On Tuesday, February 13, 2018, LEAF filed a motion to seek leave to intervene before the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) in the case of R v Jarvis.
At issue in the case is whether a male high school teacher who used a camera pen to secretly film his female students’ cleavage committed the criminal offence of voyeurism found in section 162(1) of the Criminal Code.
To be guilty of voyeurism, Mr. Jarvis must have surreptitiously observed his students for a sexual purpose in circumstances in which they had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The Ontario Court of Appeal (ONCA), using a narrow, location-based assessment of privacy, concluded that the students had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the school, due primarily to the fact that the
school is “public”. Accordingly, the ONCA found that Mr. Jarvis’ secret filming of his female students’ breasts while they attended school was not a criminal offence.
The Crown appeal raises the issue of whether students have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such that they will be protected from being filmed for a sexual purpose without their knowledge or consent, while attending school.
LEAF’s Proposed Intervention
If granted leave to intervene, LEAF will ask the SCC to adopt a expansive approach to the concept of “reasonable expectation of privacy” that takes into account women’s constitutional right to equality. LEAF will urge the Court to adopt a contextual approach to privacy which respects women’s liberty, autonomy, and bodily and sexual integrity, in both private and public spaces. Anything less risks reinforcing the discriminatory presumption that women have no place in public life, or that women who enter public spaces are “fair game” for this type of sexual violence.
LEAF will further argue that this contextual analysis of privacy must take into
account women and girls’ subjectively held privacy expectations. In the context of this case, LEAF will argue that it is “reasonable” for girls to expect their teachers, who occupy a position of trust and authority, to respect and safeguard their autonomy and well-being. Further, equality values demand that schools be treated as places where it is reasonable for girls to expect privacy from sexual intrusion, particularly from those in positions of power.
LEAF intends to identify the importance of s. 162(1) for promoting the equality of women and girls in the context of the digital era and the consequent rise of online misogyny and harassment. This case will be the first important test of the scope of the relatively new criminal prohibitions on voyeurism. It will also have implications for the even newer criminal restrictions on non-consensual distribution of intimate images, sometimes referred to as “revenge pornography”, which also apply only to images that were made in circumstances in which the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy. These provisions are of critical importance for women’s equality in the age of camera phones and social media. A broad and contextual interpretation of their scope, including what circumstances engage a reasonable expectation of privacy, is therefore of vital importance.
The Ontario Court of Appeal judgment is available here.
About Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)
Since April 17, 1985, when equality rights were enshrined in sections 15 and 28 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, LEAF has used litigation, law reform and public education to work toward equality for women and girls. LEAF intervenes in key cases to ensure that when courts interpret equality rights, there will be a systemic improvement in women’s lives. For more information about LEAF, visit www.leaf.ca.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Karen Segal, LEAF Counsel
416.595.7170 x 226