30 Years of Working Together Towards Equality

This year is a significant year for the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) – it’s the 30th anniversary of the founding of LEAF and the enactment of the equality law provisions in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Despite having much to celebrate, we are reminded on a daily basis about the fragility of equality rights can be here in Canada. Over the past year, the ongoing epidemic of violence against women and girls, rape culture on university and college campuses, and the infringement of reproductive rights and lack of access to contraception and abortion services have all demonstrated that there is still more work to be done. The many equality rights issues facing women and girls across Canada reinforce the ongoing need for LEAF’s litigation, law reform and public education.

Please donate to LEAF and join us as we  continue to address these critical issues to improve the lives of women and girls across Canada.

With 30 years of experience and expertise, LEAF continues to work tirelessly on litigation and law reform activities that have the potential to advance substantive equality in Canada. This past year, LEAF conducted important legal research on access to reproductive rights across Canada, and held two public panel discussions, an in-depth symposium, and led a significant legal research project on the intersection of religious and equality rights in Canada.

A vital part of advancing equality in Canada are LEAF’s education initiatives, which engage communities and complement our legal work. LEAF’s education workshops and outreach activities promote the understanding of women’s legal rights and how the law can advance substantive equality so that individuals are equipped with knowledge and inspired to act. LEAF Branches continue to be the champions of the workshops with students in local high schools, colleges, universities and within communities.

You have been a part of our journey towards equality and we thank all of you – our donors, volunteers, pro bono lawyers and community supporters who continue to join LEAF as we maintain our strong voice for women and girls across Canada. As we reflect on the past 30 years, we extend our deep gratitude to each of LEAF’s founding mothers for their wisdom and their vision of imbuing the equality provisions of the Charter with real substance.

We remain conscious that despite our successes in Canadian courts, women and girls in Canada continue to face disproportionate levels of violence, and social and economic barriers to success in the workplace, at home, and under the law. Our work continues!

LEAF’s leadership is needed now more than ever. This is your opportunity to donate to LEAF to ensure that we continue to advocate for equality and improve the lives of women and girls in Canada.

Please take the time to read the highlights and accomplishments from this past year. Thank you for your support of LEAF. All the best to you in 2016!

Sincerely,

Diane O’Reggio
Executive Director

Please make your donation to LEAF by December 31, 2015 and help improve the lives of women and girls in Canada.


LEAF Legal Update

In November 2015, along with our Edmonton-based partner, the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, LEAF filed a motion for leave to intervene before the Alberta Court of Appeal in the appeal of R. v. Barton. At trial, a jury acquitted the man accused of murdering Cindy Gladue, an Indigenous woman. The jury believed the defence argument that Ms. Gladue had consented to “rough sex”. LEAF believes this decision is deeply worrisome for the law of consent and reflects a widespread disregard for violence against Indigenous women in this society. We await the Court’s decision on the leave motion.

Earlier in 2015, LEAF sought leave to intervene in two appeals before the Federal Court of Appeal. In Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care et al v. Canada, LEAF planned to argue that the federal government’s 2012 cuts to refugee health care disproportionately affected refugee women – for example, the lack of coverage for prenatal and antenatal care severely affects refugee women. In Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Ishaq, LEAF planned to advance an intersectional s. 15 analysis focusing on the gender and religious discrimination suffered by women who are Muslim and who wear the niqab. Unfortunately, the same motions judge denied us leave in both cases. Undeterred, we continued our work for women’s equality through other means, as described herein.

This year we contributed to a shadow report to the UN Human Rights Committee on Canada’s compliance with its International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights commitments. We made a submission to the Changing Workplaces Review, Ontario’s review of the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Code. Our submission relied on our successful intervention last year in the family status discrimination case of Johnstone v CBSA to alert the reviewers to issues affecting women’s ability to participate in the labour force.

We added our voice to campaigns such as Up for Debate, joining with an alliance of over 175 women’s organizations and our allies from across Canada to put women’s concerns on the table during the election campaign.

LEAF continues its commitment to advocating for reproductive justice across Canada. In the face of even further diminished access to reproductive health in Atlantic Canada, LEAF called upon the government of New Brunswick to immediately repeal regulatory barriers to abortion access. LEAF is working with extraordinary grassroots activists on the east coast to achieve publicly-funded access to safe and legal abortion for women in Prince Edward Island, the only province in Canada where women do not have any access to abortion.

As a member of the Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women, LEAF has engaged in legal advocacy and research to urgently address the tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIW). The Coalition produced two major reports in 2015 to address systemic failures related to MMIW.

LEAF Community Engagement and Outreach

LEAF hosted a community panel entitled “What is Barbaric? Feminist Reflections on Religion and Equality”, referring to federal Bill S-7, the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act. LEAF then hosted a full-day symposium entitled “Reflections on Women, Equality, and Religion”.

LEAF and Older Women’s Network (OWN) members gathered together for a lively discussion and celebration of Equality Day and LEAF’s 30th Anniversary with keynote speakers Mary Eberts and Kim Stanton.

LEAF partnered with the Law Society of Upper Canada and other prominent organizations to host an International Women’s Day panel discussion entitled “Sexual violence against women: the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

LEAF joined the Canadian Association of Muslim Women in Law (CAMWL) and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Department of Social Justice Education to organize a community gathering and discussion: “The Impossible Citizen: A Conversation on Race, Gender and Democracy”, with a webcast generously sponsored by Lerners LLP.

Please make your donation to LEAF by December 31, 2015 and help improve the lives of women and girls in Canada.