Annual Reports

2016-2017 was a busy year for NAWL. The organization submitted a significant multi-year application for Status of Women Canada funding, launched its online Feminist Law Reform course and kept up its work to advance women’s equality through law reform advocacy.

Shortly following the Status of Women Minister’s July, 2016 announcement that the federal government would be restoring the eligibility of advocacy activities, NAWL submitted a draft proposal to SWC based on a project idea that focused on NAWL’s traditional area of strength and expertise: to rebuild feminist capacity to engage in the law reform process. NAWL was then invited to submit a full proposal for this multi- year project, the preparation and submission of which took up a significant portion of our time and focus in 2016-2017.

The bilingual law reform project proposal aims to address the under-representation of women’s voices broadly and feminist legal expertise, in particular, in law making processes. Its goal is to revitalize the capacity of feminist organizations and advocates to engage on legislative matters that have an impact on women’s equality rights. Led by a dedicated Project Director, the project is designed to rebuild a network of feminist law reform experts in this country including feminist law students, legal academics, lawyers, advocates and leaders from women’s organizations, and equip them to engage with government to effectively address and remedy systemic gender-based wrongs through the law making process. At the close of this fiscal year, NAWL was cautiously optimistic about the project’s fundability and the future of the organization’s critical law reform advocacy work.

Since our last Annual Report, the NAWL Charitable Trust for Research and Education, with generous support from Shirley Greenberg, launched its open access, bilingual online Feminist Law Reform Course. Over 100 feminist law professors, students, lawyers and activists attended the celebratory launch event, held at the University of Ottawa in November 2016. NAWL’s co-Founder, Shirley Greenberg and Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu both addressed the crowd with thoughtful and hopeful remarks and Shirley was presented with a certificate of recognition for her outstanding contribution to the Canadian Women’s movement. It was a fabulous and beautifully intergenerational event – the NAWL NSC is extremely grateful to all of the attendees for the part they each played in making the gathering so successful.

In 2016/2017, NAWL continued to receive and respond to a number of requests to sign letters, co-author briefs, and join various coalitions engaged in advancing women’s equality.

The following provides a sample of some of these activities:

  • NAWL participated in the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s first meeting of the Ad-Hoc Consultative Committee on the Pan Canadian Network of Women Leaders.
  • NAWL wrote a letter to the Quebec government in December 2016, supporting several Quebec-based women’s and First Nations organizations calling for the launch of an independent and systemic inquiry into police abuse of indigenous and aboriginal women in Val-d’Or.
  • NAWL took an active leadership role in advocating for a restored and modernized Court Challenges Program of Canada. To this end, NAWL drafted a letter to Hon. Melanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage regarding the importance of protecting CCPC’s historic mandate to protect and advance substantive equality and access to justice for disadvantaged groups and official-language minority communities. Over 70 major equality rights focused organizations signed onto NAWL’s letter, a copy of which is available on the NAWL website.

To read the complete Annual Report, click here. 

In 2015-2016, NAWL continued operating with a skeletal structure. While committed to remaining administratively sound, the National Steering Committee decided that, in keeping with the direction set in 2013, we would spend as few resources as possible given an inability, without state funding, to do the research and advocacy work the organization was designed to do.

Following Status of Women Minister Patty Hadju’s July, 2016 announcement that advocacy funding would be restored under the Women’s Program, NAWL is cautiously optimistic about the future of the organization.

Despite an extremely reduced structure, in 2015/2016 NAWL continued to work toward its vision of providing feminist law students with the skills necessary for advancing systemic law reform remedies at the federal level.

Since our last Annual Report, the NAWL Charitable Trust for Research and Education, with generous support from Shirley Greenberg, completed work on the development of its open access, bilingual online Feminist Law Reform Course. After a decade of federal government disinterest in, if not outright hostility to, democratic values of equality and inclusion, the NAWL online course is designed to rebuild the skills necessary to advance equality rights and to encourage public re-engagement in the Canadian legislative process.

In 2015/2016, NAWL continued to receive and respond to a number of requests to sign letters, co-author briefs, join various coalitions and make submissions before Parliamentary Committees. In the last year, NAWL has also taken an active leadership role in the work to ensure federal government funding for advocacy was restored. The following provides a sample of some of these activities:

  • NAWL joined other women leaders in signing the “Respect Women” letter in the final days of the Election in October, 2015 calling on “all leaders and public figures in the country to refrain from allowing the issue of the niqab to in any way create an atmosphere of intolerance and xenophobia in this country.”
  • NAWL contributed information about out organizational history for the archival website Rise Up: A digital archive of feminist activism in Canada 1970 to 1990.
  • Shortly after the election last fall, NAWL authored letters to the Minister of Justice and the Minister for Status of Women explaining the importance of state funding for feminist law reform advocacy and research. NAWL also co-authored a letter calling on the Federal government to restore funding for women’s equality advocacy and research with FAFIA, CRIAW, NWAC, LEAF and DAWN.
  • In collaboration with FAFIA, NAWL met with the Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women and the Department Head, to discuss the importance of reinstating funding for feminist law reform expertise in Canada. NAWL also authored its own letters to the Ministers of Justice and Status of Women on this issue.
  • NAWL took an active role at the AGM of the Court Challenges Program of Canada.
  • NAWL responded to an invitation by the Director of the University of Ottawa Human Rights, Research and Education Center to participate in the development of a strategy to promote and achieve Canada’s long-overdo adherence to the American Convention on Human Rights.
  • Finally, in the Spring of 2016, NAWL had representatives making submissions before two Parliamentary Committees, the Special Committee on Pay Equity (on proactive federal pay equity legislation), and the Standing Committee for Status of Women (on the impact of cyber-bullying on women and girls). Written submissions to these Committees can be accessed on the NAWL website.

Following Status of Women Minister Patty Hadju’s July, 2016 announcement that advocacy funding would be restored under the Women’s Program, NAWL is cautiously optimistic about the future of the organization.

To read the complete Annual Report click here.

Message from the National Steering Committee

In 2014-2015, NAWL continued operating with a skeletal structure. While committed to remaining administratively sound, the National Steering Committee decided that, in keeping with the direction set the previous year, we would spend as few resources as possible given an inability, without state funding, to do the research and advocacy work the organization was designed to do. Consistent with the decision made in 2013/2014, NAWL ceased all fundraising activities, including its annual letter campaign in the fall.

Despite an extremely reduced structure, in 2014/2015 NAWL continued to work toward its vision of providing feminist law students with the skills necessary for advancing systemic law reform remedies at the federal level.

The NAWL Charitable Trust for Research and Education, with generous support from Shirley Greenberg, is close to completing work on the development of an online Feminist Law Reform Course for broad access through the NAWL website. To this end, over 80 edited video clips have been developed, closed captioned and in some cases subtitled, for various modules of the online course. A number of students, lawyers and law reform experts donated their time and expertise to develop these videos and ensure their accessibility. The video clips are accompanied by suggested readings, discussion questions and assignments. Course modules cover a broad range of topics, including:

  • Foundational concepts in equality law and policy
  • Funding the law reform process
  • The federal law reform process
  • Lobbying
  • Members of Parliament
  • Parliamentary Committees
  • Writing Opinion Editorials
  • Filing Access to Information Requests
  • Media Relations
  • Working in Coalition

It is our hope that by the New Year, this free and highly practical course in law reform advocacy will be launched and that it will strengthen work to advance women’s equality in Canada. In addition to work on the Feminist Law Reform Course, in 2014/2015 NAWL also worked to update its website in order to ensure a complete picture of the organization’s activities and resources since defunding.

Click here to download the 2014/2015 Annual Report.

Message from the National Steering Committee

In 2013-2014, NAWL continued to work toward its vision of providing feminist law students law students with the skills necessary for advancing systemic law reform remedies at the federal level.

In early 2014, Martha Jackman and Julie Shugarman co-instructed a Feminist Law Reform seminar course at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, French Common Law Section.  A number of high-profile feminist lawyers, two Members of Parliament, and several equality advocates offered guest lectures for the seminar course. Work is underway to put a version of this Feminist Law Reform Course online for broad access through the NAWL website.

In October 2013, NAWL suffered an enormous loss when our dear friend and colleague Alison Dewar died. Her powerful lesbian feminist voice and wisdom are deeply missed not only by her friends at NAWL, but by the social justice community at large. Our sympathies go out to Alison’s social justice partner and soul mate, Diana Majury.

Having received a significant number of donations in memory of Alison through the NAWL Charitable Trust for Research and Education, NAWL worked in collaboration with Alison’s law firm, Raven Cameron Ballantyne and Yazbeck (RCBY) LLP, to fund the Alison Dewar Scholarship in Equality, Labour and Human Rights law at the University of Ottawa.

In October, 2013, NAWL filed the amended Bylaws and Articles of Continuance approved at the 2012 AGM with the Federal Government.

In the spring of 2014, Pamela Cross and Julie Shugarman attended Gendered Dissent, Democracy and the Law: A workshop on the gendered face of Canada’s crackdown on dissent, at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. NAWL coordinated a joint proposal for the workshop with FAFIA and the Schlifer Clinic in Toronto, and presented together with Amanda Dale and Shelagh Day at a panel entitled Strategic Silencing: A case study on how federal government action has shut down feminist law reform advocacy work and on measures taken to fill the critical void.

Click here to download the 2013/2014 Annual Report.

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.

Click here to download the 2012/2013 Annual Report.

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

A working group of 8 feminist law students completed and published an alternative orientation guide for law students. Downloadable from the NAWL website, the Manual includes excerpts of writing from 28 of Canada’s top feminist legal minds and activists.

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