Law Needs Feminism Because
 
 

This biennial report covers our growth since the launch of the first 33 portraits on April 1, 2016. Needless to say, it’s been a wild ride—full of momentum, celebration and triumph.

 
 
 
 

Compiled by Rachel Kohut, one of our former Fundraising & Stewardship Co-Leads, with the support of the 2017-2018 National Executive and graphic designer, Parisa Mirshahi.

 

executive summary

 
 

It is hard to believe we are sitting down to put together this report, over four years since the Feminist Collective of McGill Law hosted their first photo campaign, which Huffington Post heralded as “pretty damn cool”. Two years later, inspired by the success of this first campaign, two members of the Feminist Collective of McGill Law teamed up with Whitney Lewis-Smith and Log Creative Bureau (now Huot & Vallentin) to release 33 portraits speaking to why law needs feminism. This was the introduction of the campaign as we know it today: Law Needs Feminism Because.

Now, here we are writing this report in awe of the growth that we have witnessed over the past few years. To think that these portraits would grow to over 1000 portraits spanning 16 law schools, national forums in three Canadian cities and an executive of feminist law students spanning coast to coast make it all happen. Turns out, the conversation was just getting started.

Given this incredible and unanticipated growth, we thought we’d try to weave together our story in an attempt to capture all of the people who came forward to lend their enthusiastic support and celebrate the community that grew from the countless messages flooding our inboxes. We hope this report provides a moment to indulge in LNFB’s successes to-date, as well as give a behind-the-scenes scoop of our work and a sneak peak of where we are headed. 

On behalf of the national executive, we are so excited to share these moments, stories and celebrations with all of you—the people who have grown this campaign beyond our wildest dreams. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support, inspiration and dedication. We can’t wait to see what the future holds.

In solidarity,

The lnfb Executive

 
 
 
 
 
 

It all started when…

In March 2014, Aishah Nofal and Amanda Ghahremani of the Feminist Collective of McGill Law launched McGill Law’s first feminist photo campaign. Unlike Law Needs Feminism Because, this campaign used the prompt: “I am a Feminist and I am […]” to challenge the idea of what it means to identify as a feminist.

Professors, law students and alumni were amongst those photographed and quotes included “I am a Muslim woman and I am a feminist” or “I was raised by a single father and I am a feminist”, and even “I went to an all-boys school and I am a feminist”. This photo campaign (which caught the eye of the Huffington Post, Grazia Magazine (France), Elle Magazine (France), Ms Blog and Mic (among others)) planted the seeds for the Feminist Collective of McGill Law’s second photo campaign two years later: 33 portraits using the hashtag #LawNeedsFeminismBecause as a prompt.

It was for this reason that we were so thrilled that Amanda Ghahremani joined us as the keynote speaker for our first ever national forum in March 2017: her participation spoke to the arc of the Feminist Collective of McGill Law’s advocacy efforts over the years. We are so proud of these two McGill Law alumnae and the work they continue to do. Aishah is now an immigration and refugee lawyer at Wazana Law, and Amanda, the Legal Director of the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ).

The above portraits are from the Feminist Collective of McGill Law’s second photo campaign which launched on April 1, 2016. Photography by Whitney Lewis-Smith & graphic design by Huot & Vallentin.

 
 
 

16 law schools coast to coast

*in order from west coast to east coast


University of Victoria
Allard Law, University of British Columbia
University of Calgary
University of Alberta
University of Manitoba
Lakehead University
McGill University
Université de Sherbrooke
Université de Montréal
Windsor Law
Western Law
Osgoode Hall, York University
University of Toronto
University of New Brunswick
Dalhousie University
TRU?

 
 
 

our first national forum in montréal at sid lee’s 8 queen

 
 
 

The idea of a National Forum was born out of the desire to connect the themes identified in the portraits with tangible action. On March 11, 2017, we held our first National Forum in Sid Lee’s beautiful space, 8 Queen. Nearly 200 feminist law students, legal professionals and lawyers came together during International Women’s Week to discuss how to make our law schools, legal profession and justice system more inclusive, diverse and accessible. To think this was just 11 months after the first 33 LNFB portraits were launched via the Feminist Collective of McGill Law.

The National Forum began with an introductory note by Rachel Kohut, and two monologues on why law needs feminism by Samanthea Samuels and Marie-Laurence Goyette. This set the stage for a keynote by Amanda Ghahremani—one of the people behind the Feminist Collective of McGill Law’s first photo campaign in 2014 (“I am a feminist and …”) and current Legal Director and Acting Managing Director of the Canadian Centre for International Justice. A presentation on feminist mentorship advocacy by Gabriella Nudo of the Women’s Legal Mentorship Program followed.

Karine Bédard and Romita Sur, who were responsible for locking in the workshops for the day, proceeded with a land acknowledgement. They also highlighted the importance of intersectionality and diversity in planning the workshops for the National Forum, especially concerning marginalized voices of women of colour, transwomen, and Indigenous women.

The morning closed with Jo Murray, who managed the logistics of the National Forum. She gave the low-down on things logistical. She explained how people would rotate through their workshops.

Above photography by Bobby León.

 
 
 

our second national forum organized by uottawa on the theme of access to justice

 
 

Cette année, l'équipe de la faculté de droit de McGill a transmis le flambeau au chapitre de DBFC de l'Université d'Ottawa pour organiser notre deuxième forum national, et ces derniers ont décidé de se concentrer sur le thème de l'accès à la justice.

La section DBFC de l'Université d'Ottawa espère mettre en lumière les façons dont les systèmes de pouvoir et de privilège se croisent pour priver les communautés marginalisées et sous-représentées de leur capacité à créer, façonner et transformer les institutions juridiques qui les régissent. Dans une tentative d'identifier les moyens par lesquels la communauté juridique peut se mobiliser pour surmonter les obstacles, les organisateurs et organisatrices aspirent à mettre en évidence certaines réussites et à identifier des domaines laissant place à l’amélioration.

Organisé durant la Semaine internationale de la femme, ce deuxième forum national vise à rassembler une fois de plus les professionnel.le.s de l'industrie, les universitaires et les gens du milieu communautaire pour continuer à faire avancer cette conversation si nécessaire.

Photography above and below by Uttra Gautam & Dhivya Sri.

 
 
 

lessons learned, looking forward

 
 

What an incredible journey it has been! After the success of our first photo campaign and our very first National Forum in Montreal, we were ready to spread the message of LNFB from coast to coast to coast. We recruited an incredible national executive of 22 members from across the country, each one more determined than the next. We worked hard in establishing a constitution and to organize our second National Forum in Ottawa, and we set out to produce this very report. However, even the best intentions and hard work do not always lead to preferred outcomes. We hit bumps along the way and experienced many set backs as a result. In this fast-moving world, we suffered from growing pains. 

Many of our projects had to be set aside for a little while. This includes the book of portraits we were working on, as well as the establishment of a bursary for breaking barriers to the legal profession. Although we have not abandoned these projects, the reality of what we can accomplish as law students spread across the country made it difficult to focus on multiple projects at the same time. We narrowed down our focus by working on our annual National Forum and on helping our chapters with their photo campaigns.

Along the way, we learned an important lesson. LNFB is non-hierarchical as per its constitution. Each leading team is in charge of its committee and the allocation of resources and the projects to be worked on is voted on by all voting members. However, in our first year as a national executive, we realized that an informal hierarchy had creeped into our organization. Certain members of the executive had been there from the very first campaign. They had knowledge and know-how that drew-in other executive members. This led most of the group to reach out to them and solicit their expertise. They were resources and our institutional memory was inevitably linked to these key members of the executive team. As a result, although we strived to be non-hierarchical in theory, in practice, we had to rely heavily on certain members. This led to inequalities within the executive and discordance between how we operated and how we strived to operate.  Following our second National Forum in Ottawa, we had to rethink our internal organization to make sure that we did what we preached. We changed. Many of our members did not renew their terms on the executive and we decided not to replace every position or even every committee. We simply took a step back.

Today, our new executive is comprised of 5 members of the first 22, 6 new members from the two teams organizing our third National Forum in Halifax, one returning member from the original team at McGill, and a new recruitment call has recently closed. Working together, we reworked the internal dynamics of our group to make sure that each member is working on projects that resonates with them and that drives that passion that led them to join LNFB in the first place. Although we have significantly reduced our operations, we continue to work on missions that inspire us!

Looking forward, we will be working with the teams in Dalhousie and the University of New Brunswick on our first collaborative National Forum to be held next February in Halifax. We will also be developing a firm structure and organizational plan to ensure sustainability of LNFB in the future. Finally, we will aim to incorporate as an NGO and set-up our bursary for breaking barriers to the legal profession. We are grateful for the endless support of our community and we will continue to strive for better representation of marginalized voices in law. 

Thank you to all previous executive members, to all of our supporters, and to our wonderful community!

Souhila Baba

2018 - 2019 Logistics Co-Lead

 
 
 

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