Background on the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic

The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic (the “Clinic”) is the only clinic of its kind in Canada. Since 1985, the Clinic has provided legal representation, counselling and language interpretation to over 60,000 women who have experienced all forms of violence. Currently, we assist more than 4,000 women each year. We work in over 200 languages, provide a variety of innovative counselling services and are a go-to organization for community mobilization, public legal education/information, law reform activities, and legal representation for gender-based violence (GBV). The Clinic consults broadly with all levels of government on policy or legislative initiatives.

The Clinic works with some of Canada’s most vulnerable and marginalized women. As a result, we have first-hand experience with the successes and failures of Canadian human rights law and policy. We routinely advocate for legal reform and government action to address the gaps in Canada’s implementation of international human rights commitments. Our work has included making submissions to the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, the United Nations Working Group on People of African Descent, the United Nations Working Group on Violence Against Women, Canada Border Services Agency, and Status of Women Canada.

The Clinic appreciates the opportunity to remind the Canadian government of its duty to respect and comply with its human rights obligations. Referencing recommendations found in the HRC 11th Session Report of the Working Group in the Universal Periodic Review (“11th Session Report”) and the HRC 24th Session Report of the Working Group in the Universal Periodic Review (“24th Session Report”), our  submissions highlight areas where we see gaps in Canada’s implementation of human rights.

11th Session Report Recommendation 16 & 24th Session Report Recommendation 128.26 – Closely monitor the situation of disadvantaged groups such as women, migrant workers, women prisoners, and victims of trafficking.

  1. Women Prisoners and Criminalized Women

The Clinic routinely sees women survivors of GBV penalized as they try to create safety in their lives or cope with trauma, either as a direct result of their efforts to seek state protection or as a consequence of the lives they lead as a result of violence. The systemic nature of this problem in Canada is evident in the 86 percent of federally sentenced women who report being victims of physical abuse and the 68 percent who report being sexually abused.

Full Submission