conference room at Desmarais Hall on the University of Ottawa campus, attracting an overflow audience of over 100 feminist legal academics, lawyers, activists and law students from across Canada, marked the retirement of Professor Sanda Rodgers and Professor Sheila McIntyre from the Faculty of Law.  The objectives of event were described in the invitation to the Symposium panellists as follows:

Our hope is that this gathering will allow feminists, primarily of Sanda and Sheila’s generation, to reflect on the last five decades of legal activism with an eye to reclaiming the best of what was achieved and how it was accomplished and to exploring what we should build upon or fight to save.  We are interested in what may be forgotten or overlooked or unknown about that history; what we would wish to bequeath to current and future generations of feminist activists; what we understood to be feminist in the struggles we undertook; what should and shouldn’t count as an achievement, what is worth celebrating. Many of us have been documenting, critically analyzing and resisting the dismantling, de-funding and depoliticizing of the institutions, instruments and jurisprudence feminists fought for over the last five decades. The resulting erosion of equality gains and worsening of inequality domestically and globally is the backdrop for this symposium, but not its topic. Our topic is what we would wish to harvest from five decades of struggle – what processes, what political formations, what mobilizing strategies, what ideas, what jurisprudential building blocks, what pedagogies, what models of leadership and of feminism, what lessons from our failures.  

 

Greenberg Chair, Professor Martha Jackman, welcomed speakers and participants to the Symposium on Thursday night, followed by Professor Rosemary Cairns-Way’s moving performance of section 15 of theCharter as an aria. 

Thursday night’s keynote panel included presentations by pioneering Toronto equality rights lawyer Mary Eberts, on the topic “Cultivating our Gardens and Growing Social Justice: Some Thoughts on Feminism at 50+”; Professor Diana Majury from the Law Department at Carleton University on “Celebrating the Oxymoron of Feminist Administration”; Professor Michèle Caron from the Faculté de droit, Université de Moncton on “Ma fille ne vote pas!”; and Professor Trisha Monture from the University of Saskatchewan on the topic “Activist/Scholar: Race, Space and Academia.”  The keynote panel was followed by a lively reception that lasted well into the evening.

Friday’s events included a 9 h – 10 h 30 panel chaired by Professor Jane Bailey, with Professor Constance Backhouse from the University of Ottawa on “Tracking 50 Years of Feminist History: the Dream”; equality rights lawyer Fiona Sampson on “Feminist Legal Coalition Work – the Value of the Snowball Experience”; Professor Christine Boyle from the Faculty of Law at UBC on “Revisiting the Washrooms: A Right to Group Self-Identification” and Professor Angela Cameron from the University of Ottawa on “Beyond Relationship Recognition and Parental Rights”.

The 10 h 30 – 11 h panel, chaired by Professor Daphne Gilbert, included presentations by 
Professor Louise Langevin, Chaire d’étude Claire-Bonenfant at Laval University on “Poursuites civiles des victimes de violence sexuelle et conjugale : 20 ans d’expérience devant les tribunaux”; Professor Radha Jhappan from the Department of Law at Carleton University on “Ubiquitous Pornification: Lessons form the Post Structuralist Turn”; Professor Janine Benedet from the Faculty of Law at the University of British Columbia on “ Not the Fun Kind: The Cost of Turning Away from Pornography”; and long-time Vancouver anti-violence activist Lee Lakeman on “Law and Prostitution in an Age of Neoliberalism.”

The lunch break provided an opportunity for participants (and others, who sent their well-wishes in written and recorded form) to celebrate of Professors Rodgers and McIntyre’s stellar careers as feminist activists and scholars, moderated by Professor Elizabeth Sheehy. 

The 14 h – 15 h 30 panel, moderated by Professor Gabrielle St-Hilaire, included presentations by Professor Shelley Gavigan from Osgoode Hall Law School on “The Abortion Monologues: On the Legacy of Fragile, Partial and Contradictory Victories”; Professor Rakhi Ruparelia from the University of Ottawa on “Going Postal : Reflecting on Feminism in a ‘Post-Feminist’, ‘Post-Racial’ Era” and by Kim Pate, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies on “Prison Walls: Who do They Protect and Why Should Feminists Care?”

The final 15 h 30 – 16 h panel, moderated by Professor Jennie Abell, included presentations by Professor Margot Young from the University of British Columbia on “Taking Equality Struggles to Court”; housing and equality rights activist Leilani Farha on “Home and Abroad: New Places and Spaces for Women’s Social/Equality Rights”; Vancouver-based women’s equality activist Shelagh Day on “Feminist Ideas of the Canadian Nation”; and Aboriginal equality advocate Sharon McIvor on “Whatever you do for the Least of my Sisters you do for me.”  The Symposium closed with remarks by Professors Sanda Rodgers & Sheila McIntyre.

The Symposium was an enormous success, prompting the suggestion by President Allan Rock to propose that it become an annual University of Ottawa event.  One junior feminist academic expressed her experience as follows: “I returned home to Windsor Friday night contemplating many emotions.  The Feminist Legal Activism Conference was my first exposure to a community of feminist academics, and I left Ottawa invigorated, inspired, in awe.”  The Symposium also generated requests from both the University of Ottawa Press and the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law/Revue Femmes et Droit for panellists to consider publishing their Symposium presentations.

 

Speaking Engagements and other activities by the Greenberg Chair

In her capacity as holder of the Greenberg chair, Professor undertook a number of speaking engagements, including the following:

October, 2009, “L’analyse féministe en droit”, University of Ottawa Graduate Studies in Law Seminar, Ottawa, Ontario.

November, 2009, “Feminist Legal Activism: What Does it Look Like?”, National Association of Women and the Law Young Women’s Invitational Workshop, Ottawa Ontario.

November, 2009, “La Charte et la pauvreté: une maison de carton?”, University of Ottawa Institute of Women’s Studies, Ottawa, Ontario.

 

Proposed projects of the Shirley E. Greenberg Chair for 2010-2011

Proposed Greenberg Chair projects for 2010-2011 include the Greenberg lecture series and other recurring annual activities, as well as a follow-up national symposium on Feminist Legal Activism, planned for May 2011.

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