2012 Annual Report

Message from the Message from the National Steering Committee

In 2011-2012, NAWL advanced its work to inspire and reinvigorate a community of equality seeking law students in Canada.

Publication of the Gender and the Law Manual: An Introductory Handbook for Law Students

A working group of 8 feminist law students from across Canada established at NAWL’s 2010 Young Women’s Leadership Summit completed and published an alternative orientation guide for law students. Funded by the Charitable Trust for Research and Education along with support from the Shirley E. Greenberg Chair for Women and the Legal Profession, the Gender and the Law Manual was released to law students and feminist legal scholars and lawyers across the country in feminist legal minds and activists. In the month the manual was released, it was downloaded over 1,000 times.

This past year also saw the completion of NAWL’s Law Foundation of Ontario funded Economic Security in the Family Project.

A Women’s Guide to Money, Relationships and the Law in Ontario

Launched in January of 2011 with funding from the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Economic Security Project was directed by Leslie Robertson and overseen by a community advisory committee chaired by Pam Cross.

The project included consultation with young women and service providers about the issue of women’s economic security in their personal relationships, as well as the development of online materials, a series if train-the trainer workshops, and the distribution of promotional materials to service organizations across the province.

We are extremely proud of the project outcome, which is the online Women’s Guide to Money, Relationships and the Law. The Guide, downloadable in both French and English, provides young women with a grade 8-9 reading level information about their economic rights and responsibilities when entering and leaving common-law relationships and marriages, and includes a series of tools to help young women plan ahead and make effective economic decisions.

Based on the suggestions of participants in a pilot workshop, NAWL commissioned The Public Studio to coordinate recording the Guide in audio format and to incorporate the English and French podcasts into the NAWL website. The original project proposal included the delivery of 4 train-the-trainer workshops of 10 participants each. However, 7 workshops were delivered in 4 different communities, in French and English, to more than 83 participants.

Community Legal Education Ontario’s (CLEO’S) legal information website, yourlegalrights.on.ca, has promoted the Guide on its legal information website and has tweeted the link to its 1,200+ followers on twitter. By March of 2012, the Guide appeared as the first resource in the Abuse and Family Violence section of CLEO’s legal rights website.

Between January 27, 2012 and March 27, 2012, 1,970 unique users visited the NAWL website to view the guide.

In addition to completing these two important publications, 2011-2012 saw the advancement of NAWL’s Women and Law Reform Clinic Project.

The Women and The Law Reform Clinic

In 2011, NAWL completed a feasibility study founded by the McLean Foundation that looked at the development of applied feminist curriculum in Canadian law schools using a clinic model. The study involved an extensive literature review as well as consultations with the directors of a number of student legal clinics at Ontario law schools, some key equality rights focused legal organizations, senior legal academics, feminist lawyer and students.

The conclusion of the study was that NAWL should proceed to seek financial support for the development of a feminist law reform clinic to be situated in an Ontario law school.

The NAWL Charitable Trust then obtained development funding from long time activist and feminist philanthropist Shirley Greenberg to continue refining the clinic’s operational and strategic model as well as consult other key women’s organizations, legal academics, law faculties, philanthropists and funders.

In the fall of 2012, after meeting with Dean of Law at the University of Ottawa, NAWL decided to house the clinic at this faculty because of its bilingualism, its location in the nation’s capital, the faculty’s focus on social justice law, and its commitment to women’s equality law advanced by the Shirley E. Greenberg Chair for Women and the Legal Profession.

We are extremely excited about the NAWL clinic, which is being envisioned to respond to women’s access to justice issues by providing the support and expertise needed to achieve systemic law reform remedies. This could include research, lobbying, law reform advocacy, litigation, media and public relations campaigns, public legal education and grassroots outreach. Importantly, it will also include training a new generation of young lawyers in the skills necessary to advance equality rights in the context of parliamentary democracy.

In order to ensure the clinic’s sustainability and success, the goal is to secure a commitment of three-years worth of funding before launching.

If sufficient funds are raised by June 2013, the aim is to have the clinic infrastructure in place by June 2014.

Thank yous

NAWL’s work in 2011/2012 was made possible by the ongoing generous support of unions, law faculties, individual donors and volunteers. We would not have been able to continue our work to advance women’s equality in Canada without the commitment of these group of individuals.

We would also like to thank:

  • Andrew Chisholm for continuing to provide us with much needed consulting support on our website, Sheila Sampath and her team at the Toronto design firm, the “public studio”, for working with us to create two outstanding publications as well as the business case for the NAWL clinic.
  • Tamera Burnett for her time and commitment as our first NSC intern and Angela Mooney, for outstanding eotk on our clinic project and feasibility study as a summer intern.
  • The members of NAWL’s community advisory committee for the Economic Security in the Family project: May Abdallah, Leighann Burns, Lisa Cirillo, Pamela Cross, Karen Restoule and Erica See, for providing critical input and guidance toward the creation of important public legal education information. And Leslie Robertson, our outstanding project director on this project, for so effectively working to enhance women’s access to crucial legal information.
  • And finally, the member’s of NAWL’S National Steering Committee who continue to dedicate themselves to ensure that NAWL thrives as an organization.

Click here to download the report.