Section 15 – NAWL/West Coast LEAF 20th Anniversary Conference

Section 15 – NAWL/West Coast LEAF 20th Anniversary Conference
Conférence ANFD/FAEJ Côte-Ouest sur le 20ième anniversaire de l’article 15
NAWL and West Coast LEAF jointly hosted a conference in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the equality provision (section 15) of the Canadian Charter. Women from across Canada and around the world came together in Vancouver from April 28 to May 1, 2005 to reflect on the successes and challenges that section 15 of […]
L’ANFD et le FAEJ Côte-Ouest ont organisé une conférence pour célébrer le 20e anniversaire de l’article 15 (droits à l’égalité) de la Charte canadienne. Du 28 avril au 1er mai 2005, cet événement a attiré à Vancouver des femmes de toutes les régions du Canada et […]

NAWL and West Coast LEAF jointly hosted a conference in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the equality provision (section 15) of the Canadian Charter. Women from across Canada and around the world came together in Vancouver from April 28 to May 1, 2005 to reflect on the successes and challenges that section 15 of the Charter has represented for women and women’s equality-seeking organizations, and to strategize around how we might continue to advance women’s equality interests.

The almost 400 women who attended the conference all came with enthusiasm and commitment to the workshops and plenaries. It was a pleasure to meet women who had advocated for the inclusion of section 15 in the Charter, and to gather with old friends.

The presentations in both the workshops and the plenary sessions covered an extraordinary range of topics. Over the four days, there were 55 workshops which covered issues from the effects of colonialism on Aboriginal women to same-sex marriage.

Three plenary sessions brought all of the delegates together. The first plenary session focused on the history of equality rights. Sharon McIvor opened the plenary with remarks on “Aboriginal Women Unmasked: The History of Aboriginal Women and Section 15 of the Charter.” Mary Eberts’ talk was titled, “Forged in Hope”, and Andrée Côté completed the first plenary with her assessment of “The Evolution of Equality Rights: Taking Stock of Law Reform”.

The second plenary session focused on the continuing equality deficit. Natasha Bakht addressed women, religious arbitration and culture. Suzanne Laforest discussed the daily life of deaf women, Sacha Fink drew our attention to the need for an independent women’s movement, and Carolyn Ji Jong Goossen rounded up the second plenary by raising equality issues relevant to new immigrant youth.

The third plenary session was the historic first sitting of the “Women’s Court of Canada”. The judges on that (self-appointed) high court have rewritten some of Canada’s most significant equality judgments, and delivered some of those rewritten judgments from the bench.

The Women’s Court of Canada was just one of the theatrical highlights, however. Six women presented “rants”, performance pieces with a critical focus. A highlight of those rants was Agnes Huang, who showed up fully attired as the Charter. Over lunch on the second day, Ros Salvador, Proma Tagore, and Robin Taylor provided a moving and thoughtful poetry performance. Judge Corrine Sparks’ presentation on the social and legal constructs of modern feminism and section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms concluded a very successful conference.

Kim Brooks is Assistant Professor of Law at UBC and out-going Coordinator of NAWL’s National Steering Committee.