Message from the National Steering Committee
In 2012-2013, NAWL focused the majority of its time on advancing the Women and Law Reform Clinic project that was commenced in 2011, following the completion of a McLean Foundation funded feasibility study and with the financial support from feminist philanthropist Shirley Greenberg.
The NAWL clinic was envisioned to respond to women’s access to justice issues by providing the support and expertise needed to organizations and individual lawyers working on systemic law reform remedies for their clients. The unique resource center model NAWL established included training a new generation of young lawyers in much needed law reform skills necessary to advance equality rights in the context of a parliamentary democracy.
After receiving endorsements from 36 members of the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Common Law and obtaining key in-kind support from the Dean of Common Law, NAWL entered into formal partnership discussions with the University. NAWL came into these discussions with a well-designed and innovative model for clinical legal education, as well as a commitment of $300,000 in matching funding which we had raised from private philanthropy and a large Canadian foundation. NAWL committed to raise approximately $420,000 in funding in addition to this – a target we were confident we could meet. We asked the University to consider providing $150,000 a year in funding for the clinic over a 3-year period, accounting for approximately one third of the clinic’s projected 3 year budget.
In approaching the University to partner with us in the clinic project, NAWL was seeking a financial commitment from the University, both as an expression of institutional support, and in order to assist in ensuring the long-term sustainability of the clinic.
We were extremely disappointed to report that in May, 2013 the Women and Law Reform Clinic project was ultimately denied funding by the University’s Central Administrative Committee. In response to a letter from NAWL, President Rock cited concerns about space and the amount of money requested as the reasons the project was denied funding. NAWL has since commenced discussions with another law faculty. A feminist law reform clinic at another institution would, by design, require an entirely different governance model and budget from what was being proposed at the University of Ottawa. NAWL will continue to explore alternative and innovative models for offering clinical law reform experience to feminist law students while working to advance women’s equality in Canadian society.
In addition to working on the Women and Law Reform clinic project, in 2013, NAWL joined West Coast LEAF in speaking out on Trinity Western University’s proposal to establish a “gay free” law school. We wrote to the Federation of Canadian Law Societies, outlining why such a proposal on the part of TWU was clearly discriminatory and antithetical to training the next generation of lawyers to live up to their role as guardians of the public interest, which includes protecting and respecting the equality rights of Canadians.
NAWL also added its voice to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada in 2012, calling for the resignation of the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, Rona Ambrose following her support of Motion 312, which was nothing more than a backdoor attempt to reopen a legislative discussion about the legality of abortion in Canada. We wrote to the Prime Minister to remind him that, as Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, Minister Ambrose has an obligation not only to understand but also to ardently defend, the constitutionally guaranteed equality rights of women in Canada, including their reproductive rights.
In keeping with NAWL’s work on women’s economic rights in the context of family law, NAWL posted a public legal education piece on its website about the Eric v Lola decision, in which the Supreme Court of Canada found in 2013 that not extending spousal support and the division of property upon relationship breakdown to common-law couples, or de facto spouses, is constitutional. Quebec remains the only province in Canada that requires couples to be married or in a civil union to qualify for spousal support at separation. It is not, however, the only province to exclude common-law couples from the division of family property post-relationship.
In 2012, NAWL also completed a significant governance review process required in order to transition the organization to the new Canada Not For Profit Corporations Act. This review process, led by National Steering Committee members Amy Salyzyn and Anne Levesque, will culminate in the NSC asking the membership to pass a set of amended Bylaws and Articles of Continuance at the 2012 AGM.
Finally, in the last year, NAWL also completed a significant migration of its website to a new content management system. This work was undertaken in order to ensure that NAWL retains its online presence and is in a position to continue to make its publications available to a broad audience.