Law Needs Feminism Because

Land acknowledgement


Claudette commanda

Professor Claudette Commanda is an Algonquin Anishinabe from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation located in the province of Quebec.  An alumni of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Common Law and Faculty of Arts, Claudette has dedicated the last 30 years promoting First Nations people, history, culture and rights in various capacities as a University of Ottawa student, professor, member and chair of the Aboriginal education council; and via public speaking events. 

She is a professor for the University of Ottawa’s Institute of Women’s Studies; Faculty of Education; Faculty of Law; and the Aboriginal Studies Program, teaching courses on First Nations Women; Native Education; First Nations People and History; Indigenous Traditions; and Decolonization. In addition, she is the Executive Director of the First Nations Confederacy of Cultural Education Centres, a national organization which protects and promotes First Nations culture, languages and traditional knowledge. She is inducted into the Common Law Honour Society; served two terms on the Board of Governors for the First Nations University of Canada; and three terms on the Kitigan Zibi band council. 

In 2017, Claudette was the first appointed Elder in Residence for the Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa; and the first person of a First Nation heritage to be appointed to the Board of Governors for the University of Ottawa. Claudette is a proud mother of four and a grandmother to ten beautiful grandchildren.


artistic expression


King Kambit

Ottawa-based spoken word artist, singer and instrumentalist

The internationally-acclaimed all-around artist King Kimbit, originally Nguyễn Anh Thư, was born and raised on unceded Algonquin territory to Vietnamese boat people. She has performed and recorded in Jamaica and all over North America, sharing love and knowledge, which she believes are connected by similar roots. King has recently released her debut double-disc album LIFE LESSONS POETICALLY (with help from Canada Council for the Arts and the City of Ottawa). Life Lessons Poetically is a collection of poetry with respective musical arrangements to illustrate the lessons learned and insight gained so far in the quarter century of King's journey through intersections. Despite the inevitable presence of oppressive white supremacy and patriarchy, there is beauty in telling stories of life and death, revealing the healing and survival of women and the world.

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Barâa Arar

Spoken word artist

Barâa Arar loves stories. She believes everyone has a narrative and we should all lend our ears to hear it. Barâa stumbled into spoken word poetry in 2010. Since, she has performed individually and on a team, both locally and nationally. She studies Humanities at Carleton University. She is a community developer, educator, and the co- host of “The Watering Hole” podcast. Barâa can be found drinking coffee or tumbling around the city. You can find her stuff here.

photo image credits: Alia Youssef


Keynote: angela chaisson


Angela chaisson

Feminist Lawyer


Angela Chaisson of Chaisson Law is a feminist lawyer and LL.M. Candidate who has dedicated her career to the advancement of women and LGBTQ people. Angela’s peers recognize her as a leading expert in progressive legal work. She is a regular lecturer at the University of Toronto, Osgoode Hall Law School, Out on Bay Street and is frequently asked to speak to young lawyers on building a successful legal practice without compromising their values.

Angela has litigated many of Toronto’s highest profile legal cases including two cases against former Mayor Rob Ford, and others against Ezra Levant. She proved instrumental in fighting Trinity Western University’s proposed Law School, and recently appeared as counsel at the Supreme Court of Canada on Trinity Western University v. LSUC.


Strategizing Career Success: Moving from the Margins to Claim the Intersection

There is both heightened vulnerability to compounded inequalities as well as opportunity for law students from intersectional equality-seeking communities. This workshop will engage in an open discussion of those realities and discuss successful strategies for early stages from law school transition to the first 5 years of practice.


Joanne St. Lewis

Professor, University of Ottawa Common Law Section

Joanne St. Lewis was a former Bencher LSUC (now Law Society of Ontario) where she chaired its Equity & Aboriginal Issues Committee including initiating Retention of Women in the Legal Profession project. She was also the Vice-Chair of Professional Development & Competence Committee. Her areas of expertise include social justice/human rights.

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Asfrah Syed-Emond

County of Carleton Law Association's Diversity Committee Chair

Ms. Syed-Emond practices in the field of civil litigation [personal injury] and wills/estates in a boutique law practice with her spouse. She is also a professor at Algonquin College in the paralegal and law clerk programs. Ms. Syed-Emond was called to the Bar of Ontario in 2000. She is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa. She is the Chair of the Diversity Committee, County of Carleton Law Association.
While at law school, she was one of the founding members of the On Line Law Library and Information System (OLLIS). The OLLIS project involved the creation of the first comprehensive electronic law library in the world for law students with print disabilities. Her work within the disability community continues today as many of her clients have suffered serious and permanent impairments and/or catastrophic injuries.

She speaks English, French, Punjabi and Urdu. She also reads Arabic. Her client base has a significant amount of racialized individuals, and therefore, she is accustomed to dealing with issues surrounding diversity within the legal practice.

Disrupting Inequitable Access to Justice

Access to a fair and equitable justice system and humility go hand in hand. In this workshop, you will explore the ways in which justice professionals can be better advocates and mentors, including by exploring what Level is currently doing to drive change.

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Brittany Twiss

Lawyer and Executive Director at Level

Brittany Twiss is a graduate from Queen's University and hold a J.D. with a specialization in Social Justice from the University of Ottawa. She volunteered and worked as a human rights advocate in Tanzania, Thailand, and the United Kingdom, with a focus on gender based violence, sexual exploitation and access to justice for women and children. Following law school, she joined a prominent family law litigation firm in Toronto, where she represented clients in high conflict cases at all levels of court in Canada.

Brittany has been involved with Level (formerly Canadian Lawyers Abroad) since 2009, and was appointed Executive Director in August 2013.

Level is committed to disrupting inequitable access to justice by cultivating innovation and empathy in the legal sector. Level’s Indigenous Youth Outreach Program empowers youth to be leaders in their classrooms and communities through specialized justice education workshops. Level also advances human rights through innovative research, mentorship and advocacy initiatives.

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Kenya-Jade Pinto


Kenya-Jade is Level's Articling Student and Program Manager. During law school she participated in the Refugee Assistance Project as well as the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program, an flexed her written and oral advocacy skills in Buenos Aires, Argentina as co-counsel in the foreign Direct Investment Arbitration Moot. Kenya-Jade is also a documentary photographer who is passionate about using the power of law and photography to tell stories for social change. After 1L, on assignment with Photographers Without Borders, she photographed HIV/AIDS education initiatives in rural Uganda. She was then commissioned by the International Commission of Jurists in Nairobi to photograph the plight of Internally Displaced Peoples affected by post-election violence in a project titled, Not Yet Home.

Kenya-Jade is currently working with Level to illuminate the access to justice crisis in Canada.

Using Legal Tech for A2J

This workshop will explore how technology can be used to achieve greater access to justice. Levien will recount how he used a validated learning approach to develop a free app to educate the public on their legal rights.


Christien Levien

Lawyer and Founder of Legal Swipe

Christien Levien is a graduate from the University of Ottawa Common Law program. He is now a criminal lawyer and the creator of a mobile app which focuses on public legal education - Legalswipe.


Grassroots Responses to Harm Reduction Barriers

In the fall of 2017, Overdose Prevention Ottawa (“OPO”) organized and operated a low-barrier overdose prevention site for 78 days without financial, infrastructural or administrative support from any level of government or local harm reduction-based health and social service organizations. OPO is a peer-centred collective that is comprised of community members and harm reduction service providers who came together to respond to the overdose emergency that has taken so many of our friends and loved ones from us. OPO’s operations have helped people who use drugs survive through the overdose emergency and responded to the lack of adequate action by the government and heath and social service organizations.

This workshop will provide space to engage in a thoughtful discussion on the barriers to life and dignity that people who use drugs have to navigate in their everyday lives in order to survive. It starts from an acknowledgement that prohibition and structural discrimination against people who use drugs are violent, harmful, and perpetuate death. In this workshop, we will unpack how legal, institutional, and structural veils limit access to harm reduction services. We will examine how current harm reduction services that keep white men as executives and managers, enhance structural barriers to harm reduction services. We will also map how grassroots responses that are informed by people who use drugs and mainly led by femmes, break down these barriers.

In this workshop, we discuss how…
#lawneedsfeminismbecause the law is misrepresented and used as a tool to deny people who use drugs basic services required for their life and dignity.

#Lawneedsfeminismbecause when health and social services are available for people who use drugs, these services are surrounded by barriers that limit their accessibility.

#Lawneedsfeminismbecause grassroots initiatives to address injustices faced by people who use drugs, are mainly led by femmes

#Lawneedsfeminismbecause harm reduction services continue to be institutionalized and dominated by white male executives and managers.

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Yafa Jarrar

Yafa is a J.D. candidate at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. She was born and raised in Palestine and is a first generation immigrant to Canada. Yafa has been involved in social justice and anti-racism movements in Canada since she immigrated in 2003. Yafa is a volunteer with Overdose Prevention Ottawa and she currently lives in Ottawa, Algonquin Territory.

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Lisa Wright

Lisa is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Ottawa, Department of Law and Legal Studies. She is an organizer with Overdose Prevention Ottawa and has been involved with grassroots, harm reduction advocacy in Ottawa since 2013.

Exploring Accountability: Language & the Law

He kissed her without asking first. He forced his lips on hers without consent. See the difference? Language is a powerful tool in the creation of social norms. When we consider sexual assault, language can serve to expose or conceal violence. The criminal justice system, like the media, is a social norm creator, and uses language as a primary tool.

For over four years, the Sexual Assault Network’s Judicial Language Project (Ottawa) has worked to highlight problematic language in sexual assault cases, and advocate for the use of accurate language. The session will explore the research that the Network has done over the past four years through the use of case examples, and present their work in the context of a larger criminal justice accountability model.

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Stefanie Lomatski

Stefanie Lomatski is an Ottawa based advocate and community builder who, for over ten years, has worked in the anti-violence community. Stefanie has a reputation for being able to merge her understanding of pressing social issues with exceptional strategic planning, in order to craft and steward innovative programs that meet community needs.

Stefanie has a Masters of Social Work, with a focus on gender-based violence, and has held diverse roles throughout her career from frontline support worker to the Executive Director of the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women.

Currently, Stefanie is the Coordinator for the Sexual Assault Network. Most notably in this role, Stefanie has steered the growth of Project SoundCheckTM; a project which seeks to prevent sexual harassment and assault at large events, venues, and festivals. Stefanie and the project have been featured in both Canadian media, as well as international publications such as the LA Times. With Stefanie’s leadership the program has trained thousands of volunteers, staff, and organizers, and is in the process of working with local politicians to embedded bystander intervention training into the event permit process. When asked about the success of the project, Stefanie cites the importance of including artists, volunteers, advocates, and music industry leaders, because without their insight the project would not ever meet the goal of preventing sexual violence.

Within the role of Sexual Assault Network Coordinator, Stefanie has also worked to raise awareness of the Judicial Language Project - Ottawa; a project that seeks to address problematic language in the court system. Similar to Stefanie’s other work, this is the first Canadian version of this project, and holds great promise to address language which maintains rape culture in the courts.


Halina Siedlikowski

Judicial Language Project

Halina Siedlikowski's work with survivors of sexual violence began in the late 70's when she was part of the first group of volunteers staffing a rape crisis line at a sexual assault center in Montreal. She has a Master's degree in Nursing from McGill University and a certification in Psychiatric and Mental health nursing from the Canadian Nurses' Association. In the late 80's she was a board member of the Burlington Women's Rape Crisis Center in Vermont and was the founding Coordinator of the hospital-based Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Care Program at the Ottawa Hospital for 11 years. She has taught nursing at the University of Ottawa for the next 11 years and has been the Manager of Nursing Undergraduate programs at the university for the last 2 years.She has been a continuous and active member of both the Sexual Assault Network and the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence against Women. She has held several leadership positions within these networks over the years. Her involvement with SAN over the past 5 years has been as an Advisory member, overseeing the work of Pro-Bono Law students who have been working on a project focusing on judicial language.


Agitate and Litigate: A conversation on civil disobedience and legal activism.

This session will discuss the intersection between litigation and politically-charged activism. The workshop will discuss the need to advocate for a shift in power in the way the judicial system operates. Saron will share her experience with advocating for ordinary Canadians and the incredible injustice represented by the costs system in civil litigation.

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Saron Gebresellassi

Lawyer, Saron Legal Professional Corporation

Saron Gebresellassi is a nationally-renowned advocate and human rights lawyer earning her place in Chatelaine Magazine's "Top 80 Amazing Canadian Women to Watch". Following her Call to the Bar, Saron launched Saron Legal Professional Corporation, a successful legal firm and political incubator located in the heart of Weston Mount-Dennis. Saron's expertise lies in human rights litigation, legal activism and civil disobedience.


Move the world: how people are using technology to improve access to justice

To move the earth, Archimedes spoke of needing only a lever and a place to stand. The advent of affordable and accessible technology puts those supports within reach. Whether chatbots, Machine Learning models, or even through simple guided interviews, the past decade has seen an explosion of technological applications used to lower barriers to justice found throughout the legal system. This session will discuss how people have leveraged increased access to legal information, technology and other resources to enhance transparency and improve the quality of our collective interaction with law and government. It will also empower attendees to pursue their own innovations.

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Colin Lachance

Compass / vLex Canada

Legal tech entrepreneur. CEO of Compass / vLex Canada. Former CEO of Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) - 2011-April 2015. Professional background in senior legal, policy, biz and govt relations roles. Lawyer on paper, builder at heart.


What's your justice? Technologically facilitated violence

This workshop will evaluate the multitude of ways women and gender-non conforming individuals are seeking and accessing justice when they experience technologically facilitate violence. This workshop will explore the legal, community-based, technological, and personal forms of justice that are available to survivors of these attack

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Dillon Black



Suzanne Dunn

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Anastasia Berwald


Suzanne is a lawyer and PhD in law student with a specialization in technologically facilitated violence against women. Dillon is a PhD student in social work, who is a community organizer on violence against women issues, with a focus on tech-facilitated violence, as well as a specialist in gender-non conforming and LGBTQ++ rights. Anastasia is a PhD law student who specializes in freedom of expression and women in a digital context.

Rebuilding Feminist Law Reform Capacities in Canada

This workshop will focus on how and why NAWL/ANFD is working to rebuild national feminist law reform capacities to advance substantive equality in the law making process in Canada

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Suki Beavers

National Association of Women and the Law

Suki Beavers has been involved in feminist and social justice movements in Canada and globally for almost 30 years, leading NGOs in Canada and in the Pacific, as a senior Policy Advisor for the UN, and as a lawyer in private practice. She is the Director of NAWL's new Feminist Law Reform Project.


Rebuilding Feminist Law Reform Capacities in Canada

As the LNFB platform grows it is important to make correct choices when it comes to technologies. Are we using accessible colours/fonts? Are we ACTUALLY providing a secure (safe) platform for community members to engage with?

During this workshop we will explore our right to exist safely in digital spaces and choosing the appropriate technologies that align with the work we do.

Attendees will gain a high level understanding of the technology we use to allow community members to remain anonymous when they digitally submit their stories. They will also gain an understanding of cybersecurity concepts and what we have to be aware of as an organization (LNFB and/or any other feminist/activist group) when it comes to choosing the appropriate technologies and vendors in our activism online (ie: Google, GoDaddy, etc).

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Jonathan Pulsifer


Jonathan is a ☁️ Security Engineer at Shopify. Previously, he was a SANS mentor, network defense instructor, and a team lead at the Canadian Forces Network Operations Centre in Ottawa. Find Jonathan on Twitter @JonPulsifer.

Chris donaldson


Chris Donaldson is a Developer Lead at Shopify.

Qui est-ille? L’obligation de respecter les pronoms et accords neutres

Dans cette présentation, l’autrice explore la question à savoir si une obligation légale de respecter les pronoms et accords neutres existe au Québec. Elle débute par un survol du contexte vécu des personnes non-binaires francophones ainsi que de leur besoins par rapport au respect des pronoms et accords neutres. Ensuite, elle analyse l’état actuel du droit sur le harcèlement et la discrimination envers les personnes trans en contexte scolaire et évalue la plausibilité qu’une obligation de respecter les pronoms et accords neutres soit retenue par les tribunaux québécois. Enfin, à la lumière des limites du droit, elle propose une approche stratégique au respect des pronoms et accords neutres qui met l’accent sur le développement de politiques institutionnelles informées par le droit.

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Florence Ashley

McGill University

LL.M. Candidate, specialisation in bioethics. Trans advocate.


Managing Unconscious Bias in Litigation

Unconscious bias[1] happens by our brains making incredibly quick judgments and assessments of people and situations without us realizing. These biases are influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences. We may not even be aware of these views and opinions, or be aware of their full impact and implications.

Unconscious bias is pervasive, ever-present and invisible. It effects the way that people interact with the law. It reinforces the stereotypes that prevent marginalized and under-represented communities from accessing justice.

How do we tackle the injustice that flows from the impact of our unconscious bias?

This workshop will provide practical tools to identify unconscious biases, assess their potential effect, and suggest some strategies to manage their impact in the litigation process. Ignoring unconscious bias not does make it go away. The key is in identifying and addressing it outright. We provide a process for doing so.

We will be drawing on the research of Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking Fast and Slow and the trial advocacy work of Professor Gary Gilden of Penn State University's Dickson Law School. The brain research on how people make decisions is fascinating but also sobering. There are automatic responses that people - including lawyers and the judiciary - have that effect how we make decisions. Both Kahneman and Gilden provide insight into the impact of System 1 and the System 2 brains. System 1 is the brain's fast, automatic, intuitive approach. System 2 is the mind's slower analytical mode. System 2 is where reason (the basic tenant of our legal system) dominates. However, System 1 had been found to be faster and more influential than System 2 in legal decision-making contexts.

Although they take many forms, some common examples that we will unpack include stereotypes based on religion, ethnicity, and sex. We will review three case studies in the litigation context and discuss methods of managing them:

1) swearing on religious documents;
2) the disliked Arab male plaintiff with good case who loses; and
3) workplace harassment cases.

We will suggest methods for addressing the challenge of unconscious bias, professionally and practically, both for self-analysis and for case analysis.

[1] “Unconscious bias happens by our brains making incredibly quick judgments and assessments of people and situations without us realizing. Our biases are influenced by our backgroundcultural environment and personal experiences. We may not even be aware of these views and opinions, or be aware of their full impact and implications.” [Link]

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Stephanie Lewis

Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP

Stephanie Lewis is an employment law lawyer and litigator at Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP. Stephanie was driven to practice employment law by the belief that everyone is entitled to a safe and healthy workplace and that such workplaces are improved through diversity and dignified treatment. Stephanie represents both employees and employers. Her practice involves providing advice on every aspect of the employment relationship, including hiring, employee terminations, discipline, accommodation, human rights and occupational health and safety (including workplace violence and harassment). She also conducts workplace investigations where she proposes creative solutions to address or solve workplace inequalities.


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Juliet Knapton

Immigration and Refugee Board

Prior to her appointment at the Immigration and Refugee Board, Juliet Knapton was a Legal Educator teaching at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, at Ryerson University’s Law Practice Program and a Director and Instructor of a private advocacy training organization. She spent several years working overseas in Colombia and Pakistan before returning to Canada and entering into private legal practice. As a civil litigator, she acted on behalf of both plaintiffs and defendants at various levels of trial and appellate courts and tribunals. She is a trained mediator and workplace investigator. She believes that law needs feminism because we can do better.

Mothers in Law: Towards Equality Within the Profession for Lawyer Mothers

This presentation will report on a study we carried out in early 2016, where we met with and interviewed ten mothers who are lawyers in a diverse range of fields in the legal profession, all based in the Ottawa, Ontario, Canada region. Interviews took place in person, in offices, over kitchen tables, and over the phone. What we learned from these interviews was that, while conditions for some Canadian woman lawyer mothers, are improving, the situation at least anecdotally described by others is actually worse than in the past. Our study confirms that, anecdotally, the numbers provided by prior quantitative studies about challenges faced by lawyer mothers continue to ring true. The lawyer mothers we spoke with are not experiencing overall better conditions within the legal profession than those in decades past. Progress that has been achieved is uneven, arbitrary and ad hoc, and really depends upon the whims and negotiations of individuals. The presentation will open up a space for discussion of what our survey participants said would be of help for them, and we will elicit conversation from participants as to how well these views align with their own

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Rebecca Bromwich

Carleton University Department of Law and Legal Studies

Rebecca Jaremko Bromwich is Program Director for the Graduate Diploma in Conflict Resolution program. Dr. Bromwich is also a per diem Crown Attorney with the Ministry of the Attorney General in Ottawa. She is a member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario (ADRIO) and has a Certificate from the Program on Negotiation Master Class at Harvard University (2017).

Rebecca received her Ph.D. in 2015 from the Carleton University Department of Law and Legal Studies, and was the first ever graduate of that program. She was awarded a Carleton Senate Medal as well as the 2015 CLSA Graduate Student Essay Prize for her graduate work. Rebecca also has an LL.M. and LL.B., received from Queen’s University in 2002 and 2001 respectively, and holds a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies from the University of Cincinnati.

In addition to her several years teaching at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, Rebecca has taught at the University of Western Ontario’s Faculty of Law, and at the University of Cincinnati. She has also been a columnist for the Lawyers Weekly and has authored and co-authored several legal textbooks for students and legal system practitioners, including lawyers, paralegals and police.

Rebecca has been an Ontario lawyer for over fourteen years. She worked in private practice from 2003 – 2009, starting at a large firm, doing a wide range of litigation work. She also worked for six years as Staff Lawyer, Law Reform and Equality, to the Canadian Bar Association, then as a Policy Counsel with the Federation of Law Societies of Canada.

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Anne-Marie McElroy

McElroy Law

Anne-Marie grew up in Ottawa, Ontario and graduated with a degree in sociology and contemporary studies from the University of Kings College in Halifax. She completed her law school at the University of Ottawa in 2009 and has been practicing criminal law exclusively since her call to the bar in 2010. After articling with Shore Davis Hale, she worked as an associate at Hale Criminal Law Office before joining May & Konyer. She has represented clients with a wide range of criminal matters, ranging from impaired driving, assault, theft and sexual offences.

After gaining valuable experience under reputable mentors, Anne-Marie started her own criminal law firm, McElroy Law, in 2015. Her practice is dedicated to offering her clients an approachable legal service. She has gained her reputation by listening to her clients' needs. She offers her clients creative legal solutions after assessing the merits of their cases along with what to expect in the court. As your defence lawyer, she can discuss the risks and your options so as to enable you to make the most informed decision.

Over the years she has established good relationships with her colleagues, the Crown and the judges. Her reputation and ability to access the value of each case have gained her credibility in the criminal justice system. She is easy-going, but when required she can also be strong at producing the best results for her clients. She is also well-connected with the community through her involvement in the Community Adult Justice Network, where she works with organizations such as the Elizabeth Fry Society and John Howard Society.

Anne-Marie is an award-winning blog writer. She won the 2015 Canadian Law Blog award, 'Clawbie' award for the best new blog. She writes eloquently on areas of the law that are often misinterpreted and the blog has quickly been recognized as one of the best in the country. She also won the 2016 'Clawbie' award for the best practitioner blog.

Following her success in the blog, Anne-Marie has made media appearances on local radio and television on criminal law, providing commentary and insight into cases in the news.

The Criminal Justice System Response: Trauma-Informed Prosecutions

Research is helping us understand that many of the beliefs and assumptions we have about how a victim of sexual violence should behave is rooted in myth and stereotype and not in science and reality. By better understanding the neurobiology of trauma, police and prosecutors are better able to understand, evaluate and explain victim behaviour, which in turn leads to more sensitive and successful prosecutions. This presentation will explore why a trauma-informed approach is necessary in sexual violence prosecutions, introduce some of the principles of the neurobiology of trauma, and describe the ways in which prosecutors are integrating these ideas into their practice and making sexual violence prosecutions more trauma-informed.


Meaghan Cunningham

East Region Sexual Violence Crown, Ministry of the Attorney General


Meaghan has worked as a Crown Prosecutor in Ottawa since 2003, where she has been responsible for the prosecution of all manner of offences from impaired driving to homicides. Currently, she sits on the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General’s Sexual Violence Advisory Group, and is the East Region Sexual Violence Crown. She has been an invited speaker at many conferences, educational seminars, and training sessions on topics relating to domestic violence, sexual violence, human trafficking and honour based violence in Ontario and around the country. She has been involved in working groups, task forces and advisory committees provincially and nationally on these topics, and is the course director for the Ontario Crown Attorney’s Association summer school course on Sexual Violence.


Turtle Island Blanket Exercise: An Interactive Workshop on the Impact of Colonization on Indigenous Women and Girls

This workshop will be a unique way of examining Indigenous history and the progression of law. It responds to the 63rd Call to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation, focusing on education for reconciliation. Our workshop will be a Turtle Island Blanket Exercise adapted from the Youth Blanket Exercise established by KAIROS, which is a metaphor for colonization. Our exercise will have a focus on the impact of colonization on Indigenous women and girls.

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Shaké Sarkhanian

Shaké is the Editorial Chair of Inter Gentes: The McGill Journal of International Law and Legal Pluralism. Her experience in Indigenous Law comes from researching on violence against Indigenous women and girls worldwide and reporting on the 9th Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a Junior Policy Officer at the Canadian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva; advocating for the implementation of the TRC’s Calls to Action through membership on the McGill Faculty of Law’s TRC Task Force; and, as a summer law student, co-producing education materials about the Chief Coroner’s Office for Ontario for Ontario’s Family Information Liaison Units. In 2017, Shaké co-organized a panel with Inter Gentes on the Protection of Indigenous Cultural Property at the Rebellious Lawyering Conference at Yale Law School. Currently, her legal clinic placement is with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. She believes in education for reconciliation and taking human rights approaches.



Bonnie Freeman

Bonnie Freeman, Ph.D. is Algonquin/Mohawk from the Six Nations of the Grand River.  She brings many years of experience with connections to Indigenous communities throughout Canada and the United States.  Bonnie has been involved with many Indigenous land-based journeys as a way of understanding Indigenous epistemology and Indigenous cultural activism. In 2010, she received the Native Research Network Honored Student Award at their annual conference in South Dakota, USA.   Bonnie is also certified in Equine Assisted Growth and Learning and has developed and implemented in collaboration with the Hamilton Métis Women’s Circle, Equine Assisted Growth and Learning programs to Aboriginal High School students and Native women. She currently serves on the board of Six Nations Polytechnic and chairs the Indigenous Education Council with Indigenous Studies, as well the Circle of Indigenous Social Work Action committee in the School of Social Work.

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romita sur

Romita is on the national executive of #LawNeedsFeminismBecause as one of the Education, Advocacy, and Awareness Co-Leads. Her experience in Indigenous law comes from her social work background; her research assistantship with Professor Colleen Sheppard on the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal case around Aboriginal Child Welfare; and her internship with the Canadian Centre for International Justice where she created a lecture series on International Treaty Implications on Canadian Indigenous Law. Romita has been the executive of many clubs and journals, most notably as the Co-President of the Women of Colour Collective of McGill Law. In that role, she worked with the Indigenous Law Association in creating a workshop for the 2018 Rebellious Lawyering Conference at Yale Law School on Systemic Discrimination of Indigenous Children: Ongoing Reflections in Canada and United States.

Global Actors: A2J in International Tribunals and the United Nations

This workshops aims to spark a dialogue about the possibilities for advancing access to justice and accountability at the international level, through careers related to international courts or tribunals and United Nations human rights mechanisms.

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melanie bejzyk

Lawyer, Global Affairs Canada

Melanie Bejzyk is a foreign service officer and lawyer in Global Affairs Canada. She has represented Canada at the UN in Geneva and New York, as well as at the Embassy of Canada in Norway. She is currently on an exchange in the Office of the Judge Advocate General, the legal office of the Canadian Armed Forces, where she provides advice on compliance with international human rights law and humanitarian law.


A2J: From a Practitioner's Perspective

Lawyers must individually take steps to increase A2J. If every lawyer waits for someone else to take the first step, the opportunities to help may never arise. I will provide information on platforms that encourage interaction with clients not typically able to access legal services, identify non-traditional legal resources as well as provide insight into alternative careers that focus on A2J.


Stacey Mirowski

Lawyer, Reach Canada and Mirowski Law

Stacey is a sole practitioner who works primarily with low income individuals on issues such as job loss, disability claims and appeals, human rights and discrimination. I am also the Legal Coordinator at Reach Canada, working on a new project to expand access to justice for persons with disabilities. They do this by partnering with service organizations, shelters and youth centres to provide legal education and information directly to those who have difficulty accessing it.


Raija Pulkkinen.

Lawyer, Reach Canada

Raija is currently the Outreach Coordinator at Reach Canada, an Ottawa-based organization that offers educational programs and promotes access to justice for persons with disabilities. Prior to joining Reach Canada, she worked as a research lawyer, focusing on the areas of human rights, labour and administrative law.  Raija was a member of the Commission Counsel team at the Cornwall Public Inquiry.  Before becoming a lawyer, Raija spent many years working with vulnerable children and youth in the social services field.  She is a mom to two school-aged children.  

Decolonization and Allyship: Indigenous Feminist Perspectives



RJ Jones

RJ Jones is Saulteaux–Cree, originally from Saskatchewan and is currently living on Algonquin Territory in Ottawa, ON. They are a Two Spirit, Non-Binary and Queer multimedia artist, storyteller, facilitator and educator in the topics of decolonizing our approach to Gender and Sexuality.

They are an advocate for Two Spirit and LGBTQ+ Indigenous issues and work from a decolonial and intersectional lens. RJ is an experienced in public speaker and has been invited to give workshops and keynotes across Canada. RJ has been working in sexual health for the past year with The Native Youth Sexual Health Network as a Peer Mentor and formerly, Planned Parenthood Ottawa as a Community Developer. RJ’s passion for Two Spirit and Trans advocacy has lead them to serve as the Vice President of Kind Space and they are also a member of the Kanawayhitowin Youth Committee at the Ontario


Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail



Tawny Allison

Tawny Allison is Anishanaabe of Walpole Island Bkejewanong First Nation. She is also a 1L student at uOttawa. After high school, Tawny began her studies at the University of Guelph. Upon graduation, she moved to Toronto to work in the finance sector. Following that, she worked with several Indigenous organizations before attending law school. She currently lives in Ottawa with her soulmate - a 3-lb chihuahua puppy.



Since it’s composition about in 2017 the National Executive has been working hard to create a structure and mandate for Law Needs Feminism Because to anchor this ever growing initiative. In this presentation we will introduce the members of this Executive, report on our work and accomplishments, and share our goals for the future and how you can get involved!