Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament

Volume 148, Issue 87

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, last Thursday I had the honour of attending a conference entitled Transforming our Future: Legal Strategies for Equality, which was sponsored by the Law Foundation of British Columbia and presented by the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, also known as LEAF.

LEAF was founded in 1985, the same day the equality guarantees of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into force. LEAF’s mandate is to change historical patterns of legal interpretation and application. Moreover, LEAF’s internationally recognized litigation strategy attempts to respond to the complexity of the goal of achieving equality for all women.

Honourable senators, I feel privileged to rise before you today and speak of the great work LEAF continues to do to ensure equality rights for all women and girls under the eyes of the law. In fact, I strongly believe that equality rights in Canada are advancing because of the work LEAF continues to do to ensure that women are guaranteed equality rights under section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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I am a real fan of LEAF’s work. Many women who attended the conference do amazing work with some of the most marginalized and vulnerable women in Canada, doing their best to represent them with limited resources. Throughout the conference, all in attendance were reminded of the importance of choosing the right legal strategies for women — strategies that will help women receive the remedies they are seeking.

I had the pleasure of addressing all of those in attendance. During my remarks, I spoke of the great work many of the honourable senators here do to advance the equality of rights of women. I assured them that they had many allies here in the Senate who were passionate about the issues they were advancing, and I encouraged them to reach out to all of us.

The two-day conference was run by two very dynamic, competent women, Kristy Sims and Del Friday, whose hard work I would like to acknowledge. Both of these lawyers are volunteers with West Coast LEAF. They worked very hard to ensure that we all understood the strategies we would use to achieve equality for the women we worked for. I sincerely commend them for their work.

I also want to thank the Law Foundation of British Columbia for the support it provides to LEAF, and I wish to especially thank Chair Margaret Sasges and Executive Director Wayne Robertson for their continuous support to equality issues.

Honourable senators, the one thing I have come away with from these two days and would like to share is that when we increase criminal penalties here in Ottawa without increasing the monies available for legal aid, we diminish the rights of children. Throughout the two-day conference, I heard many heart-wrenching stories of how Canadian children were suffering because of lack of legal aid for family litigation. The message I heard was very clear: We either pay now to protect the interests of our children, or we pay later by building mega- prisons to house our children who we did not look after in the first place. I believe this is a wake-up call for all of us.

 

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