General Questions

What does LEAF do?

LEAF litigates and educates. Our focus is to act whenever the substantive equality rights guaranteed under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms need to be protected or strengthened to bring about real change in women’s lives.

LEAF applies to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) or provincial Appeal Courts for intervener status in cases we select. Our branch representatives and Law Program Committee watch for cases that are determined to have a significant impact on the equality rights of all women. LEAF’s Legal Director and a team of pro bono lawyers work to prepare arguments based on sections 15 and 28 of the Charter. Our limited resources allow us to intervene in only a very small number of cases per year.  However, since LEAF was founded in 1985, LEAF has intervened in dozens of cases.

LEAF offers education programs to explain and discuss the equality rights of women and girls under the law. Our branches are actively involved in education activities. Find out if there is a LEAF Branch near you and become an active member of LEAF.

How does LEAF fund its cases?

LEAF must fund cases from its own operating funds, which are provided for by its general fundraising efforts and by an annual grant from the LEAF Foundation. Cases can cost over $100,000. LEAF asks legal counsel to donate their services, or work pro bono as this is known, in order to reduce costs. Previously, LEAF’s cases were eligible for limited funding under the Court Challenges Program, a federal government program which did underwrite some expenses of litigation. It provided about $35,000 per case in order to give Canadians access to the justice system when equality issues were at the forefront of a case. The Court Challenges Program stopped accepting applications for funding effective September 25, 2006.  This has created a need for LEAF to fundraise even harder to ensure we can challenge what is occurring in Canada’s courts.

Donors can support LEAF cases and LEAF’s law reform and public education activities by contributing to its general fundraising programs. You can find out how you can get involved here.

I would like to make a donation to LEAF, how do I do it?

First of all, thank you for your kind generousity! Please contact LEAF at info@leaf.ca or by calling 416-595-7170 or toll-free 1-888-824-5323. See our donations page for further details. The donate button in the upper left hand corner of each page of our website gives direct access to on-line giving.

Legal Questions

Can LEAF fund my case or represent me in court?

LEAF does not provide funding for  individual cases. For more information on resources in your region, visit the Canadian Women’s Directory of Resources. LEAF does not take clients or represent people directly. Please contact the law society in your province to find a lawyer.

Can I make an appointment with a LEAF lawyer to discuss my legal problem?

LEAF works at the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) or provincial Appeal Court level by intervening in existing cases. We do not represent people directly. If you need a lawyer, or help finding one, the best route is to contact the law society in your province.

What does it mean when LEAF gains “Intervener Status” on a case?

This legal term means a court has made a formal decision to grant LEAF the right to participate in the proceedings before the court and provide comment on the legal issues under consideration. The case may be between two private parties, or between the government and a private party, but cases can involve a legal issue that impacts the equality rights of women. That is when LEAF seeks to intervene and make legal arguments on behalf of all Canadian women and girls. Our goal is to ensure that their rights are protected and where possible expanded. It is an exciting and important work that can make a lasting contribution to the substantive equality of women and girls.

How much does it cost for LEAF to intervene in a case?

The cost of intervening varies from case to case. This is because a lot of factors influence the cost. For example, the venue, or level of court that the case is being heard, has a big effect on the costs. The cost for a hearing at the Supreme Court will be much higher than the costs of a hearing before a human rights tribunal. The full cost of the litigation is never borne by LEAF because the lawyers who act for us always donate either all or part of their time. This is referred to as pro bono work.  It represents a huge contribution by the lawyers involved. It is also a measure of their commitment to advancing women’s equality rights.  Still, the cost of going to court is very high. The cost of a Supreme Court of Canada intervention, including legal fees and disbursement costs such as photocopying, can reach over $100,000.

How long does it take, on average, to see a case through to completion?

Case length is influenced by many factors. A case is never truly completed until the court renders its decision. The level of difficulty of the legal argument and issues can also affect the duration of a case. On average, decisions on Supreme Court of Canada cases are handed down about six months from the date of the hearing. However, some cases have taken over a year before a decision is rendered. Things also vary at different levels of court and from province to province. For example, the decision on Falkiner, an Ontario Court of Appeal case that was argued in January 2001, was not decided until 14 months later on May 13, 2002.

Can I get a copy of one of your factums?

All of our factums are available here.  If you have questions or can’t find what you are looking for, please contact us.