We are pleased to announce our Spring 2018 Lecture Series. We have a terrific lineup of talks this semester and look forward to seeing you there. All talks are at 12:30 pm in Allard Hall Room 122.
We are pleased to announce the CFLS Fall 2017 Lecture Series. All lectures are open to anyone who wants to attend and they’re all in Room 122 of Allard Hall. We look forward to seeing you there!
Next up is visiting scholar Professor Fiona Kelly giving her talk “Genetic Detectives: Single Mothers by Choice Who make Contact with Their Child’s Sperm or Egg Donor.” Join us on Tuesday, September 26 at 12:30 pm!
Abstract: An increasing number of Australian parents of donor conceived children are making contact with their child’s donor relatives prior to the child reaching the age of majority. This process, referred to as “donor linking”, can be achieved in Australia through statutory mechanisms or informal searching, such as online donor registries, social media searches, and direct-to-consumer genetic testing. Drawing on qualitative interview data, this presentation explores the donor linking practices of 25 single women who conceived using donated gametes.
The findings suggest that donor linking is extremely popular among single women and that many of them attempt to locate their child’s donor when the child is still very young. This presentation considers how the women make contact with their child’s donor, and also raises questions about why donor linking is so popular among single women.
The CFLS would like to congratulate the recipients of the three feminist awards at the Peter A Allard School of Law. These individuals demonstrate their commitment to feminist advocacy through their intellectual and community work.
Hilda Janzen Memorial Award in Feminist Legal Studies
2017 Recipient: Allison Sharkey
Allison Sharkey, entering her 2nd year of the JD program at Allard Hall, is the recipient of the Hilda Janzen Memorial Award in recognition of her substantial contributions to feminist advocacy, scholarship, and community work. Before starting law school, Allison completed a PhD in Anthropology, studying substance use and addiction among young adults. Allison has demonstrated feminist leadership and community involvement while overcoming barriers in accessing and continuing her legal education. By regularly volunteering with the CFLS and bringing feminist critical perspectives to bear on the 1L curriculum, Allison represents the best of the Allard law community, embodying a feminist ethic and advocating for social justice.
Auriol Gurner Young Memorial Award
2017 Recipient: Melanie Begalka
Recognizing her contribution to feminism and law, Melanie Begalka is the recipient of the Auriol Guner Young Memorial Award. Melanie, entering her 3rd year at Allard Hall, was one of the coordinators of the #LawNeedsFeminismBecause campaign in 2016-2017. She has years of experience working with and on behalf of marginalized people, particularly in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. She has been a mental health worker, support worker, and outreach worker for those with acute mental illness, HIV+ women, sex workers, and women with addiction challenges. She has also coordinated the opening of a legal clinic in Vancouver assisting homeless folks to obtain government ID. Melanie embodies the values of Auriol Gurner Young as an active member in the feminist legal community.
Marlee G Kline Essay Prize
2017 Recipient: Carly Teillet
Carly Teillet is Métis from Red River and is the great, great, grand-neice of Louis Riel. She completed her JD from Allard Hall early in December of 2016. Carly has been awarded the Marlee G Kline Essay Prize for her exceptional essay “Invisible in the Spotlight: Aboriginal Women, Embodiment and the Legal Structure.” This award recognizes an exceptional essay that addresses the various intersections between gender, race, class, sexual orientation, and other differentiating characteristics. Carly’s essay critically examines how Aboriginal women’s bodies experience systemic violence from the colonial state and the legal system through the story of Jane’s arrest. She situates Jane’s story and her body within the historic and ongoing colonial structures that construct, control, and discard the bodies of Aboriginal women.
The CFLS is delighted to present a new series of student-authored blog posts on current feminist legal topics. These opinion, editorial-style posts were written by Allard Hall JD and LLM students as part of the Women, Law & Social Change course in 2016-2017.
In October 2016, British Columbia was held to account for its disappointing women’s rights record at the United Nations in Geneva. “British Columbia does not have a women’s rights focal point,” said UN Committee member, Nahla Haidar, at Canada’s periodic review for compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Those who are skeptical about the power of a rights-based approach might see BC’s implementation failure as affirming their position. The ten BC-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that made submissions at Canada’s review would disagree. BC’s pronounced inequality does not reveal the weakness of a rights-based approach; it is the consequence of failing to adopt one.
This week, the BC Liberals held onto their 16-year leadership of the provincial legislature – a period in which multiple regressive policy decisions have adversely impacted BC women. As of 2002, BC is the only Canadian province without a Human Rights Commission. BC has no pay equity law, no employment equity law, and some of the least affordable childcare in Canada. BC has now been without a Human Rights Commission for almost 15 years, meaning that the broad oversight needed to effect structural change has been absent for the same amount of time.
The Commission was formerly tasked with educating the public, inquiring into systemic issues, developing guidelines, and promoting human rights compliance. By asking what systemic obstacles block opportunity for communities, the Commission embodied a rights-based approach.
A rights-based approach turns ‘problems’ into ‘violations’ – the difference being that violations are not inevitable, and do not need to be tolerated. Rights “change the way people perceive themselves vis-à-vis the government and other actors,” calling power structures into question. In these respects, the approach is transformative – and when it comes to systemic discrimination, transformation is what we need.
Today, BC relies on adjudication of individual complaints, with only the Human Rights Tribunal remaining. The Tribunal provides a forum for discrimination complaints to be heard – but in the context of employment, where gender stereotypes are so embedded and power dynamics so imbalanced, there are many factors that deter complainants from coming forward. To this end, the Ontario Human Rights Commission plainly states, “a lack of complaints does not mean there is no problem to address.”
With a glance at today’s statistics, the problem – the compounded effect of countless human rights violations – becomes apparent. The Canadian gendered wage gap is twice the global average at 30%. BC women are even further behind, with the gap widening to 35% provincially. From 2000 to 2010, median income of Canadian women rose by 10.6%. BC made only a 4% gain.
The BC Human Rights Code precludes employers from refusing to hire persons because of their gender or family status – but statistics tell us that discrimination is happening at an increasing rate. Discrimination may be unconscious, as “stereotypical assumptions about women’s abilities, interests and priorities… lead even fair-minded, well-intentioned employers to discriminate against women in the workplace”.
With no employment equity law or programs, BC employers are not required to scrutinize hiring practices to eliminate discriminatory effects, or to challenge ingrained stereotypes by hiring disadvantaged groups in fields where they are underrepresented. As a result, women are funnelled into low-paying, precarious work. 70% of BC’s minimum-wage workers aged 25-54 are women.
With BC lagging so far behind national averages for women’s employment, it is clear that the state of affairs is not the result of one or two poor policy decisions; it is the result of prolonged power imbalance. The rights-based approach identifies problems as “rooted in differences of power, income and assets”. BC has the highest rate of income inequality in Canada, with average household income of the top 1% growing by 36% in the last 10 years, while that of the median remains unchanged. With such pronounced inequality, it is imperative that exploitative power relationships be challenged. This can only happen with the involvement and empowerment of those who are most marginalized.
Fortunately, the United Nations did just that – they involved and empowered 22 Canadian NGOs by hearing their submissions at the 2016 CEDAW review. Typically, underfunded NGOs face barriers that limit access to such global institutions while “representatives of private capital generally enjoy unfettered access to the decision-making table”. With funding from Status of Women Canada, as well as other research grants, the voices of marginalized Canadians were heard.
During the review, the BC CEDAW Group was pleased to hear the Committee press Canada on provincial issues of single mothers’ poverty and sub-par human rights enforcement. Canada’s federal structure was also addressed. “In treaty obligations, the obligation rests with the state party regardless of the constitutional order of the state” said the Committee. The Committee proceeded to ask for “a national strategy to address the structural factors leading to persistent inequality,” pointing to use of federal spending power to “speed up [provincial] inability to implement.”
Adoption of a rights-based approach brought Canadian NGOs to the table, but now we need action at home. “International conventions establish rights as universal, but give little guidance on translating the universal into local realities,” said Oxfam in a report on rights-based development. This concern was borne out following the last CEDAW review in 2008, when the Harper administration simply ignored most of the Committee’s recommendations. This time around, NGOs hope that the feds take heed.
“We have a Prime Minister who repeatedly reaffirms his commitment to gender equality – so structurally, we are in a good place,” assured Linda Savoie, Senior Director at Status of Women Canada. NGOs are cautiously optimistic, urging the BC Liberals to implement the CEDAW Committee’s 2016 recommendations. “We know the conclusions of this Committee have the power to ignite political will,” said the BC CEDAW Group. For the sake of all Canadian women, let’s hope they are right.
Carly Stanhope is a JD student at the Peter A. Allard School of Law and the research assistant to the BC CEDAW Group.
 CEDAW, 65th Sess, 1433rd Mtg, UN Doc CEDAW/C/SR.1433 (25 October 2016).
 BC CEDAW Group. 2016. Women’s Rights in British Columbia: Submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women on the occasion of its consideration of Canada’s combined eighth and ninth periodic reports at its sixty-fifth session.
 BC CEDAW Group, supra note 2 at 1.
 Day, Shelagh and Gwen Brodsky. 2014. Strengthening Human Rights: Why British Columbia Needs A Human Rights Commission.
 Oxfam America. 2001. Challenges And Opportunities Of Implementing A Rights-Based Approach To Development: An Oxfam America Perspective.
 Ontario Human Rights Commission. 2008. Human Rights At Work.
 Feminist Alliance for International Action. 2016. Reply To Issues 3, 4, 7, 8, 11, 12 & 13: Report To The Committee On The Elimination Of Discrimination Against Women On The Occasion Of The Committee’S Eighth And Ninth Periodic Review Of Canada.
 Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – BC Office. 2012. BC Disadvantage For Women – Earnings Compared With Other Women In Canada.
 Human Rights Code, RSBC 1996, c 210, s 13(1).
 Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund. 2016. Closing The Gender Wage Gap.
 BC CEDAW Group, supra note 2 at 7.
 West Coast LEAF and Coalition of Childcare Advocates of BC. 2016. A Cornerstone Of Equality For Canadian Women: The Essential Role Of Child Care In All Articles Of The Convention On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women.
 Chapman, Jennifer, Valerie Miller, Adriano Campolina Soares, and John Samuel. 2005. Rights-Based Development: The Challenge Of Change And Power.
 BC Poverty Reduction Coalition. 2016. Factsheet On Poverty and Inequality In BC.
 Chapman et al, supra note 17 at 5.
 Oxfam America, supra note 4 at 16.
 CEDAW, supra note 1.
 Oxfam America, supra note 4 at 19.
 BC CEDAW Group, supra note 2 at 4, 9.
 CEDAW, supra note 1.
 BC CEDAW Group. 2016. “Women’s Rights in BC”. Presentation, United Nations Headquarters, Geneva.
Nominations or applications for the following two CFLS awards are now open! To apply, please submit the required documents by email to email@example.com by June 1st, 2017.
A prize in the amount of $3000, awarded to a student in the JD program who has made significant contributions to feminism and the law. Please provide a letter explaining the candidate’s contributions to feminism and the law and attach the candidate’s resume.
A $250 prize to the best essay written by a JD student addressing the themes in the following quotation:
“The various intersections between race, class, sexual orientation, and other differentiating characteristics, will affect how and when all women experience sexism.” (Marlee Kline, 1989)
(See posters/links for additional details)