October 7, 2021 – Courts must carefully balance women’s equality rights and the rights of the accused when balancing the constitutionality of criminal laws, says the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF). 

On October 12, 2021, the Supreme Court will hear submissions in R. v. Sullivan and R. v. Chan. LEAF will urge the Court to meaningfully consider 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. Last year, the Court of Appeal for Ontario held that this rule violates the Charter rights of accused persons. The Supreme Court will soon decide whether it agrees. 

“Women and children face disproportionate levels of intoxicated violence,” says Kat Owens, Project Director at LEAF. “It is important that the Supreme Court meaningfully consider their equality rights, as well as the rights of the accused.” 

LEAF will focus on the need to balance all of the Charter rights at stake when deciding whether accused persons should have access to this defence. LEAF will also examine the role of Parliament in enacting laws to hold people accountable, including for their actions while extremely intoxicated. 

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 are guiding, informing, and supporting 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); Farrah Khan (Ryerson University); and Marie Manikis (McGill 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.