Welcome to the JD class of 2022, to transfer students joining the JD program, and to graduate students beginning their studies at Allard Hall. I still remember the mix of excitement and trepidation that I felt on my first day of law school here at UBC many years ago. Finding “my people” was crucial to surviving the grind and alienation that can often be part of legal education. For me, that meant finding other feminists, both students and faculty. Those people remain some of my closest friends.
It wasn’t until my 3rd year of law school (and I’m dating myself because this was 1997) that the Centre for Feminist Legal Studies was founded by then-Dean Lynn Smith, the law school’s first woman dean. From its humble beginnings in a trailer beside the law school, furnished by donated sofas and decorated with political posters on the walls, the CFLS has been a hub for feminist students, faculty, and visitors. The Centre is both a place and a community. A place to drink tea or coffee with friends who care about more than big law firm hiring interviews (although some of us worried and strategized about those, too) and who share our outrage at the discrimination and injustice we see around us – in the news and in the cases we read. And a community with which to come together in learning, research, and activism.
The CFLS community includes more than 20 faculty members who bring a range of feminist perspectives to their research and teaching on topics in criminal law, environmental law, family law, corporate law, Indigenous law, evidence, administrative law, international law… and more! These professors hire Research Assistants to work with them on these projects. More than 20 years ago I had the great fortune of working as an RA for Professor Isabel Grant. That experience opened my eyes to the potential for feminist legal scholarship to have an impact on law reform and in judicial decisions.
Every year the Centre welcomes a diverse array of visitors – academics and lawyers from across Canada and around the world – to give lectures in our Monday CFLS Lecture Series. This Fall the CFLS will host speakers on the gendered impacts of mental health detention, family law in China, pay equity, the Calls to Action in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) Inquiry Report, and the regulation of assisted reproduction, among other topics.
The Centre also supports student initiatives such as the #LawNeedsFeminismBecause photo project and collaborates with groups such as Indigenous the Law Students Association, the Women’s Caucus, and OUTLaws on events and speakers. One such upcoming event is the October 4thSisters in Spirit Vigil (co-presented with ILSA) to honour the memory of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, trans and two-spirit people.
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Reach out. Share your ideas. And find your people.
I can’t wait to see what you will do here and in the future,
Professor and Chair in Feminist Legal Studies
Director, Centre for Feminist Legal Studies