Legal Reform

Legal Reform. These words have specific protections in law but are equally contested in law. Law and the courts are where everything needs to be defined and scaled into a test that judges can apply to a particular situation.

The Barbra Schlifer Clinic is a resource on legal issues relevant to victims of violence.  We raise our voices on several important legal issues so that all women can build lives free from violence and provide expertise to other community agencies working with women experiencing violence.

Advancing the Rights of Survivors of GBV

What follows is a collection of Clinic interventions intended to provide the student with an understanding of the work undertaken by the Clinic over the years. 


Bill C-5

The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, Luke’s Place, and Women’s Shelters Canada voiced their concerns to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights about the disproportionate over-policing and criminalization of Black, Indigenous, and marginalized groups in a joint submission on Bill C-5. Repealing Bill C5 would result in fewer racialized communities being over-incarcerated, particularly Indigenous and Black women and gender-diverse people. In addition, it evades the adverse effects of mandatory minimum penalties on family finances, especially in cases of intimate partner violence or domestic violence; this may reduce negative impacts on offenders’ payment of spousal or child support.

BILL C-5 Submission

R. v J.J.

R. v J.J. concerns the constitutionality of specific rules of evidence in criminal sexual assault cases. The Schlifer Clinic intervened in R. v J.J because the implications go beyond the immediate parties involved in the case. The constitutional challenge of SS.278.92-278.94 of the Criminal Code limits how an accused person uses records containing private information about the complainant and what kind of evidence is admissible in criminal sexual assault cases. Parliament enacted these rules to balance the accused person’s right to a fair trial with the complainant’s right to privacy and to ensure the accused person by improving confidence in the justice system and protecting the integrity of the trial process.

Notice of Motion for Leave to Intervene

Motion Record of the Proposed Intervener

R. v. Kirkpatrick

The Clinic intervened in R. v. Kirkpatrick regarding the non-consensual removal, sabotage, or the practice of removing a condom during intercourse, “stealthing,” when his partner only consented to have condom-protected sex. Non-consensual condom refusal or removal is a form of sexual violence generating physical and psychological harm. The power dynamic it rests on is exacerbated among vulnerable women, gender-diverse people and sex workers. Preventing a complainant from limiting consent to circumstances where a condom is used erodes the right to refuse or limit consent to specific sexual acts, leaving the law of Canada seriously out of touch with reality and dysfunctional in terms of its protection of sexual autonomy.

Motion of Notice for Leave to Intervene

Factum of the Intervener

Family Law Reform in Ontario: increasing safety for women and children and bringing more consistency between the Children’s Law Reform Act and the Divorce Act. 

The Clinic is pleased to provide the following recommendations for amending the Children’s Law Reform Act to assist women who are accessing Ontario’s family law legal system for safe and fair resolutions following family breakdown. We believe the following recommendations will increase safety for women and children. In addition, we believe these recommendations will bring more clarity and consistency to the family law system overall for all women, regardless of whether they are married or seeking a divorce.

Children’s Law Reform Act

 R. v. Slatter 

The Clinic’s position in front of the Supreme Court was based on 2 points: the complainant’s evidence must not be found unreliable because of the possibility of being “suggestible” based on stereotypes and generalized assumptions about the complainant, and 2) such assumptions raise additional evidentiary hurdles for deaf and disabled migrant women, a demographic already at elevated risk of sexual violence.

Factum of the Intervener

Motion by the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic for Leave to Intervene according to Rules 47 and 55 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Canada: Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic_Affidavit_AntiSLAPP. The Clinic has a significant interest in the interpretation and application of legislation addressing allowing for the summary dismissal of strategic lawsuits against public participation (“SLAPP”). Perpetrators of violence often use retaliatory suits to suppress survivors from reporting or seeking help and support from others.

“All individuals, regardless of immigration status, should have their rights protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including protection from discrimination and security of the person.

Deepa Mattoo

Executive Director, Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic

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