Mowat v. Canada – The difference costs make to access to justice and the human rights culture in Canada
By Kerri A. Froc, CBA Staff Lawyer, Equality and Law Reform
In December 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada took up the question of whether complainants who have proven discrimination should receive their legal costs as compensable “expenses” in human right proceedings.
The Equality Effect’s (e2) 160 Girls Project: Working on a global basis to improve equality for women
By Kim Bernhardt, Grant & Bernhardt (in association), Toronto
In February of this year I found myself in a room in Nairobi, Kenya with about 20 of my fellow female lawyers - some, like me, had travelled from Canada while others were from Ghana, Malawi, and Kenya.
Maintaining the fragile balance: Ensuring representation under the B.C. Mental Health Act
By Melina Buckley
The lack of sufficient legal aid funding in B.C. makes it much harder to guarantee adequate legal representation to persons who have been certified under the Mental Health Act and whose committal to a mental health facility is being reviewed by an independent review panel.
Engaging in the contours of the feminist debate about sex work
By Hannah McGechie, Master's of Social Work candidate, Carleton University
On September 28, 2010, Ontario Superior Court Justice Susan Himel ruled that sections 210, 212(1)(j) and 213(1)(c) of the Criminal Code of Canada were unconstitutional and threatened the safety of sex workers.
Survey of LGBTTQ lawyers in Canada
By Ed Montigny, Past Chair, SOGIC
A survey to be prepared by SOGIC (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Conference of the CBA) will provide a better understanding of the basic demographics of LGBTTQ lawyers.
New useful tools for “doing” equality - Current work by the Standing Committee on Equality
By Rebecca Bromwich, CBA Staff Lawyer, Equality and Law Reform
It is rare for people to make the leap from talking about equality to shifting cultural and systemic institutional practices to make the kind of substantive inclusion happen that would make realization of equality possible.
Power in naming; Efficacy in planning: The new formal mandate of the Standing Committee on Equality
By Aleem Bharmal and Rebecca Bromwich
At the August 2010 CLC in Niagara, the Board of Directors adopted a new Path Forward for Equality that sets forward a strategic plan for coordinated equality initiatives across Sections, Conference and Committees of the CBA.
Young Women in Law: New organization offers “outside the box” events to young female lawyers
By Laura Baron, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP
Launched in the fall of 2008 by a group of 10 young women practicing law in Toronto, Young Women in Law was founded to provide a forum for young women lawyers to meet, network and explore issues unique to their subset of the profession.
Mowat v. Canada – The difference costs make to access to justice and the human rights culture in Canada
By Kerri A. Froc
Laws, like houses, lean on one another.
At my family cabin on East Trout Lake in northern Saskatchewan, we are surrounded by the spindly jack pine trees made famous by Canadian artists like Tom Thomson. While the trees look tough, tall and weather-beaten, they are actually quite delicate. Because they are rooted in sandy soil, they rely on other trees for support. Start removing trees, other trees lose their support, the soil starts to erode into the lake, and the entire forest may come down. It was for that reason that my parents and others, fought plans to clear-cut areas of the forest in the 1990s.
Human rights laws, too, may look sturdy, having been with us since the end of World War II. Saskatchewan enacted the first bill of human rights in North America1, however, the human right system in Canada has recently been battered with allegations that it consists of “kangaroo courts” or “star chambers,” where proceedings are slanted against respondents.2 The creeping erosion of the human rights culture in which these laws are rooted is starting to have an effect. A number of jurisdictions are contemplating sending human rights complaints directly to court or siphoning them off into private labour arbitrations.3
It is against this landscape that the case of Canadian Human Rights Commission, et al. v. Attorney General of Canada (Mowat) appears. In December 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments from a human rights complainant, the government, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and various interveners on this question: should complainants who have proven discrimination receive their legal costs as compensable “expenses” in human right proceedings? At issue in Mowat is the interpretation of section 53(2)(c) of the Canadian Human Rights Act4, which provides:
53(2) If at the conclusion of the inquiry the member or panel finds that the complaint is substantiated, the member or panel may, subject to section 54, make an order against the person found to be engaging or to have engaged in the discriminatory practice...
(c) that the person compensate the victim for any or all of the wages that the victim was deprived of and for any expenses incurred by the victim as a result of the discriminatory practice
The interpretation of this provision, which explicitly applies only to complainants with substantiated findings of discrimination, raises issues regarding the consideration of formal equality (the concern about the “fairness” of a “one-sided” costs regime) and the application of access to justice as an unwritten constitutional principle in statutory interpretation. How constitutional values are used in statutory interpretation is a significant question in Mowat, as it concerns quasi-constitutional human rights legislation.
Formal equality arguments are facially appealing. We assume Parliament legislates fairly, and so a manifestly “one-sided” regime presumably would not have been countenanced. However, we also assume that Parliament respects the Constitution when it legislates, and thus there is an imperative to dig deeper than superficial formal equality arguments. Therefore, we must also ask, does permitting the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to award costs to complainants advance substantive equality and the principle of access to justice under the Rule of Law? Does denying a costs award jurisdiction inhibit these constitutional values?
Read the full article
Kerri Froc is a Staff Lawyer, Equality and Law Reform, in the CBA National Office.
1 Saskatchewan Bill of Rights Act, S.S. 1947, c. 35
2 To name but one example of a media article which categorize human rights proceedings in this way, see David Warren, “The Show Trial Begins” (June 4, 2008) Ottawa Citizen, online.
3 Sheilagh Day, “Canada’s Human Rights Institutions At Risk,” (July 28, 2010) Women’s Court of Canada, online. Most recently, the Saskatchewan legislature passed Bill 160, which abolishes the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal.
4 R.S. 1985, C. H-6 (CHRA)
By Kim Bernhardt
In February of this year I found myself in a room in Nairobi, Kenya with about 20 of my fellow female lawyers – some, like me, had travelled from Canada while others were from Ghana, Malawi, and Kenya. Our group also included a simpatico male Ghanaian colleague, a couple of Kenyan social workers, some law students, a judge and three journalists/videographers /photographers who recorded the proceedings. We were drawn by a shared passion to end the violence and rape that was regularly being perpetrated against girls across Kenya, and in particular girls living around Kenya’s Meru district.
The plan, known as the 160 Girls project, is to use the law to provide girls with legal protection from defilement, the term used in the Kenyan Sexual Offences Act (SFA) for the rape of a girl under the age of 18 years. We aim to accomplish this by researching, developing, and implementing a test case, seeking a legal remedy ordering the state to enforce existing Kenyan law to protect girls from sexual violence.
Who are the ‘160 Girls?’
In March 2008 a Kenyan study reported that 165 children are defiled every month in Kenya and that defilement incidents are on the rise; other sources state that most of these incidents are cases involving incestuous defilement. Girl victims are often orphans whose parents have died of AIDS and they are vulnerable to abuse from extended family members as well as from strangers. Their vulnerability is compounded by the misconception that having sex with a virgin is a cure for HIV/AIDS. The epidemic of girl child rape leaves these young girls at increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS themselves. The misconceived HIV/AIDS belief increases the vulnerability of particularly young girls – from under 1 to 10 years of age.
In 2010 the Equality Effect’s Canadian Executive Director, Fiona Sampson (BA; MA; LL.B.; PhD) met Mercy Chidi Ogbonna, Program Director Ripples International, and these two female powerhouses decided that they had to work together to put an end to the practice of defilement. Ripples International provides services to a number of girls from the Meru area who have been victims of defilement – including counselling, shelter and medical intervention. “160 Girls” refers to the number of girls who had been defiled and were receiving assistance from Ripples at the time Fiona and Mercy met. It is a nominal number, new cases are brought to Ripples on a continuous basis and some of the girls have died (from AIDS and/or injuries suffered).
Who we are and why do we need to do this? A matter of human rights.
The 160 Girls is but one of the projects that is being conducted by the equality effect, which is a non-profit, charitable organization that uses international human rights law in creative ways to transform the lives of women and girls in Africa, in particular Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. Formerly known as the African and Canadian Women’s Human Rights Project (ACWHRP), e2 utilizes an international network of human rights advocates to improve and expand upon the Canadian experience in advancing legal remedies to address violence against women. The 160 Girls project is being done in partnership with Ripples International and the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) – Kenya. All three of the organizations (e2, Ripples, and FIDA-Kenya) will partner to develop and implement litigation to stop the practice of girl defilement in Kenya.
The project is informed by the Canadian experience using the law, in particular in promoting substantive equality and feminist legal theory to advance women’s human rights. Defilement is a form of sexual violence - it is categorical and group-based. Boys are not frequently subjected to rape. Girls occupy a disadvantaged status as the targets and victims of defilement. Rape and the fear of rape function as a mechanism of social control over women, enabling men to assert dominance over women/girls and maintain the existing system of gender stratification. Rape, including girls’ defilement, operates as both a symbol and reality of women’s subordinate social status to men. The victims of defilement are children. Power imbalances between adult rapists and child victims place children, especially girl children, in an even more vulnerable position. It is a form of sex discrimination, as well as discrimination against children; defilement is a social practice that harms girls as girls, both because they are young and female. The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that sexual harassment is used to “underscore women’s difference from, and by implication, inferiority with respect to the male dominant group” and to remind women of their inferior ascribed status. The same is true of other forms of sexual assault, including girls’ defilement.
What are we doing? The legal challenge.
In Kenya the laws, including criminal, civil, and constitutional, already exist to provide protection from defilement. The problem is with enforcement – charges are not regularly laid against the perpetrators, and when they are the investigation and prosecution of the cases are ineffective. The objective of the project is to secure a court order that the state must enforce the existing laws to protect girls from rape. The project aims to have the state’s failure to enforce existing criminal law provisions relating to girls’ rape recognized as sex discrimination, which would be a violation of the state’s obligations under domestic, regional and international law. The legal recognition of sexual violence as a form of sex discrimination by Kenyan courts would establish a valuable precedent as well as reduce this and other egregious forms of violence against girls/women.
How and when is this project happening?
As a non-profit endeavour, the 160 project relies upon fundraising from organizations and individuals. To date we have achieved some success which has allowed us to get started. This answers the question about what we were doing in Nairobi in February. Research has been started, team members have been identified, and we spent four days making decisions about what legal strategy to employ and what the next steps should be. As with most legal challenges, it will take some time to launch the law suit, but we are on our way. There has been fantastic support from many quarters, in particular human rights advocates from many countries. If you haven’t already heard of us or attended one of our events, your chance to do so still awaits you. Step one – to learn more about us and/or get involved (donations are most welcome) please visit The Equality Effect website.
Kim Bernhardt practises with the firm of Grant & Bernhardt (in association) in Toronto.
The article below was adapted by Aleem S. Bharmal from a paper of the same title authored by Melina Buckley
This article deals with the lack of sufficient Legal Aid funding in B.C. necessary to provide adequate legal representation to persons who have been certified under the Mental Health Act (“MHA”) and whose committal to a mental health facility is being reviewed by an independent review panel. Fundamental interests are at stake in these proceedings because the panel has the power to decide whether a person will continue to be detained and whether medical treatment can continue without actual consent (consent is “deemed” under the MHA). These proceedings engage the right to liberty and to physical and psychological integrity, two of the foundational human rights to which we accord a high level of constitutional protection.
Since 2004, there has been a clear trend in B.C. of increased demand for representation services before review panels and the number of more complex extended leave hearings has also been on the rise. Funding for these services by the Legal Services Society, which oversees Legal Aid funding in B.C., has not kept pace with the increased demand for services. The impact of this underfunding is that over the past couple of years over 750 requests for representation at review panel hearings have had to be refused.
The MHA authorizes civil commitment to a designated facility if two physicians certify that the individual meets the criteria for civil commitment, namely that “the patient requires care, supervision and control in or through a designated facility to prevent the patient's substantial mental or physical deterioration or for the protection of the patient or others” (s. 22(3)(c)(ii)).
The addition of “substantial mental or physical deterioration” in 1999 significantly expanded the scope of civil commitment. The broader reach of the current legislation enhances the need for an effective and prompt form of review. While the previous standard of a risk to self or others has been upheld as constitutional, this broader standard has not yet been subject to Charter scrutiny by the courts. In upholding the previous civil commitment standard, Justice Donald specifically referred to the availability of "ready advice and representation" as a key safeguard for the civilly committed individual1.
A review panel's task is to determine whether the criteria for civil commitments are still met. The panel should consider all reasonably available information concerning the patient's history of mental illness including hospitalization for treatment and compliance with medications, and must make an assessment as to whether “there is a significant risk that the patient, if discharged, will as a result of mental disorder fail to follow [his/her] the treatment plan” necessary to minimize the possibility of re-commitment. (s. 25(2.1))
The unrepresented individual may have little knowledge of the standard to be applied or the issues to be considered by the review panel. Such an individual may not be able to assess whether witnesses would be helpful or what evidence is most useful to the panel. For example, the unrepresented individual may not know that the panel will put significant weight on discharge plans in reaching its decision. The unrepresented individual may have less opportunity to develop such a plan prior to the hearing. The unrepresented individual may also have difficulty accessing his or her medical records prior to the hearing.
The Guidelines for Case Presentations at Mental Health Review Panel Hearings (provided by Review Panel Office) give an idea of the complexity of the information that may be necessary at the Review Panel hearings:
... the review panel needs information about the patient's history both as an inpatient and outpatient. Panels often receive more information in one category than the other. Case presenters for hearings that inpatient facilities often present detailed historical information about the current and previous hospitalizations at that facility. And case presenters for hearings at outpatient facilities with patients on extended leave often present detailed historical information about compliance with community treatment plans at that facility. But in both situations the patient history information presented at the hearing in regard to treatment at other facilities may be quite limited. Panel members routinely have questions about the information case presenters give them. In order to help the panel members ensure that they are properly considering all reasonable available evidence, all relevant medical and nursing notes (including "old charts") should be accessible to the case presenter during the hearing. In some cases it may be necessary to adjourn the hearing if information is missing which appears to be crucial. For example, if the hearing is at an inpatient facility for a patient recalled from extended leave, the panel's ability to reach a sound decision may depend substantially on having at least a summary of known previous hospitalizations and outpatient facility information on compliance with community treatment plans.... panel members will be interested in knowing the available information in the patient's records concerning the patient's history of both voluntary and involuntary hospital admissions and compliance with treatment plants in the community.
It is very difficult for a patient to access and be prepared to respond to such a wide range of evidence. When one considers that such a patient is likely to have a mental illness and also be medicated at the time of the panel hearing, the need for some sort of advocate increases exponentially. As the LSS Quantitative Analysis of the Mental Health Law Program concluded, "the clients of MHLP are the most challenging of clients in B.C. with mental health problems".
Continuing detention has very serious consequences for people committed under the MHA, affecting their quality of life, their family relationships, and their ability to earn income. Due to inadequate funding, there are presently hundreds of unrepresented patients who face the untenable option of representing themselves while medicated and without adequate knowledge or preparation or of postponing the opportunity to find workable solutions to allow them to regain their liberty. Neither option is acceptable.
Melina Buckley is a lawyer and legal policy consultant in Vancouver, working primarily in the areas of constitutional law, human rights and access to justice.
Aleem Bharmal is Chair of the Standing Committee on Equality.
1 McCorkell v. Riverview Hospital (Director)  B.C.J. No. 1518 (S.C.) at para 71.
Engaging in the contours of the feminist debate about sex work
By Hannah McGechie
On September 28, 2010, Ontario Superior Court Justice Susan Himel ruled that sections 210, 212(1)(j) and 213(1)(c) of the Criminal Code of Canada were unconstitutional and threatened the safety of sex workers. This ruling came out of a Charter challenge launched by Terri Jean Bedford, Valerie Scott and Amy Lebovitch. The challenge followed on the heels of unsuccessful Charter challenges (one in 1988 and the next in 1991) that argued that the Criminal Code of Canada violates many of the constitutional rights of sex workers, including freedom of expression, freedom of association, liberty, security of the person, sex equality and the presumption of innocence.
Himel’s ruling was met with both celebration and outrage, and was stayed until April and then June, 2011 in order to give the Federal Government of Canada time to put together an appeal. The Federal Government submitted their appeal in March, 2011, arguing that the state does not owe sex workers a promise of safety if they choose a professional that is fraught with danger. They will appear in the Ontario Court of Appeal in June, 2011.
If the stay on Himel’s ruling is lifted, sections 210 (keeping or being found in a common bawdy house), 212(1)(j) (living wholly or in part on the avails of prostitution of another person) and 213(1)(c) (stopping or attempting to stop any person or in any manner communicating or attempting to communicate with any person for the purpose of engaging in prostitution or of obtaining the sexual services of a prostitute) will be of no force or effect in Ontario. The argument that Himel makes her in ruling and that several interveners also make is that these sections of the Criminal Code of Canada make it incredibly difficult for sex workers to work safely. This line of argument posits that when communication for the purposes of prostitution is illegal, sex workers are unable to spend much time assessing the safety of potential clients and situations for fear of getting caught by the police. Similarly, it posits that when it is illegal for sex workers to work together or in a fixed indoor location, they end up working in more isolated and unfamiliar settings where help is not readily available if it is needed.
Debates about sex work, its legality and its morality have simmered in public, legal, academic and feminist communities for years and Himel’s ruling has brought these tensions to the forefront. Sex workers tend to be discussed as if they are part of a dichotomy: some people argue that the exchange of sex for money is inherently degrading for women as it is perceived to be a commodification and objectification of women’s bodies while others argue that engaging in sex work gives women complete control over their bodies and sexuality, and that this engagement is actually incredibly empowering. Somewhere in between (or beyond) this dichotomy is those who note that all choices are made within personal contexts of options, needs and supports, and that sex work is no different.
When engaging in the contours of feminist debates around sex work and Himel’s ruling, there are three areas that we must consider. The first is the ways in which sex workers are socially constructed (both in public, legal and feminist discourses) and how this interacts with their lived realities. The second is what it looks like to make choices – including choices to engage in sex work - from positions of marginalization and vulnerability. The third is how we can promote the safety and equality of women.
When discussing the social constructions of sex workers, the construction of sex workers in public spaces is of particular interest as only a fraction of sex work in Canada occurs outdoors in these public spaces (estimates are between 10-20%) but this type of sex work is the focus of both public and legal discourses on sex work in general. When we examine the history of prostitution laws in Canada, we see that those engaging in street-based sex work tend to have more marginalized identities (poor, racialized, struggling with addiction) than those working indoors, and they also constitute the largest group targeted by police and the legal system. There is also a popular idea that sex workers are disease ridden and the product of histories of trauma. In reality, the rates of STIs, HIV/AIDS and experiences of abuse and trauma are the same among sex workers as in the general population. Of those involved in street-level sex work, the rates are comparable to others who are street-engaged but not involved in sex work.
When we talk about choice and sex work, our public discourses tend to focus on the reasons why women enter the sex trade, and not on why they stay in it: we question why a woman would ever want to begin to engage in sex work and conclude that she would not. We question whether a woman who is living in poverty, experiencing many forms of discrimination and struggling with addiction is possibly capable of making choices – any choices – in her life. These are all valid questions, but we also need to look at why women continue to engage in sex work, what benefits they get from this engagement, what it is like to make choices from positions of marginalization and vulnerability, what power we hold as privileged outsiders commenting on these women’s capacity to make choices, and the connections that can be made between the pro-choice movement and sex workers’ autonomy over their own bodies.
The question running through all of these discussions is whether Justice Himel’s ruling actually does promote the safety and equality of women. Many researchers several reviews of Canada’s prostitution laws (including those by Parliamentary Committees) support Himel’s ruling, stating that the construction and social/legal treatment of sex workers not only does not meet their needs but in fact creates a context of violence. They suggest that there is a link between sex workers being held responsible for any harm that comes to them because of their choices to engage in sex work and the increased rates of violence against them that we have witnessed in Canada beginning in the early 1980s. Indeed, the Federal Government’s argument that the state and the law do not have a responsibility for the safety of sex workers is very problematic from a feminist perspective as it smacks of victim blaming. It is also highly problematic from a legal perspective as engaging in prostitution in Canada is not actually illegal and s. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives everyone the right to security of the person.
The June hearings in the Ontario Court of Appeal will not offer a resolution to the feminist debate about sex work, but it will provide a context for a tremendous amount of critical reflection and engagement in the lived realities of sex workers in Canada.
Hannah McGechie is a Master's of Social Work candidate at Carleton University where her research focuses on therapeutic jurisprudence in Canadian criminal courts. She has done support and advocacy work with street-level sex workers in Ottawa for the past five years, and is currently conducting a research project about the impact of release conditions on criminalized sex workers.
Survey of LGBTTQ Lawyers in Canada
By Ed Montigny
SOGIC (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Conference of the Canadian Bar Association) is preparing to conduct a detailed survey of lesbian, gay, trans-gendered, two-spirited, queer lawyers in Canada. The Canadian Bar Association has provided funding to SOGIC to help establish this survey project and create a survey advisory committee composed of lawyers from across Canada.
As with similar surveys of minority groups within the legal profession, the goal is to gain a better understanding of the basic demographics of LGBTTQ lawyers (i.e., who are we, where are we, are there any patterns as far as distribution by geographic location, age, gender, area of practice, type of practice) as well as the interests and needs of this population.
The survey may also help to address long-standing questions relating to the equality of LGBTTQ lawyers in the profession, providing data as well as qualitative information to support discussions about being out in the profession, concerns about the impact of sexuality on career prospects, and the effects of geographic location on such issues.
It is clear that increasing numbers of openly LGBTTQ lawyers are very active within professional associations such as the CBA and provincial bar associations. Their sexual orientation does not seem to prevent them from being willing or able to serve their profession. At the same time, anecdotal evidence suggests that at least a portion of LGBTTQ lawyers feel their careers would suffer if their employers knew of their sexual orientation, or that their orientation or identity could affect their clients negatively. How widespread are these views? Are they more likely to affect lawyers’ choices in different areas of practice or regions? What can be done to address such dynamics, and to enable all LGBTTQ lawyers feel welcome within the profession for who they are? And what effect do intersecting factors such as racialization, sex, gender identity, family status, and disability have on LGBTTQ lawyers?
These are the questions the SOGIC survey seeks to address. There are obvious challenges related to obtaining information from a relatively “invisible” minority, particularly from those individuals who feel it necessary to hide their sexual orientation or identity in the workplace. Nevertheless, gathering information is a first step to obtaining a fuller understanding of the circumstances, needs, and opinions of an important minority within the legal profession.
The first goal of this project is to secure major funding to allow social science researchers to design and implement a national survey and analyse the results, and the second goal will be to make recommendations to the CBA on what policies might be appropriate. The committee will advise on the research process and will frame final recommendations to the CBA.
Under the guidance of Professor Kathy Lahey of Queen’s University, Faculty of Law, the SOGIC project committee recently prepared and submitted its first grant applications. Two members of the national group Law Society Equity Advisors have joined the advisory committee, and discussions are under way as to what forms of the various provincial law societies can provide to the project.
The survey is scheduled to begin in 2012. At that time, members of the legal profession will be encouraged to support this project by helping to distribute and promote the survey and encouraging lawyers to complete it to ensure that as many LGBTTQ members of the legal profession as possible respond. As with earlier projects, such as the Touchstone Report, this survey is an opportunity for all members of the legal profession to learn more about each other and ourselves for the betterment of the profession as a whole.
Ed Montigny is a past chair of SOGIC National, Vice Chair of the Administrative Law Section (OBA), member of the Equal Opportunity Committee (OBA) and a new member of the CBA Legal Aid Liaison Committee.
(Previously published in the October 2009 issue of Briefly Speaking, the official magazine of the Ontario Bar Association)
New useful tools for “doing” equality - Current work by the Standing Committee on Equality
By Rebecca Bromwich
Few people in Canada, and especially few lawyers, do not understand the value of talking about the importance of equality, equity and diversity to our country and to the legal profession. The terms equality and, especially, diversity, have become ubiquitous in our language. They are on firm websites, strategic plans, and recruitment brochures.
It is more difficult, and more rare, for people to make the leap from talking about equality to shifting cultural and systemic institutional practices to make the kind of substantive inclusion happen that would make realization of equality possible.
The reinvigorated commitment to Equality across the CBA is a commitment to deeds, not just words. Accordingly, the Standing Committee on Equality in consultation with staff lawyers, equality and law reform Kerri Froc and myself, is working on two equality projects this year.
The Measuring Diversity Toolkit provides resources for firms seeking to determine how they are doing. A PDF publication developed by the SCE in consultation with firm leaders, academics and others that provides concrete ways in which diversity can be measured by firms so that they can confidentially and confidently self-assess areas of strength and areas in which work needs to be done.
The RARE Finds project addresses the ongoing problems of retention, a lack of advancement opportunities, and career-re-entry for lawyers from marginalized groups. The project goes beyond just talking about problems. It provides resources for firm leadership seeking to manage their talent in inclusive ways. It provides resources for lawyers from vulnerable or marginalized groups seeking to build their careers and surmount systemic obstacles in constructive ways. It also provides resources and links to support for lawyers who are seeking to re-enter the legal profession after a period of absence, especially if that absence was in relation to care for children or a disabled or older dependent.
Also featured in the RARE Finds project website are profiles of CBA members’ success stories. The project provides concrete models of how cultural change within the legal profession is happening, and shows ways in which progress toward equality and diversity within the profession is being made in a manner that is sustainable and profitable.
The RARE Finds website will be released in advance of the 2011 Canadian Legal Conference and a draft of the Measuring Diversity resource will be available for consultation discussions at the CLC.
These projects are new ways in which the Standing Committee on Equality of the CBA is working hard not to just talk about equality, but to facilitate and showcase good work as Canada’s legal profession takes on the challenge of doing meaningful equality work.
Rebecca Bromwich is a Staff Lawyer, Equality and Law Reform in the CBA National Office.
By Aleem Bharmal and Rebecca Bromwich
In an oft-quoted passage, from “Romeo and Juliet,” Juliet says: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Juliet wasn’t a long-term planner. In fact, it mattered a great deal that Romeo was a Capulet.
Feminist writer Mary Daly, in Towards a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation in 1973, highlighted the importance of names. She contended that the “power of naming” and the power to define oneself and one’s goals are fundamental underpinnings of strategic success in political and social empowerment.
At the August 2010 CLC in Niagara, the Board of Directors adopted a new Path Forward for Equality that sets forward a strategic plan for coordinated initiatives in furtherance of equality across Sections, Conference and Committees of the CBA. Crafted by Kerri Froc and Rebecca Bromwich, the CBA’s equality and law reform staff lawyers, the plan offers a roadmap for enhancing equality in the legal profession over the next five years.
Defining the SCE’s mandate clearly is an important dimension of our Path Forward for planned, concerted, strategic and deliberate advancement of an agenda for equality in the profession. Part of our plan to enhance and solidify CBA’s role as a key player and thought leader with respect to equality in the legal profession is brand integration. The word “equality” is used throughout CBA documentation and was the term historically used for the Standing Committee at the time it was brought into being by resolutions adopted after the tabling of Madam Justice Bertha Wilson’s Touchstones Report.
Accordingly, at Midwinter Council in Charlevoix, Quebec, SCE Chair Aleem Bharmal and member Roch Fournier put forward a motion to formalize the mandate of the Standing Committee and also to change its name to the more consistent “Standing Committee on Equality” to bring our terminology back into accord with that used in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the substantive equality jurisprudence that has developed under it with respect to Section 15.
With a clear mandate and a reinvigorated name, the CBA Standing Committee on Equality is better placed to achieve our goals of equality in the legal profession and enhanced empowerment for lawyers who are also members of marginalized social groups.
Aleem Bharmal is Chair of the Standing Committee on Equality. Rebecca Bromwich is a CBA Staff Lawyer, Equality and Law Reform, CBA National Office.
Young Women in Law: New organization offers “outside the box” events to young female lawyers
By Laura Baron
Launched in the fall of 2008 by a group of 10 young women practicing law in Toronto, Young Women in Law (YWL) was founded to provide a forum for young women lawyers to meet, network and explore issues unique to their subset of the profession. So far the non-profit has been a smashing success.
At the launch party on November 16, 2010, more than 200 women came out for cocktails and conversation at Brassaii in downtown Toronto. Sue Gaudi, VP General Counsel for the Globe and Mail gave the keynote address, and a suit drive provided gently worn work wear to The Redwood Women's Shelter.
On February 2, 2011, Fasken Martineau hosted YWL for a networking workshop led by career coach and consultant Sheena MacAskill.
Most recently, on April 26, 2011, the Marsden Group and Toronto boutique TNT hosted approximately 50 YWL'ers for wine, cheese and a practical seminar on how to make key wardrobe pieces work to your best advantage. Take away lessons?
- invest in high quality, versatile pieces that will transition from day to night, and stay current for years to come, such as a classic black pantsuit or a sleeveless, neutral coloured work dress
- use accessories and season-specific fabrics to adapt classic staple pieces for use over the entire year
- every professional woman needs a great black pant suit, a great cocktail dress and a great blazer - with the right basics the options are endless and you will always have the right look for the occasion.
In coming months, look out for a financial planning event geared towards young women lawyers establishing an investment portfolio, and a professional development event tailored to women in the early stages of their careers.
YWL promises to provide a fresh take on legal networking and responding to the issues facing women new to the profession.
Laura Baron is an associate in the Toronto office of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP.