April 17, 2015 – The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) is celebrating its 30th anniversary. LEAF was founded April 17, the day the equality law provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect, with the goal of achieving and defending equality rights for women and girls. LEAF’s first case was a successful challenge to a law that prevented women from keeping their own names after marriage. Since then LEAF has participated in many cases to protect the equality rights guaranteed by the Charter.

Although the Charter holds the promise of equality for all, it has been necessary again and again to defend the rights of protected groups. LEAF has been able to step in and make submissions in many of the cases that have set the stage for women and girls to make choices that were previously denied to them under the law.

“Although it is always disappointing to learn that Canadian women must appeal to the courts to ensure protection of their equality rights, it is critical that LEAF continues to participate in litigation to reinforce and protect women’s rights. If LEAF had not intervened in so many cases over the years, providing a strong and cogent feminist legal analysis on topics such as consent, sexual harassment, reproductive rights and access to services and employment, the law would not have developed in a way that promotes and protects equality rights. LEAF has a great deal more work to do to address the injustices done to women and other equality-seeking groups every day. LEAF will continue to work for equality,” said LEAF legal director Kim Stanton.

“LEAF’s founding mothers had the vision and forethought to create LEAF to defend equality rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Over the past three decades, we have observed that equality rights remain fluid in Canada. Many women in Canada still do not have access to safe, legal abortion, and access to justice is limited for Indigenous peoples and many others who face systemic obstacles to fair treatment within the legal system, including homeless people, those who present with intellectual disabilities, sexual harassment and assault complainants and women in family law cases,” said LEAF executive director Diane O’Reggio.

Women are persecuted worldwide because of their gender, and we at LEAF know the importance of working with our sisters worldwide to build networks of solidarity and resistance. LEAF’s work continues in the Canadian courts, and at the same time we work to insist on equality for women and girls of all nations. LEAF continues to raise its voice in order to ensure that all women have access to health care and to social assistance, for reproductive justice, equal access to employment, protection from hate speech, and access to justice for all.

LEAF has achieved a great deal in its thirty years and will continue to work tirelessly to achieve equality through litigation, law reform and public education.

Please help LEAF celebrate its 30th years of work in the courts by continuing to intervene in cases that will protect equality rights. Take part in protecting the equality rights women have achieved in the last 30 years, and in ensuring that we can continue to advance equality rights for women and girls using the legal system. Donate to LEAF this April to mark its 30th year.