Avie Bennett Historica Chair lecture looks at first lesbian sexual assault case

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University of Ottawa Professor Constance Backhouse will discuss what is considered Canada’s first prosecution of a woman for sexually assaulting another woman next Tuesday, when she gives the annual Avie Bennett Historica-Dominion Institute Chair in Canadian History public lecture.

The lecture, “From a Kiss to the Courts: Canada’s First Capital ‘L’ Lesbian Sexual Assault Trial”, will take place Nov. 23 at 7:30pm at the Robert R. McEwen Auditorium in the Seymour Schulich Building, Keele campus.

Backhouse, a Distinguished University Professor and University Research Chair in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa, will examine the case of Willimae Moore, who was charged with “indecent assault on a female” in the winter of 1955, when she attempted to kiss a fellow stenographer working in Yellowknife. It was a romantic overture that was unreciprocated.

Internationally known for her feminist research and publications on sex discrimination and the legal history of gender and race in Canada, Backhouse will provide a glimpse into sexual norms and gender roles of the time in the unusual context of Canada’s far north in the Cold War era.

She’ll explore some of the most pressing questions about the case, such as: What forces came together in the NorthWest Territories in the 1950s to make this possible? How did the police, the courts and the community respond? How did this case differ historically from the usual prosecution for sexual assault?

Backhouse’s recent research profiles the ways in which women and racialized communities have struggled to obtain justice within the legal system.

The Avie Bennett Historica Chair in Canadian History was established at York University in 2004 by the Historica Foundation of Canada, endowed by Chancellor Emeritus Bennett. Its purpose is to promote the study of Canada’s heritage and ensure the academic vitality of the discipline.

A Q&A and reception will follow the lecture. To RSVP, visit the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Historica Lecture Series website.