Feminist Law Reform 101

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Submissions from Fall 2020 Feminist Law Reform with Prof. Martha Jackman:
Visit the course website at: https://feministlawreform101.nawl.ca

The STCA Negatively Affects Women Facing Domestic Violence

By Megan Talbot

The Safe Third Country Agreement (‘STCA’) between the US and Canada, under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, disproportionally affects refugee women fleeing from domestic violence. By requiring claimants “to request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in,”[1] refuge in Canada will be denied if claimants arrive in a “Canada Land Port of Entry from the US.”[2] 

This is problematic because women seeking refuge in the US due to persecution from an abusive romantic partner must prove their home country condones or cannot alleviate the persecution.[3] However, this differs from the standard of proving that the government is “unable or unwilling” to protect the claimant, as is the case in Canada.[4] This effectively means that the STCA prevents domestic violence survivors from seeking refuge in Canada if their US claim fails, which leaves women at further risk of abuse as they will be sent back to the US and may face deportation back to their abuser.

In July 2020, three claimants successfully argued that the US was unsafe and the STCA violated their s.7 Charter rights for various reasons.[5] Unfortunately, the STCA will remain in effect until January 2021, providing the Canadian government to appeal this Federal Court decision.[6]

[1] “Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement” (23 July 2020), online: Government of Canada <https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/mandate/policies-operational-instructions-agreements/agreements/safe-third-country-agreement.html>.

[2] Canadian Council for Refugees v Canada (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, 2020 FC 770 at para 3.

[3] Kelli Maria Korducki, “How gender-based violence factors into Canada-US refugee policy” (20 June 2019), online: Open Canada <https://www.opencanada.org/features/how-gender-based-violence-factors-canada-us-refugee-policy/>.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Supra note 2. 

[6] “The government must stop sending refugee claimants back to the United States” (July 2020), online: Canadian Council for Refugees <https://ccrweb.ca/en/government-must-stop-sending-refugee-claimants-back-US>.


Un silence mortel

Par Jana Cheaitani

Durant la dissolution du mariage, les femmes abusées compromettent souvent leurs droits légaux pour éviter de provoquer plus de violences par leur partenaire et pour protéger le bien-être de leurs enfants. L’agresseur contribue considérablement à la culture du silence en menaçant de se venger si la victime parle à quelqu’un de l’abus et si elle ne nie pas toutes les allégations de cette nature. Également, une autre préoccupation qui contribue au silence des victimes d’abus est leur méfiance à l’égard du système judiciaire et l’approche systématique des tribunaux.

Dans un moment de désespoir, les femmes ont décidé de blesser ou de tuer leurs agresseurs. En 1990, dans l’affaire R c Lavallee, la Cour suprême du Canada a statué que lorsqu’une femme est accusée du meurtre de son partenaire violent, le jury et le tribunal peuvent considérer le «syndrome des femmes battues» comme un moyen de défense. 

Bien que la reconnaissance de l’impact de la violence conjugale sur ses victimes valide les expériences des femmes et démontre une perspective compatissante de la part des juges dans l’application de la loi, il est crucial d’envisager une réforme pour une réponse individualisée à l’abus conjugal pour éviter l’invocation du syndrome de la femme battue. 


It’s time for abortions to be treated like all other medically necessary health services under the New Brunswick Medical Service Payment Act.

By Jasmine Lord

With the recent closure of Clinic 554 in Fredericton, the question of abortion access in New Brunswick is once again making headlines. Under Regulation 84-20 of the New Brunswick Medical Service Payment Act1, abortion is one of only two medical services (the other being radiology services), that is deemed not be an entitled service based solely on the location of the procedure, and not on the nature of the procedure itself.

While other health services, notably vasectomies, are covered by the province even when performed in clinics, abortion is the only entitled medical service that is specifically restricted to hospital locations by Regulation 84-20 of the New Brunswick Medical Service Payment Act. Schedule 2 of the regulation notes that “abortion, unless the abortion is performed in a hospital facility approved by the jurisdiction in which the hospital facility is located” is not an entitled service.

This specific locational restriction seems arbitrary at best and discriminatory at worst. Since the government and the health authorities are not questioning the medically necessary status of abortions, nor their entitlement for payment, they should not be treated differently than other medically necessary health services. This restriction is dated and only creates unnecessary barriers for women requiring this service and should simply be repealed.


Un lieu plus sécuritaire pour les victimes de violence sexuelle 

Par Karla Mikhael 

Lors des cas de violence sexuelle, pendant son témoignage, la victime est seule dans la  barre des témoins, est au centre de la cour. Les juges et les avocats ont l’opportunité de poser des  questions au sujet de l’événement terrible, puis la victime est obligée de répondre. Tous les yeux  sont rivés sur elle alors qu’elle révèle les détails intimes de sa victimisation. Les rituels de la cour ne lui permettent pas d’avoir une personne de support à ses côtés. Elle doit rester dans cette  position incroyablement vulnérable jusqu’à ce qu’elle soit autorisée à quitter la barre des témoins.  Alors, je crois que le Canada devrait avoir des tribunaux spécialisés qui offriraient une plus  grande possibilité d’avoir du personnel judiciaire expérimenté dans les caractéristiques uniques  de la violence sexuelle contre les femmes et les subtilités de la loi sur les agressions sexuelles,  permettant ainsi un traitement plus sensible et plus efficace des affaires d’agression sexuelle.  Cela réduirait à son tour le fardeau des victimes et du système judiciaire. Les tribunaux spécialisés ont également le potentiel de mieux répondre aux besoins des victimes d’agression  sexuelle en assurant un soutien psychologique facilement accessible pour éviter le nouveau  traumatisme.


Abortion services in Canada: a right that should be accessible to all

By Stéphanie Mercier 

Every woman has the right to choose what she does with her body. However, although abortion in Canada was decriminalized in 1988 by a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, many women seeking such a service do not have access to it. For women living outside of major urban centers, access to abortion services can seem impossible. In Canada, only one hospital in six offers this procedure. In addition, although under the Canada Health Act, abortion services are covered in all provinces and territories, some provinces have limited funding for abortion services. As a result, the lack of access is particularly significant for women living in rural areas where the distance to access abortion services is a considerable barrier. For these women, abortion services mean an important financial loss due to the cost of travel and an inevitable leave of absence from work. Worse still, many doctors continue to refuse to refer patients to doctor’s who would be willing to perform the procedure. It’s more than time to fully implement the Canada Health Act and ensure that all provinces make abortion accessible in all parts of the country. 

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