LEAF E-Lines

March 2011

In This Issue
International Women's Day
LEAF Call for Nominationa
LEAF Celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the Ad Hoc Women's Costitutional Conference with a Screening of Constitute!
LEAF Victory in Infanticide Case R. vs. L.B.
Educational Programs and Resources
LEAF in the News
Support LEAF
International Women's Day
international women's day logo 

LEAF invites you to take a moment on March 8th to observe International Women's Day, a call to action for change, a time to reflect on progress made, and a celebration of the acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women's rights.


Observed since the early 1900's, International Women's Day was originally called International Working Women's Day.  It is now an occasion marked by women's groups everywhere as a global celebration. Thousands of events throughout March pay tribute to women's struggles and achievements.


Since the 1900's, significant social, legal and political progress for women's rights has been made.  The United Nations in its 1945 Charter proclaimed gender equality as a fundamental human right. This has led to a historic legacy of international declarations, strategies, standards, programs and goals to advance the status of women worldwide.


In Canada, LEAF has played an integral role in advancing women's equality for the past 25 years.  We have helped bring about significant change and attitudinal shift in women's and society's thoughts about women's equality and emancipation.  But the unfortunate fact is that there is still a long way to go. International Women's Day is a time to celebrate the gains that have been achieved and to remind ourselves of inequalities that still need to be addressed. Join us to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding, by promoting equality for women and girls through legal action, public education and law reform, and confronting all forms of discrimination in our efforts to achieve equality for women.

LEAF Call for Nominations

It is that time of the year when LEAF's Board begins the critical process of recruiting new members. The Nominating Committee under the leadership of Marilyn Roycroft is excited to be sending you the formal call for nominations.


Our Board is a stimulating environment for women with experience and knowledge in any of the following areas:


  • Communications
  • Human rights and equality litigation
  • Fund development
  • Law reform
  • Non-profit governance
  • Public education 

Inspired by the excitement of celebrating our first 25 years, we'll find wonderful leaders for the next quarter century!  Please take a few minutes to look over the attached forms and send them to your colleagues, friends, and along your networks.  Nominating 2011; Nominating 2011-2; Nominating 2011-3


Please note that nominations have been extended to March 21st.

 Marilyn R signature

Marilyn Roycroft, Chair, Fund Development Committee



If you have any questions please contact me at: 416-658-8237 or by email: [email protected]



LEAF Celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the Ad Hoc Women's Costitutional Conference with a Screening of the film Constitute! 

On Wednesday February 16, LEAF participated in the screening of the documentary film Constitute! at Flavelle House, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. 

 Constitute dvd cover

Produced by the International Women's Rights Project and Rooney Productions, the film is about the mobilization of Canadian women to ensure that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms included equality Sections 15 and 28.  The film recalls the extraordinary moment in 1980 when 1,300 women gathered on Parliament Hill to make recommendations to then-Justice Minister Jean Chretien, after a meeting to hear women's concerns had been cancelled.In an unprecedented move, the proposed amendments by the "ad hockers" (as they were called) were introduced and passed unanimously on third reading of the Charter bill in Parliament.

"It was a momentous occasion, and, shockingly, the grassroots success story has largely been left out of writing on constitutional history in Canada," said founding mother Marilou McPhedran.
  The film is a start at rectifying that omission.


With interviews by human rights activist and journalist Sally Armstrong, the film features such notable Canadian women as Doris Anderson, Michele Landsberg, Marilou McPhedran, Linda Palmer Nye, Sharon McIvor, Flora MacDonald, Pauline Jewett, and many others.


The screening of the film was followed by a discussion with the film's Executive Producer, Susan Bazilli, Director of the IWRP.

LEAF Victory in Infanticide Case R. vs. L.B. 

The Ontario Court of Appeal on March 2nd released a precedent-setting decision in a case involving the interpretation of the offence of infanticide in the Criminal Code.  The Court in R. vs. L.B. considered the following question: Where the Crown charges murder instead of infanticide when a mother has killed her newly-born child, is the lesser sentence for the crime of infanticide nevertheless available to the accused woman?


LEAF intervened in the case to offer the Court a perspective on the ongoing relevance of the charge of infanticide, which recognizes the reproductive functions and care giving roles of women and the unique stresses which accompany those roles.


"Women charged with murder face life imprisonment", says LEAF Legal Director Joanna Birenbaum.  "This is a significant concern to LEAF since the offence of infanticide, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment, is intended to account for the complex and gendered social, economic, psychological and medical context in which the offence occurs."


Marie Henein, counsel for LEAF, says that, "This is an important decision since it upholds Parliament's recognition of the reduced culpability of women who commit infanticide. The decision confirms that even where a woman in these terrible circumstances is charged with murder, she may be convicted of infanticide where the legal elements of a 'disturbed mind' caused by 'the effects of childbirth and lactation' are present."


Birenbaum goes on to explain, "A life sentence with long periods of parole ineligibility in cases of infanticide is inconsistent with Parliament's intent, the community's sense of justice, and the uniquely gendered context of the offence. The women who commit infanticide in Canada tend to be young, poor, socially isolated and without adequate social and economic supports to cope with childbirth or caring for a child.  They have often experienced sexual or other abuse and have often denied their pregnancy to others and even to themselves.  Many accused women have given birth alone, and commit the offence in a state of panic, intense pain, shock, disassociation, exhaustion and alienation.  The offence of infanticide is treated differently in law than murder because of these many overlapping social, cultural, psychological and medical factors, which may affect the state of mind of accused women after childbirth."

                       education programs and resources button 

Did you know that many LEAF branches deliver educational programs to high school students on topics including sexual consent and workplace rights?  Or that LEAF National has a Speakers Bureau of volunteers able to present on a number of topics?  Are you interested in getting involved in this work?

LEAF branches train members to deliver the educational programs 'No Means No' and 'LEAF at Work.'  Consider whether or not you know of a school or group of young people who could benefit from such a presentation. Or perhaps you could volunteer as one of the facilitators. Contact your local branch to see how you can get involved.


The LEAF Speakers Bureau was established in 2010 and already we have speakers available on LEAF topics.  Want to volunteer to be one of the speakers? Do you know of a group that would appreciate a LEAF speaker? Contact the LEAF Speakers Bureau at [email protected]


These are just two ways that LEAF carries out its mandate to provide education to the public on the advancement of the rights of girls and women. The LEAF Education Committee is always looking at how to expand or improve our programs. If you have any ideas, let us know by contacting us at [email protected].

LEAF in the News

LEAF Comments on Rhodes Case, February 28, 2011:


LEAF Legal Director Joanna Birenbaum was interviewed on national TV, regarding comments made by Queen's Bench Court Justice Robert Dewar, during a sentencing hearing in the case of Kenneth Rhodes. Rhodes had been convicted of sexual assault for an incident in 2006 near Thompson, Manitoba. He was handed a two-year conditional sentence instead of the jail term sought by the prosecution.


Dewar was criticized for his remarks suggesting a woman's clothing and attitude may have contributed to her being sexually assaulted. Birenbaum said that Justice Dewar's remarks send a message across Canada that women are to blame for sexual assaults perpetrated against them.  Some protesters called for Dewar to be removed from his position, while most wanted an apology. The Canadian Judicial Council will review the comments of Dewar.



LEAF's Impact on the Supreme Court of Canada's Withler Decision, March 5, 2011:


Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Madam Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella of the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the appeal of two widows, Hazel Withler and Jean Fitzsimonds, who were the representative claimants in a class action challenging federal legislation that gradually reduces death benefits for surviving spouses of public servants and military members, based on the age of the deceased.


LEAF intervened and argued that the reductions constituted discrimination because most of the affected spouses were elderly women, who are "less economically secure" and who have in life "experienced systemic labour market discrimination, including pay inequity."  LEAF Lawyer Daphne Gilbert argued that women "at all ages" require transitional funding.


But the Supreme Court noted that survivors had pensions and benefits: "Any reduction in the supplementary death benefit paid to the spouses of older employees is therefore offset to some degree by the surviving spouse's survivor's pension."


LEAF also intervened because the Court's decision will have significant implications for constitutional equality rights in Canada.  Gilbert explains that, "...the judgment suggests some progress in the equality jurisprudence which responds to issues specifically raised by LEAF in our intervention.  The Court's acknowledgement of LEAF's submissions affirms the importance of LEAF's role as an intervener."


LEAF is studying the impacts of the decision on equality rights jurisprudence, including concerns raised by some aspects of the judgment.

Support LEAF
hand signing 

The goal of our founding mothers 25 years ago was to ensure that equality rights guaranteed under the Canadian Constitution's newly enacted Section 15 were indeed honoured by the courts.  LEAF, side by side with its allies, has actively and successfully pursued that goal every year since 1985.  The work is not over.  We can't stop now!

Giving monthly is the most effective way to ensure LEAF's sustainability and the struggle for women's equality across the country. 


Please give generously by visiting our website and donating on-line.  If you prefer another route for your donation, please call LEAF at 1-416-595-7191 or 1-888-824-5323 and ask to speak with Via Kurlinas.

LEAF - the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund - is a national charitable organization that works toward ensuring the law guarantees substantive equality 

for all women in Canada.


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