The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Jennifer Taylor

The CBA and the #MeToo campaign

MeToo: Something new to say, or a new way to say it

By Jennifer Taylor February 12, 2018 12 February 2018

MeToo: Something new to say, or a new way to say it

 

Sexual misconduct by men against women is a tale as old as time. What’s new is how two related movements—Me Too and Time’s Up—have quickly become cultural shorthand for telling this story, and proven to have real consequences for those who commit sexual misconduct. The labels Me Too, with its sense of solidarity, and Time’s Up, with its sense of urgency, offer a framework for talking about, and acting on, the complex and longstanding problems of workplace sexual harassment, sexual assault, and gendered power imbalances.

It’s a moment of reckoning.

For lawyers especially, it means reckoning with uncomfortable issues. Like the fact that the justice system doesn’t always provide satisfactory consequences when sexual misconduct occurs. (Or offer much in the way of preventing sexual misconduct before it happens.)

The justice system as traditionally understood doesn’t always find the truth, either, which is one reason Me Too and Time’s Up have been driven by media reporting rather than court proceedings.

These movements prioritize truth. In the justice system, truth is often competing with other values.

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Reproductive rights

There’s no Charter problem with Canada Summer Jobs

By Jennifer Taylor January 22, 2018 22 January 2018

There’s no Charter problem with Canada Summer Jobs

It seems self-evident in 2018 that an anti-abortion organization should not receive federal government funds to hire summer students. And yet, the guide for the Canada Summer Jobs program—which requires applicants to attest that the proposed job and their organization’s core mandate respect reproductive rights—has caused an outcry. It’s even prompted an application for judicial review by Toronto Right to Life (TRTL) on the basis that it may infringe the Charter-protected “freedom of conscience and religion of organizations that consider abortion to be immoral” and potentially the Charter’s freedom of expression and equality guarantees as well (to the extent that organizations even have Charter rights, which is debatable).

But the attestation’s opponents are minimizing an essential question: what about the Charter rights of women, like the right to autonomy over their own bodies?

Opponents like Brian Bird emphasize that the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark decision in R v Morgentaler — a ruling long celebrated as a victory for Canadian women — did not “constitutionally guarantee unrestricted access to abortion in Canada”, as if that provides a complete answer to the question. It doesn’t.

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Constitutional

Who’s a parent? A Nova Scotia adoption case with constitutional implications

By Jennifer Taylor April 7, 2017 7 April 2017

Who’s a parent? A Nova Scotia adoption case with constitutional implications

 

Can a court issue a notice of constitutional question on its own motion?

That question is currently before the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal in an adoption case that has implications for women’s reproductive choices.

The court heard an appeal on March 30, 2017 from the decision of a Supreme Court Family Division judge to address whether a biological father – unidentified in the case at hand – has the constitutional right to be notified of an application to put a child up for adoption. Background information is reported in an earlier decision, but identifying details are subject to a publication ban under the province’s Children and Family Services Act.

Under that law, a biological mother signed an agreement with the Minister of Community Services to put her child up for adoption. The prospective adoptive parents then filed a Notice of Proposed Adoption. This is a routine proceeding, and all involved likely expected the court to issue the adoption order without question. It didn’t turn out that way. The court was concerned that the biological father was not involved.

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Meaning of consent

Involuntary parenthood claims don’t pay

By Jennifer Taylor March 28, 2017 28 March 2017

Involuntary parenthood claims don’t pay

 

There is no right to sue for “involuntary parenthood.” That’s according to the Court of Appeal for Ontario in PP v DD, which upheld a lower court decision to toss out a father’s lawsuit against his former female sexual partner for making him a parent before he wanted to become one.

The decision helps prevent tort law from being used to control women by making them pay – literally – for the consequences of their reproductive choices.

I wrote about the lower court decision last year, arguing that it was the right call for women’s reproductive autonomy.

Let’s back up and recall the facts: PP, the male plaintiff (a doctor), and DD, the female defendant (who also worked in health care), had a brief sexual relationship in 2014. PP understood that DD took birth control pills, so they did not use condoms. DD became pregnant and informed PP, who suggested that she have an abortion. DD decided to have the baby, born in early 2015.

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Advocacy

Action items for Canadian lawyers

By Jennifer Taylor November 25, 2016 25 November 2016

Like many Canadians, I knew that Donald Trump could get elected on November 8, 2016 – I just didn’t think he would. (I dressed up as a Hillary Clinton campaign volunteer for Halloween, after all.) After much cathartic crying, hugging, and talking it out, I placed myself in the camp of those who want to use the election results as a catalyst for increased community involvement. I want to make sure we in Canada strengthen our defences against the kind of intolerance, racism, and misogyny that won the election south of the border.

Most lawyers I know are already incredibly generous with their time and impressively involved in their communities, but as my favourite podcast Another Round reminded me last week, there’s always more we can all do in our own spaces. So without further ado, some ideas, in case you too are ready to start feeling a little more helpful and hopeful, and a little less helpless and hopeless:

 

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