Tag Archives: court cases

Niqabs in court

An important case opened in the Ontario Court of Appeal today. The court will decide if a woman will be allowed to wear a niqab while she testifies against the men who allegedly sexually assaulted her.

The woman, called N.S. in court documents, has worn the niqab for many years and argues that the Charter protects her religious right to wear it.

The Criminal Lawyers’ Association, one of the intervenors in the case, argues that defendants have a right to face their accusers. They also argue that lawyers need to be able to see facial expressions of the witness they are cross-examining.

Another intervenor is the the Canadian Muslim Congress, who argues that the niqab is a cultural garment, rather than a religious one.

However, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), an intervenor on the other side, argues that requiring N.S. to remove her veil will further deter Muslim women from bringing forward sexual assault charges.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, also an intervenor on the woman’s behalf, says that women should not have to choose between their religion and justice.

The discussion around this case should not be around whether or not women should wear coverings. It is about accommodating religious practice and protecting survivors of sexual assault. Sexual assault is already extremely under-reported and under-prosecuted. A ruling that finds women must testify unveiled would mean Muslim women would be even less likely to come forward.

This LEAF media advisory explains it well:

The implication of this case for the stigmatized minority group of women who wear the niqab is significant. [LEAF counsel, Susan Chapman] explains: “If niqab-wearing women believe that they will be ordered to remove their niqabs if they seek the protection of the Canadian legal system, will they ever report sexual assault? The message will be that these women can be sexually assaulted with impunity. This is clearly unacceptable.”

“The complaint’s request for an Order that she not be forced to remove her niqab is not an assertion of “special rights” nor is it just based on freedom of religion” says [LEAF co-counsel and Legal Director Joanna Birenbaum]. “The constitutional rights which the complainant asserts are fundamental: the rights to liberty, to be free from state imposed psychological harm, to physical security, to a justice system that operates free of discrimination and prejudice.”

No matter what the ruling, this case will likely go to the Supreme Court.

Legislating Sexualities in Alberta

Updated: Note the new location, FAB 220

The Political Science Graduate Association and the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta are presenting the panel Legislating Sexualities in Alberta.  It will be held from 12-2pm on Friday, February 5, 2010 in FAB 220, University of Alberta North Campus. More information can be found on the facebook page:

This panel will bring together a number of interested and informed actors to discuss the implications of the Alberta government’s actions and attitudes pertaining to sexual minorities. The motivations, repercussions and significance of the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act (AIRA), Bill 44, the de-listing of gender reassignment surgery, and eventual declaration of pride in Edmonton will be considered.


Lucas Crawford (English & Film Studies)
Dr. André P. Grace (Education)
Dr. Lois Harder (Political Science)
Dr. Cressida Heyes (Philosophy)
Rachel Notley (MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona)
Michael Phair (Education)

Laura has written a post for Blogosaurus Lex giving background information and asking questions on the issues this panel is discussing. From the post:

The de-listing of gender reassignment surgery (GRS, also known as Sexual Reassignment Surgery, SRS) for transgendered Albertans raises questions about who we deem worthy of medical treatment and how marginalized minority groups are treated in Alberta. It also raises questions about how people are defined under the law. Our society is heavily invested in the idea of a gender binary and our laws and bureaucratic processes reflect that. Transgendered people in Alberta, and in most places, must identify themselves as male or female on government documents (India legally recognizes the hijra as a third gender, but even this is problematic, in part because it groups all non-conforming gender expression in to an ‘other’ category). Not conforming with one’s legally designated gender can have many legal consequences (US websites) going beyond discrimination.

Check out Blogosaurus Lex to read the rest.

Girl Power!

Listen to the podcast

Sam was our host on today’s Adamant Eve and she brought us an update on the court case brought forth by women ski jumpers wanting to take part in the 2010 Olympics.

In the news, Malaika talked about a recent study that found college students, both victims and perpetrators, reported increased incidents of sexual assault when the questions did not explicitly define the behaviour as assault.

Laura C. talked to Jessalynn Keller, a freelance journalist and PhD student in Film and Media Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Laura read a piece Jessalynn wrote for TheTyee.ca called “Sorry, Can’t Do Raunch Today” on our August live show and was thrilled when Jessalynn agreed to an interview. They talked about real power for girls, Twilight and teen magazines.

We also mentioned two events: the screenings of Polytechnique at the Metro this weekend, and the Love Letters to Feminism exhibit at the U of A. Follow the links for more info!

Stay tuned for the podcast!

Women’s Ski Jumping Update

On November 13th, we gave an update and recap on the lawsuit filed by a group of female ski jumpers for their exclusion from the 2010 Olympic Games (listen to the podcast if you missed it!). Unfortunately their appeal has been rejected. If this leaves you less than satisfied, you can add your name to the petition.

Inside/OUT Speakers Series

The 6th Annual Inside/OUT Speakers Series is proud to co-present:

Trans Politics: Beyond Law & Order
by Dean Spade, Assistant Professor, School of Law, Seattle University

When: Fri, 23 October, 12pm – 1pm
Where: Law Centre, Room 231-23

In the wake of Bill 44 legislation and the delisting of SRS, queer and trans issues in Alberta are becoming increasingly influenced by legal discourse. But, as Dean Spade’s work shows, trans politics are also done “beyond law and order” in everyday and systemic styles of racism, classism, and the many disciplinary architectures through which we learn what our bodies mean. From prisons to poverty to psychiatry to post 9/11 surveillance, Dean Spade’s version of ‘trans’ attends to the many ways in which gender is never a simply isolated identity or mode of discrimination. Dean is currently a professor at the Seattle University School of Law. He also founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project in NYC, which provides free legal services to trans, intersex, and gender non-conforming people who are low-income and/or people of colour. He has also taught on the subjects of sexuality, gender, and law at Columbia and Harvard.

Discussion Panel: “TRANS.assemblages: Intersectionality and Beyond”
with Dean Spade, Lucas Crawford, Carol D. Allan, Lane Mandlis, and Val Napoleon

When: Fri, 23 October, 3:30pm – 5:00pm
Where: Humanities Centre L-2

Professor Spade’s visit is sponsored by APIRG, Faculty of Law’s Equality and Respect Committee, Women’s Law Forum, OUTLaw, Peace by Piece, Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, Department of English & Film Studies, Faculty of Arts, and Trudeau Foundation.


The Inside/OUT Speakers’ Series, now in its 6th year and hosted by the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, is designed to provide a venue for queer research, work, and ideas, from inside and outside the academy, to a general audience at the UofA and in the broader community.

This year’s speakers’ series entails more than 10 talks on a wide range of leading-edge queer research and contemporary social issues. Please visit our website for a complete list of speakers.