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Women’s Court of Canada: decisions, decisions

March 14, 2008

Women’s equality is painfully far from being a reality – too many women live in poverty, unable to feed and house themselves and their children adequately; lesbians are merely tolerated, mostly regarded as a deviant lifestyle, sometimes targeted for hate and violence; women with disabilities are still denied basic access to transportation, employment, and autonomy; racialized women are stigmatized and marginalized, and, in the post 9/11 political climate, some are perceived as potential terrorists; Aboriginal women are disappearing – raped, murdered, and discarded. The issues are urgent; there is much equality work to be done. But, politicians and Supreme Court of Canada judges alike seem to think that women have largely attained equality and that other issues (balanced budgets and national security) should take priority over equality. We are losing equality ground; we are in danger of losing our equality footing.

— Diana Majury, Introducing the Women’s Court of Canada

Last week, the Women’s Court of Canada celebrated the release of its first six decisions with a symposium for lawyers, community activists and law students. The event was called Rewriting Equality.

The court was created by lawyers, activists and scholars who are rewriting Supreme Court equality judgments. The 17 members started with six cases that deal with child care, equal pay, pension rights, social assistance, participation in constitutional negotiations, and integration of children with disabilities in public schools.

While these new interpretations aren’t available online, they are in the current issue of the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law/Revue Femmes et Droit.

According to writer Oscar Wild, “The only duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.” This is the motto of the Women’s Court in Canada, which seeks to challenge conventional thinking about equality, and highlight how the Supreme Court is, in some eyes, failing to deliver the equality promised by section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In the process of decision re-writing, we have been drawn to the adage that “the decisions of the Supreme Court are not final because they are authoritative; they are authoritative because they are final.” The Women’s Court is disrupting this finality in the hope, not of offering a finality of its own, but rather of bringing our experience and knowledge to bear on the cases we review, with the goal of opening up the dialogue and offering alternative and, we believe, more substantive visions of equality.

You can bet that will be following this dialogue very closely.


Introducing the Women’s Court of Canada (PDF download: 203.84 KB), by DIANA MAJURY, Canadian Journal of Women and the Law/Revue Femmes et Droit, Vol. 18, No. 1 | 2008
Your honour, we respectfully disagree, Toronto Star. Four condensed versions of the six rewritten decisions released by the Women’s Court of Canada. | Mar 08, 2008
Still Marching, by MELINDA MATTOS, | March 05, 2008
Women’s Court of Canada (MP3), Michael Enright interviews Mary Eberts and Shelagh Day, Sunday Edition, CBC radio podcast | March 9, 2008


  • Seasonal Feature

  • April 1994: the night raid at Kingston’s Prison for Women

    by Sierra Bacquie

    There was supposed to be a new approach to the Correctional Service of Canada’s relationship to female offenders, who were promised responsible choices, respect, dignity, supportive environments, and shared responsibility. But on the night of April 26, eight women experienced humiliation, degradation, raw fear and trauma at the hands of an all-male emergency team. How did this happen? What has changed since?  read more