She has played a key role exposing the discriminatory treatment faced by migrant workers, including migrant women affected by poverty, forced into sex work, and made more vulnerable to violence and marginalization.
Named for the promising young lawyer who lost her life to violence, the Spirit of Barbra Schlifer Award recognizes a woman whose career embodies the ideals Barbra stood for. “Fay’s commitment to migrant women, especially those who are exposed to precarious labour situations is extraordinary,” says Amanda Dale, the Barbra Schlifer Clinic’s Executive Director. “For more than two decades, Fay has dedicated herself to improving the conditions in which women are brought into Canada to work with precarious temporary migrant status and the protections that should be guaranteed to them through Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program.”
Fay is a social justice lawyer, strategic adviser, policy consultant and academic whose work focuses on feminist advocacy, migrant workers’ rights, constitutional and human rights, and labour rights. Since 1990 she has worked with community organizations and migrant workers, particularly women migrants, to advocate for the rights of transnational migrant workers. Her work highlights the systemic ways that law constructs migrant workers’ insecurity and exposes them to economic, social and sexual violence. With a strong commitment to working collaboratively to enhance community organizing, capacity building and coalition work, Fay’s advocacy challenges the systemic roots of discrimination and violence against women, focusing in particular on the intersections of gender, race, migrant status, class, ability and colonialism. As an Innovation Fellow at the Metcalf Foundation, Fay has published two landmark reports on the legal regulation of migrant workers, including Profiting from the Precarious (2014) which examines systemic exploitation and the risk of violence in transnational recruitment practices. She consults nationally and internationally, using a rights-based framework to advance security for migrant workers. Fay has litigated many precedent-setting constitutional law cases, including numerous leading cases at the Supreme Court of Canada addressing rights to equality and collective action. She has addressed many dimensions of women’s rights to substantive equality in the workplace, in the right to socio-economic security, in the experience of migration, and in the face of sexual violence. In addition to her legal practice, Fay is a Visiting Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School teaching in the areas of ethical lawyering, Charter/human rights and appellate advocacy. She also holds the Packer Visiting Chair in Social Justice at York University teaching in the areas of social justice and political activism, and transnational labour migration.