November 16, 2020  

The LEAF-DAWN-ARCH Coalition welcomes the Supreme Court of Canada’s recognition that generalizations and stereotypes about women with disabilities are “inimical” to the truth-finding process of a sexual assault trial in R. v. Slatter.   

On November 6, 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a unanimous ruling from the Bench, in which the Court restored the sexual assault conviction for the accused.  

The coalition is especially pleased the Court adopted the key points advanced by the coalition in its judgment by highlighting how “[o]ver-reliance on generalities can perpetuate harmful myths and stereotypes about individuals with disabilities, which is inimical to the truth-seeking process, and creates additional barriers for those seeking access to justice.” Substantive equality requires courts to assess evidence based on the actual abilities and individual circumstances of women with disabilities. 

While the Court’s statement denouncing ableist stereotypes is a welcome one, it is disappointing that the Court did not explicitly recognize the gendered impact of sexual violence against women and girls with disabilities. As LEAF-DAWN-ARCH noted in the written submissions, women with disabilities are overrepresented among sexual assault survivors. In 2014, women living with disabilities were nearly twice as likely to have been sexually assaulted than women without disabilities. 

Suzan Fraser, co-counsel for LEAF-DAWN-ARCH, said in an interview with the Globe and Mail about the case: “just because a person is labelled with a disability, we should be wary of treating their reliability differently based on what I would say are actuarial scores.”  

Read the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision.    

Case committee and Counsel  

LEAF-DAWN-ARCH’s arguments were informed and supported by a case committee composed of academics and practitioners with expertise in the relevant issues. The committee members for this intervention are (in alphabetical order): Shelley Fletcher (People First of Canada), Karine-Myrgianie Jean-François (DAWN), Barb McIntyre (Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre), Janet Mosher (Osgoode Hall Law School), Roxanne Mykitiuk (Osgoode Hall Law School), and Tess Sheldon (Faculty of Law, University of Windsor).   

The LEAF staff who contributed to the case were Megan Stephens, Rosel Kim, and Nicole Biros-Bolton.  

For background and judicial history of the case, see our earlier announcement when LEAF-DAWN-ARCH submitted its written arguments to the Supreme Court of Canada.  

For media inquiries, contact:  

Suzan E. Fraser 
Fraser Advocacy 
T : 416 703 9555 
E : [email protected]  

Kerri Joffe, Staff Lawyer 
ARCH Disability Law Centre 
E: [email protected]  

Rosel Kim, Staff Lawyer 
Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund 
E: [email protected]  

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

The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) works to advance the substantive equality rights of women and girls through litigation, law reform, and public education. Since 1985, LEAF has intervened in landmark cases that have advanced equality in Canada—helping to prevent violence, eliminate discrimination in the workplace, provide better maternity benefits, ensure a right to pay equity, and allow access to reproductive freedoms.  

To support our work to protect the equality rights of women and girls, please consider donating today.  

About DisAbled Women’s Network Canada (DAWN)  

Established in 1985, DAWN is a national, feminist, cross-disability organization that has provided opportunities for self-determination and leadership development for women and girls with disabilities for 35 years. DAWN’s mission is to end the poverty, isolation, discrimination and violence experienced by Canadian women with disabilities and Deaf women. DAWN works towards the advancement and inclusion of women and girls with disabilities and Deaf women and girls by creating change at a systemic level. DAWN has intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada on its own, or in coalition with LEAF, in numerous criminal and human rights-related cases.  

About ARCH Disability Law Centre (ARCH)  

ARCH is a specialty legal clinic, with a 40-year history of defending and advancing the equality rights and inclusion of persons with disabilities. ARCH is governed by a community-based board of directors, the majority of whom are persons with disabilities. ARCH provides legal advice directly to persons with disabilities in Ontario, conducts test case litigation before all levels of courts and tribunals, and maintains an extensive law reform practice. ARCH has particular expertise in human rights law, equality rights law and access to justice for persons with disabilities.