Women’s Court of Canada celebrates its official opening

The Women’s Court of Canada (WCC) celebrated its opening yesterday in Toronto with a panel discussion on gender and judging, and the publication of six rewritten Supreme Court of Canada decisions in a journal co-edited by York law Professor Janet Mosher. 

WCC is a group of academics, activists and litigators who have undertaken to rewrite Supreme Court of Canada equality judgments in order to challenge conventional thinking about equality. They have started with significant 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.

Left: Janet Mosher

The WCC is celebrating the publication of its judgments in the current issue of the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law  (CJWL) during International Women’s Week at a “Rewriting Equality” reception and symposium at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School and the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto.

The symposium brings law students, community activists, and lawyers from across the country to discuss the WCC decisions, examine current challenges, and continue the process of “rewriting equality”.

The WCC takes as its motto Oscar Wilde’s injunction: “The only duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.”

The WCC initiative is part of a long tradition of Canadian women refusing to accept a decision of the Supreme Court as “the last word”. The most famous of these is the 1929 Persons Case in which five Albertan women appealed to the Privy Council in England, which ultimately recognized Canadian women as “persons”, capable of holding public office.

Many equality watchers have been disappointed by court decisions in Charter cases that failed to recognize and address the disadvantages women experience and therefore failed to deliver the equality promised by section 15.

The goal of the WCC in rewriting equality is to encourage debate about important issues and to inspire others committed to equality to engage in similar exercises, exploring the limits and opportunities of our laws. The WCC aims to show how equality rights can be used to deliver genuine, substantive equality, rather than further entrench existing social and economic inequities.

The CJWL is Canada’s leading scholarly journal. It explores feminist analyses of law and connects academics and feminist activists across Canada.