November 5, 2021 – Courts must meaningfully consider the equality rights of women and children, who face disproportionate levels of intoxicated violence, says the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF). 

On November 9, 2021, the Supreme Court will hear submissions in R. v. Brown. LEAF will urge the Court to fully take into account the equality rights of women and children when making its decision.

These cases will examine the defence of “self-induced extreme intoxication” under Canadian criminal law. The Criminal Code bars an accused person from raising the defence of extreme intoxication to certain violent offences, including sexual assault, where they have voluntarily consumed drugs or alcohol to the point where they lose control of their actions.

This defence was also at issue in the recent cases of R. v. Sullivan and R. v. Chan, where LEAF also intervened. There, the Court of Appeal for Ontario had held that this rule violates the Charter rights of accused persons. In Brown, however, the Alberta Court of Appeal disagreed and upheld the rule. The Supreme Court will now decide whether or not this law is constitutional. 

“It is critical that the Supreme Court balance all of the Charter rights at stake when deciding whether or not this defence is unconstitutional,” says Kat Owens, Project Director at LEAF. “This means fully considering the equality rights of women and girls along with the rights of the accused.” 

Megan Stephens (Megan Stephens Law) and Lara Kinkartz (WeirFoulds LLP) will represent LEAF before the Supreme Court. The hearing will be available via webcast on the Supreme Court’s website. 

LEAF is grateful to the members of the case committee that helped shape this intervention: Karen Bellehumeur (Bellehumeur Law); Rosemary Cairns Way (University of Ottawa); Frances Chapman (Lakehead University); Alanna Courtright (St. Joseph Healthcare Hamilton); Daphne Gilbert (University of Ottawa); and Farrah Khan (Ryerson University).

Media Contacts

Kat Owens
Project Director, LEAF 
[email protected] 

Megan Stephens 
Megan Stephens Law 
Counsel to LEAF 
[email protected] 

About the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)   

The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) is a national not-for-profit that works to advance gender equality in Canada through litigation, law reform, and public legal education.   

Since 1985, LEAF has intervened in more than 100 cases that have helped shape the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, responded to violence against women and gender diverse people, pushed back against discrimination in the workplace, allowed access to reproductive freedoms, and provided improved maternity benefits, spousal support, and the right to pay equity.  

LEAF understands that women and gender diverse individuals in Canada experience discrimination in different ways, and builds partnerships across communities to inform our understanding of how race, gender identity, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, class, and other intersectional identities underlie legal structures that perpetuate inequality, discrimination, and harm.