The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Kerri Froc

Family Law

A “post-gender”, post-truth look at Canadian family law

By Kerri Froc July 18, 2017 18 July 2017

A “post-gender”, post-truth look at Canadian family law


Post-truth – an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’ - Oxford English Dictionaries (Word of the Year for 2016)

As a former family law practitioner, I read with interest Omar Ha-Redeye’s column on “self-represented litigants” and the bias they feel in family law courts.  He writes that while family law has changed “in some ways” to reflect social norms (such as same-sex marriage), in others it hasn’t changed “nearly enough.”  The offending areas of law he points to are support laws (which need to reflect “more partners equitably shar[ing] family responsibilities and society moves away from the traditional sole-breadwinner model,”) and child custody (to rid it of “perceived” gender bias and “credence given to false allegations of abuse,” among other things).  Of course, when he is writing about self-represented litigants here, the context makes clear this is a code phrase for men.

The notion that there is gender bias against men in family law matters is not new.  Ha-Redeye notes that “litigants” (presumably fathers’ rights advocates) made this claim before the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access, which reported in December 1998.  However, the committee found no gender bias, only that fathers who testified “perceived” there was bias.  Nevertheless, the committee at times seemed to treat the perception as if it were reality, resulting in a report that that Professor Nicholas Bala calls “not well written,” having a “’pro father’ slant’” and failing to reflect the reality of how judges were adjudicating cases.

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Legal innovation

HackJustice: Life hacks you and your clients might actually use

By Kerri Froc February 1, 2017 1 February 2017

I’m a big sucker for the life hack lists you see all over the Internet, like 100 Life Hacks to Make Life Easier, or 50 Incredibly Useful Life Hacks You Won’t Believe You Didn’t Know. But if you are like me, you still haven’t used Doritos to start a fire, still can’t fold a fitted sheet, and your attempt to use a walnut to fix scratches on your furniture just means it looks like a squirrel had a snack on your scratched furniture.

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Pet custody: No laughing matter when it comes to women’s equality

By Kerri Froc January 3, 2017 3 January 2017

Pet custody: No laughing matter when it comes to women’s equality

 

Right before the December holidays, a Canadian judgment denying an application for pet custody, Henderson v Henderson,  captured the attention of the national and international media (including People magazine and the Washington Post).  The treatment of the issue in Henderson, like very many of the pet custody cases, was, at turns, somewhat humorous and derisive, implying that the parties were locked in legal battle because the pets were substitute children (“not unusual in such a situation” because the couple was childless).  It is written in a conversational style that undoubtedly added to its media appeal (“Dogs are wonderful creatures…But after all is said and done, a dog is a dog.”). 

In Henderson, the husband framed his application as an “interim exclusive possession order” for either one of two family dogs, named Willow and Kenya.  Justice Danyliuk ruled that “for legal purposes, there can be no doubt: Dogs are property” and child custody principles cannot apply to them.  Accordingly, the court was unwilling to make “what amounts to a custody order pertaining to dogs” and furthermore, “this sort of application should not even be put before the court.” 

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Equality rights

The “normalization” of Trump and implications for the right to equality in Canada

By Kerri Froc November 17, 2016 17 November 2016

Those on the left are still in a state of shock and dismay following the Donald Trump as President of the United States on November 9, 2016.  The late-night comedy shows lately have felt more like wakes than entertainment. Kate MacKinnon on Saturday Night Live (for the last time in her Hillary Clinton get-up) sang Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, ending with a promise and  a call to perseverance: “I’m not giving up and neither should you.” One strategy touted repeatedly by the media this week as part of “not giving up” is to resist the “normalization” of Trump and his administration. 

In this context, Hua Hsu of the New Yorker this week suggested that “normalization” is “the ways in which dangerous things come to be viewed as just another part of everyday life…It’s on the late-night talk show, when the comedian giggles as he tousles Donald Trump’s hair, signalling that this madman can take a joke; it’s in the life-style magazine that works to humanize him and those around him.”  The danger, he says, is that normalization “shapes our field of vision; it tells a story of the world and its possibilities.”

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CBA Twitterchat

Access to justice: Part of a lawyer’s ethical responsibilities?

By Kerri Froc October 14, 2016 14 October 2016

 

Lawyers are invested in access to justice.  Many see pro bono work as part of their obligations as a member of the profession.  Others build access to justice, such as providing unbundled legal services, into the day to day operations of their law firm.

But, should access to justice be built in as part of a lawyer’s ethical responsibilities and regulated by law societies?

The CBA’s Access to Justice Committee’s report, Equal Justice: Balancing the Scales, suggests that law societies could enhance access to justice in a number of ways.  For instance:

  • The Federation of Law Societies could include an access to justice component in its competency requirements for new lawyer licensing;
  • Law societies and the Federation of Law Societies could include access to justice in their codes of conduct;
  • The Federation of Law Societies could require experiential education and/or access to justice in the law school curriculum in order to be called to the bar following law school.

Can we – should we – foster access to justice through lawyer regulation?

Join the CBA’s next Twitterchat, Can Regulation Advance Access to Justice?, as part of Access to Justice Week organized by TAG - The Action Group on Access to Justice. Hosted by Amy Salyzyn (@AmySalyzyn), a professor from the University of Ottawa, she is an expert in legal ethics, who is currently researching innovative ways to foster access to justice.  How can law societies help strengthen the link between access to justice and lawyers’ ethical identity?

Tune into #cbaa2j #a2j2016 on Tuesday, October 18 at 12:00 p.m. ET to join the conversation and find out.

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