Women, Law and Social Change, 5e
Canadian Legal Studies Series

Brettel Dawson    (Ed.)

Captus Press, ISBN 978-1-55322-157-9 (2009)
596 pages, 1360 g, 8.5 X 11, $77.50 (US$62.00)

Coming on the heels of the highly popular fourth edition, Women, Law and Social Change, 5e continues to provide a foundation for how Canadian law and legal process have connected or disconnected women. Using a greater array of precedent-setting cases and stories, including Murdoch, Morgentaler, Bliss, and Brooks, this new edition offers an expanded glimpse at more than a century of struggle for women’s inclusion in the law.

Offering readers an awareness of the history, progress, and issues surrounding these debates, this edition looks to advance a set of key theoretical propositions about women and the legal process: 

  • Legal concepts and values are amenable to revising how law sees and responds to women.
  • Gender-specific context and effect often exist when a law is developed or applied.
  • Law and social change are related —it can lead or it can be led.
  • Law is never finished — dissent can lay the seeds for legal reform, be it in the courts or the Parliament.

To this end, Women, Law and Social Change, 5e has included a new section dedicated to engaging with the legal process to argue for women’s equal inclusion in law. A “toolkit” has been added to provide the reader with important legal provisions and policy commitments, stances, judicial methods, and strategies.  Further, the collection of cases in this section examines the evolution of jurisprudence and substantive equality, assessments of credibility, and reasonable doubt in criminal cases, same-sex marriage case law, and more than 20 years of sexual-assault law reform. The book concludes with a series of speeches and writings by leading feminist legal scholars and judges, past and contemporary, calling upon academics and the legal professions to be true to the values of inclusion and continue to challenge injustice.

Key Features

  • Expansive content, with both classic and contemporary materials giving students a broad sense of the subject
  • Case Studies and Talking Points to engage discussion among students
  • A “Floating Chapter”, providing links to the “Virtual Casebook” www.lawsite.ca and many useful online resources — an invaluable resource for research

Table of Contents   top





(a)     The Legal Lady (McKenzie Porter)

(b)     Pregnant Tribunals (Bronwyn Naylor)

(c)     R. v. Chase

I WOMEN AND LAW: Connections and Disconnections

1          Silences

(a)     U.S. v. Susan B. Anthony (1873)

(b)     Seneca Fall Declaration

(c)     Ain’t I a Woman? (Sojourner Truth)

(d)    A Jury of Her Peers (Susan Glaspell)

(e)     Susan Glaspell’s Trifles and A Jury of Her Peers: Woman Abuse in a Literary and Legal Context (Marina Angel)

(f)     “History Will Judge” (Constance Backhouse)

(g)     Context in Equality (Sarah Lugtig)

2          Opening Space

(a)     African-American Women’s Quilting: A Framework for Conceptualizing and Teaching African-American Women’s History (Elsa Barkley Brown)

(b)     Teaching Law as If Women Really Mattered, or, What about the Washrooms? (Christine Boyle)

(c)     Feminist Pedagogy: Critique and Commitment (T. Brettel Dawson)

(d)    The Gender Wars: ‘Where the Boys Are’ (Bruce Feldthusen)

(e)     Peekiskwetan (Rhonda Johnson, Winona Stevenson, and Donna Greschner)

3          Framing

A. Law

(a)     Blind Justice (Ngaire Naffine)

(b)     Law: A Primer (T. Brettel Dawson)

(c)     Judging in the Twenty-First Century (The Right Honourable Justice E W (Ted) Thomas)

(d)    Jurisprudence for Judges: Why Legal Theory Matters for Social Context Education (Richard F. Devlin)

(e)     The “I” in the “It”: Reflections on a Feminist Approach to Constitutional Theory (Colleen Sheppard)

B. Women

(f)     Feminist Legal Studies: A Primer (T. Brettel Dawson)

(g)     It’s Time for Change. Demands to the Federal Government to End Poverty and Violence Against Women

(h)     Post-Modern Race and Gender Essentialism or a Post-Mortem of Scholarship (Radha Jhappan)

(i)      Feminism, Marxism, Method, and the State: An Agenda for Theory
(Catharine MacKinnon)

(j)      Feminism, Marxism, Method, and the State: Toward Feminist Jurisprudence (Catharine MacKinnon)

(k)     Themes, Concerns and Strategies in Feminist Legal Studies: A Summary and Reflection (T. Brettel Dawson)

II WOMEN AND LAW: Challenging Exclusion

4          Are Women Persons?          

(a)     Law and the Legal Person (T. Brettel Dawson)

(b)     Reference re Meaning of Word “Persons” in s. 24 of the B.N.A. Act

(c)     Edwards v. A.G. for Canada

(d)    Bradwell v. The State of Illinois

(e)     In Re Mabel P. French

(f)     ‘Persons,’ Pronouns, and Policy Choices: Judicial Reasoning in French and Langstaff (Mary Jane Mossman)

(g)     Bradwell Revisited (Martha Minow)

(h)     Clara Brett Martin Revisited (T. Brettel Dawson)

(i)      A Collage of Firsts (T. Brettel Dawson)

Talking Points

(i)      Re Connelly Estate

(ii)     On Being the Object of Property (Patricia Williams)

(iii)    Sandra Lovelace v. Canada

5          The Language of Statutes

(a)     Alice through the Statutes (Marguerite Ritchie)

(b)     Are Statutes Written for Men Only? (Elmer Driedger)

(c)     The Language of Oppression — Alice Talks Back (Marguerite Ritchie)

(d)    Locating Inequality — The Evolving Discourse on Sexist Language (Sandra Petersson)

Talking Points

(i)      Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, s. 28

(ii)     An Act to amend the National Anthem Act to include all Canadians

(iii)    National Anthem Act, Second Reading Debate

6          Myths and Stereotypes (De)valuing Women         

(a)     Women’s Experience of Judicial Process (T. Brettel Dawson)

(b)     The Gender of Judgments: Some Reflections on “Bias” (Regina Graycar)

(c)     Aboriginal Women and the Legal Justice System in Canada (Native Women’s Association of Canada)

(d)    The Report on the Bienvenue Inquiry (The Inquiry Committee)

(e)     Judge Bienvenue Resigns

Case Study One: “Not on Her Way to Nunnery”

(i)      R. v. Ewanchuk

(ii)     Council Releases Response to REAL Women of Canada (April 1, 1999)

(iii)    Panel Expresses Strong Disapproval of McClung Conduct (May 21, 1999)

(iv)    Sexual Predator Declared Long-term Offender (T. Brettel Dawson)

Case Study Two: “What Any Wife Would Do”

(i)      Murdoch v. Murdoch

(ii)     Rathwell v. Rathwell

(iii)    Hoovering as a Hobby and Other Stories: Gendered Assessments of Personal Injury Damages (Regina Graycar)

(iv)    Contemporary Approaches to Compensating Female Tort: Victims for Incapacity to Work (Elizabeth Adjin-Tettey)

(v)     Valuing Women’s Work in the Home: A Defining Moment (Kim Brooks)

Case Study Three: “Blonde Freckled Twins”

(i)      D.T.L. v. Listuguj (Police Service)

(ii)     First Nations Leaders Lodge Ten Formal Complaints against Quebec Superior Court Judge

(iii)    Audrey Isaac Case: Fundamental concerns highlighted in the 10 complaints to the Canadian Judicial Council

(iv)    Welfare Parents and Custody (T. Brettel Dawson)

(v)     Panel Disapproves of Conduct of Mr. Justice Barakett

III WOMEN AND LAW: Probing Omission, Revisiting Concepts

7          Reasonableness

(a)     Criminal Code

(b)     R. v. Whynot (Stafford)

(c)     R. v. Lavallee

(d)    Negligence Law: The “Reasonable Person” Standard as an Example of Male Naming and the Implicit Male Norm (Leslie Bender)

(e)     Laying Down the Master’s Tools: A Feminist Revision of Torts (Lucinda Finley)

(f)     On Silences, Screams and Scholarship: An Introduction to Feminist Legal Theory (Kathleen Lahey)

(g)     Battered Women and Mandatory Minimum Sentences: Law and Policy (Elizabeth Sheehy)

8          Relevance and Perception

(a)     Sexual Assault Law and Past Sexual Conduct of the Primary Witness: The Construction of Relevance (T. Brettel Dawson)

(b)     R. v. Seaboyer; R. v. Gayme

(c)     Culture as a Defense: Aboriginal Offenders (Sherene Razack)

(d)    To “understand equality, and make it part of our thinking”: Towards Fairness and Equity in Sexual Assault Law (T. Brettel Dawson)

9          Reproduction

(a)     R. v. Morgentaler

(b)     R. v. Sullivan and Lemay [Factum of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)]

(c)     R. v. Sullivan

(d)    Correspondence to LEAF, 1990 re Sullivan and Lemay (T. Brettel Dawson)

10        Real Property

            (a)        Home/Land (Mary Ellen Turpel)

            (b)        Matrimonial Real Property (Native Women’s Association of Canada)

            (c)        Consultation Report on Matrimonial Real Property (Wendy Grant-John)

Further Resources: The Floating Chapter

I.       The FemLaw Virtual Casebook: <www.lawsite.ca>

II.     Starting Point References

III.    Online Collections Addressing Women’s Legal Issues

IV.    Online Publications and Scholarly Journals

V.     Related Websites

IV WOMEN AND LAW: Expanding Inclusion

11        Toolkits

A. Legal Provisions and Policy Commitments

(a)     Primer on Legal Protections of Human Rights in Canada (T. Brettel Dawson)

(b)     Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — Selected Provisions

(c)     Selected International Conventions (Human Rights of Women)

(d)    Gender-based Analysis

B. Stances

(e)     Will Women Judges Really Make a Difference? (Madame Justice Wilson)

(f)     Making a Difference: The Pursuit of a Compassionate Justice (The Honourable Claire L’Heureux-Dubé)

(g)     Building a Bridge to Equality: A Duty for Lawyers (Right Honourable Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin)

C. Judicial Method

(h)     Punjab v. Singh

(i)      Impartiality, Equality and the Judicial Role (Justice Robert J. Sharpe)

(j)      The Fiction of Judicial Impartiality (The Honourable Maryka Omatsu)

(k)     Judicial Education on Context (The Honourable Madam Justice Lynn Smith)

(l)      The Nature of Judgment (Jennifer Nedelsky)

D. Strategies

(m)    Strategizing in Equality (Diana Majury)

(n)     Test Case Litigation: The Canadian Experience (T. Brettel Dawson)

(o)     The Cold Game of Equality Staring (Sherene Razack)

12        Resistance and Responsiveness of Law

(a)     Bliss v. Canada (A.G.)

(b)     Brooks v. Canada Safeway Ltd.

(c)     Feminism and the Law: Challenges and Choices (Mary Jane Mossman)

(d)    The Promise of Brooks v. Canada Safeway Ltd: Those Who Bear Children Should Not Be Disadvantaged (Lorna Turnbull)

Talking Points

(i)      Interpretive Approach: Choice of Path (The Honourable Madam Justice Lynn Smith and Geoffrey Loomer (Law Clerk))

(ii)     Critical Comparisons: The Supreme Court Of Canada Dooms Section 15 (Daphne Gilbert and Diana Majury)

(iii)    Note: Women’s Court of Canada

13        Gender Neutrality and Gender Specificity in Law

(a)     Out of the Icy Water: Regina v. Douglas X (Donna F. Johnson)

(b)     The Criteria of Reasonable Doubt in Assessing the Witnesses’ Credibility (The Honourable Justice Sophie Bourque)

(c)     Note: Credibility Assessment and Reasons for Judgment in Sexual Assault Trials (T. Brettel Dawson)

(d)    R. v. Hull

(e)     R. v. Jaura

(f)     R. v. J.J.R.D

Talking Point

(i)      R. v. Ponomarev

14        Enabling and Constraining Social Change

(a)     UN Communication No 902/1999: Joslin v. New Zealand [Quilter] (United Nations Human Rights Committee)

(b)     Halpern v. Canada (A.G.)

(c)     Case Study on Same-Sex Marriage (T. Brettel Dawson)

(d)    Reference re Same-Sex Marriage

(e)     Ceremony of Civil Marriage: Jennifer Rowan and Juliet Joslin

15        Dialogue and Contestation

(a)     ‘Whack’ Sex Assault Complainant at Preliminary Inquiry (Cristin Schmitz)

(b)     Case Study on Sexual Assault Law Reform, 1980–2000: A Chronology (T. Brettel Dawson)

(c)     Sex Equality and Sexual Assault: In the Aftermath of Seaboyer (Elizabeth J. Shilton and Anne S. Derrick)

(d)    An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (sexual assault)

(e)     Discriminatory Uses of Personal Records in Sexual Violence Cases (Karen Busby)

(f)     Bill C-46, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (production of records in sexual offence proceedings)

(g)     R. v. Mills (Alta. Q.B.)

(h)     R. v. Mills (S.C.C.)

(i)      R. v. Darrach

Talking Point

(i)      No Stigma for Rape Victims in Islam (Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada)

V WOMEN IN LAW: Bridging Life and Law

16        Forming the Future

(a)     The Real World of Technologies (Ursula Franklin)

(b)     The First Women Lawyers (Mary Jane Mossman)

(c)     Through My Eyes: Lessons on Life in Law School (Marilyn Poitras)

(d)    2005 Call to the Bar Convocation Remarks (Elizabeth Sheehy)

(e)     2002 Call to the Bar Convocation Remarks (The Honourable Claire L’Heureux-Dubé)

(f)     The Mentor (Susan Lightstone)

(g)     Three Guineas (Virginia Woolf)

Instructor Resources   top

Related Resources   top

About the Author   top

Brettel Dawson is the Academic Director of the National Judicial Institute of Canada which is based in Ottawa, Canada, undertaking a leadership role in areas of curriculum and pedagogy design and ongoing integration of social context (equality and diversity) in the work and programming of NJI.

An Associate Professor of Law at Carleton University in Ottawa, she had been Chair of the Department of Law, a member of the University Senate, and a member of the Boards of Inquiry (Ontario Human Rights Code) involving mediations, inquiry and decision on human rights complaints. Her teaching subjects include gender, human rights, judicial process, private law and socio-legal research methodology.

Professor Dawson has written in the areas of social context judicial education, women and legal process, human rights, and legal research methodology. She is completing work on the Guides to Judicial Education (Canada) and a book on social context as an element of judging and judicial education.

A past English Language Co-Editor of the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law and a past member of the External Committee of the Independent Policy Research Fund of Status of Women Canada, she is currently Chair of the Board of Directors of CANADEM, Canada’s resource database for human rights and democratic development.

More about the Author