Feminist Legal Studies Queen's - Winter Term 2023 Lectures
Monday, February 6, 2023
Vanessa MacDonnell | Associate Professor | uOttawa Faculty of Law
Topic: Justice Abella and Feminist Judicial Method
Professor MacDonnell will address how the most well-recognized elements of Justice Rosalie Abella’s judicial approach – beginning with people and their experiences, and being attuned to power differentials and vulnerability – reflect a feminist epistemology that is slowly gaining traction on Canada’s highest court. This way of perceiving the world and the judicial method that flows from it represent a challenge to the prevailing legal orthodoxy. Indeed, Justice Abella faced strong headwinds in insisting that people’s experiences – women’s experiences, workers’ experiences, and the experiences of front-line decision-makers, among others – should be placed front and centre in the legal analysis. Those who argue against this approach have criticized it as ideological and outcome-driven. However, such arguments fall well short of impugning her approach, which is theoretically and methodologically defensible, and largely consistent with the common law method.
Vanessa MacDonnell is an Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law and Co-Director of the uOttawa Public Law Centre. She researches in the areas of Canadian constitutional law, constitutional theory, comparative constitutional law and criminal law and procedure. In 2019, she was selected for membership in the Global Young Academy.
Her research examines the constitutional functions of the executive branch, inter-institutional relationships, the role of unwritten constitutional norms and principles in our constitutional order, and the relationship between Canada’s legal and political constitutions. She has also written about police powers and the jury. She is currently completing a SSHRC-funded research project on quasi-constitutional legislation. She also leads the Canadian team on a $1.7 million interdisciplinary, international research project on unwritten constitutional norms and principles, funded in Round 7 of the Open Research Area Competition.
Vanessa is a graduate of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law (J.D.) and Harvard Law School (LL.M.). She is currently pursuing doctoral studies at McGill University. Between 2007 and 2008 she served as a law clerk to Justice Louise Charron at the Supreme Court of Canada. She has held visiting research fellowships at the University of the Witwatersrand, the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public and International Law, King’s College London, and the Laureate Program in Comparative Constitutional Law at Melbourne Law School. In 2019 she spent six months as Scholar-in-Residence in the Constitutional, Administrative and International Law Section of Department of Justice Canada.
She teaches or has taught constitutional law, comparative constitutional law, administrative law, criminal law and procedure, the law of evidence, a seminar on the Supreme Court of Canada, and graduate courses on comparative law and the impact of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on criminal law and procedure.
Feminist Legal Studies Queen's - Fall Term 2022 Lectures
Friday, September 23, 2022
Lindsay Borrows | Assistant Professor | Queen's Law
Topic: A Tribute to Jean Borrows: Learning, Living and Teaching Anishinaabe Law
Jean Borrows has carried many titles over her long lifetime including firewood chopper, angler, hat-shop owner, Indian Day School student, real estate agent, member of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation, professor of Anishinaabe law, mother and N’okomis (my grandmother), to name a few. The contribution of Jean Borrows to the Canadian legal academy helps define, and potentially expand, the question: what is the Canadian legal academy? Indigenous legal orders have always and continue to form and inform the Canadian legal landscape in dynamic ways, yet there are challenges to recognizing community-educated and community-based “professors” of Indigenous law.
Through sharing select stories of Jean Borrows’ fascinating life, my paper makes the case that the Canadian legal academy is not just Law Society accredited law faculties, but sites of Indigenous legal education are also an essential part of the academy. I aim to show how Jean’s varied responsibilities, experiences and teachers throughout her life gave her a type of legal knowledge that led her to become an influential educator of Anishinaabe law, including as an Elder at the Anishinaabe Law Camps hosted regularly in her community since 2014 for Osgoode Hall and University of Toronto law students.
Lindsay Keegitah Borrows (Chippewas of Nawash First Nation) is a new Assistant Professor at Queen’s Law. Previously she was a lawyer at the Indigenous Law Research Unit (University of Victoria Faculty of Law) and at West Coast Environmental Law. Her work supports Indigenous communities to revitalize their laws for application in contemporary contexts. She has worked with various Indigenous legal orders including Anishinaabe, Haíɫzaqv, Māori, Mi’kmaq, nuučaan̓uł, St’át’imc, Denezhu, and Tsilhqot’in. Since 2014 she has co-facilitated over a dozen land-based Anishinaabe Law Camps for learners from various law schools across Ontario.
Monday, October 24, 2022
Sonia Lawrence | Associate Professor | Osgoode Hall Law School
Topic: The section 15 of the future: Adverse impact, pressures and safety valves
What's happening in section 15? In the recent past, two main stories seem to be coming from our section 15 equality jurisprudence. One is about recognition and success of adverse impact claims. The other is about fierce disputes amongst members of the Court about the appropriate approach to section 15. In this talk I will lay out what's been happening and work to suggest that while section 1 analyses have traditionally been cursory in section 15 decisions, we might expect that to change if the most recent majority positions are fully taken up. The talk will either anticipate or cover the decision in The Queen v Sharma, heard in April 2022, depending on whether it has been released.
Professor Sonia Lawrence joined Osgoode’s faculty in 2001. She graduated from the University of Toronto’s joint LLB/MSW program, went on to serve as law clerk to Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of the Supreme Court of Canada, and pursued graduate work at Yale Law School. Her work centers on the critical analysis of legal conception of equality.
Over the course of her career she has held a number of service positions at Osgoode and York including Assistant Dean of First Year, Director of Osgoode’s Graduate Program, Director of the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies, and membership on York’s Senate Executive Committee. She currently serves as the President of the Canadian Association of Law Teachers. Professor Lawrence teaches Constitutional and Public Law, has served as the Academic Director of Osgoode's Anti-Discrimination intensive program, and is on sabbatical in 2022-23.
• Lawrence, Sonia, "The Admittedly Unattainable Ideal": Adverse Impact and Race under Section 15" in The Law Society of Upper Canada, Special Lectures 2017: Canada at 150: The Charter and the Constitution, (Toronto, 2017), pp. 547-563
• Lawrence, Sonia, 'Equality and Anti-discrimination: The Relationship between Government Goals and Finding Discrimination in Section 15', in Peter Oliver, Patrick Macklem, and Nathalie Des Rosiers (eds), The Oxford Handbook of the Canadian Constitution, Oxford Handbooks (2017; online edn, Oxford Academic, 6 Nov. 2017).
Monday, October 31, 2022
Seána Glennon | Sutherland School of Law Doctoral Scholar | University College Dublin
Topic: Lessons from Ireland on the Implications of a Constitutional Right to Life of the Unborn and the Role of Citizen Deliberation in Ireland's Watershed Abortion Referendum
Ireland was the first country in the world to constitutionally enshrine by referendum a right to life for the unborn. The Eighth Amendment was inserted into the Constitution in 1983 and operated as a near-blanket constitutional ban on abortion. The historic referendum in 2018 to remove the Eighth Amendment made international headlines. The liberalisation of the law was a watershed moment in Irish history and demonstrated a sea change in attitude toward the subject of abortion, over the course of a generation, on the part of both the public and the political establishment.
In this talk, I will consider the consequences for women in Ireland for almost three decades of the interpretation of the Supreme Court of the Eighth Amendment, and will explore the role of the Irish Citizens’ Assembly in the radical reform of the law. As we witness the erosion of reproductive rights in the US, Ireland’s experience serves as a grave lesson on the real-world implications of endowing a foetus with the same rights as the person carrying it.
Seána Glennon is a doctoral candidate at the Sutherland School of Law, University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland, researching in the areas of constitutional law and deliberative democracy. Seána is recipient of the 2019 UCD Sutherland School of Law doctoral scholarship, and is currently Chief Outreach Officer at UCD’s Centre for Constitutional Studies. Her doctoral thesis focuses on the role of citizen deliberation in legal and constitutional reform processes, and examines in particular the role of the Irish Citizens’ Assembly in the radical reform of Ireland’s abortion law. She holds a Bachelors in Law from Trinity College, Dublin and a Masters in Law from the University of Toronto, Canada.
Prior to embarking on a career in academia, Seána practised as a lawyer for eight years in a large international law firm in Dublin, specialising in public and administrative law. Seána is qualified as a lawyer in Ireland, England and Wales and is a member of the Law Society of Ireland.
Seána is also a freelance opinion writer and radio contributor, whose work regularly appears in national print media in Ireland, including the Irish Times, the Business Post and the Journal.
Seána Glennon, ‘Ireland’s past paints a bleak picture for America’s future on abortion rights’, The Business Post (22 May 2022)., https://www.businesspost.ie/analysis-opinion/seana-glennon-irelands-past-paints-a-bleak-picture-for-americas-future-on-abortion-rights/
Monday, November 14, 2022
Susan Lindsay | Counsel | Law Commission of Ontario
Topic: Accountable AI: How to Ensure Legal Accountability in AI systems?
AI systems are increasingly being used by governments and agencies around the world to make decisions affecting personal liberty, government benefits, regulatory compliance and access to important government services. The breadth and pace of government AI systems reflects the perceived potential of AI to improve the accuracy, speed and consistency of government decision-making.
The growth in this technology has been controversial: questions about racial bias, “data discrimination,” “black box” decision-making, lack of due process and public participation have surfaced quickly and repeatedly when AI and automated decision-making (ADM) systems are used by governments. As a result, many governments – including the Government of Ontario – are adopting “Trustworthy AI” frameworks to assure the public and stakeholders that government AI systems will be transparent, legal and beneficial.
These developments raise new and complex access to justice issues that are only starting to be addressed in Canada. This session will discuss several of these issues, including:
• How is AI being used in justice systems now?
• How do AI systems affect human rights, due process and access to justice?
• What strategies and tools are necessary to ensure AI systems comply with human rights, administrative law and the promotion of access to justice?
Susie is Counsel at the Law Commission of Ontario where she leads numerous LCO projects including: AI and the Civil Justice System, Protection Orders,and the LCO’s joint initiative on AI and Human Rights with the Ontario Human Rights Commission and Canadian Human Rights Commission. Before joining the Commission Susie spent twelve years practising litigation: first in regulatory law at a large communications company, and then in civil defence and administrative law at a boutique litigation firm. Susie is a graduate of Queen’s Law School, a Fulbright Scholar, has a Master of Laws from Harvard Law School and was a fellow at the Berkman Klein Centre for Internet & Society at Harvard University.