Gendered Dissent, Democracy & Law: A Workshop

By Estair Van Wagner and Charis Kamphuis, Dissent, Democracy & the Law Research Network, October 6, 2014

This two-day Workshop featured presentations by fourteen panelists and speakers who together constituted a diverse group of legal scholars from universities across Canada, and advocates and leaders of civil society organizations. Their objective was to report on and theorize the challenges faced by advocates and civil society organizations working on issues of gender equality in Canada. In particular, participants focused on those challenges that stem from governmental use of legal and extralegal measures that undermine the capacity of individuals, civil society organizations, and institutions to participate in public debate on key policy issues at the local, provincial or federal level. (...)

The Workshop was inspired in part by the organizers’ participation in the Voices-Voix Documentation Project, which has identified a number of specific methods employed by the current federal government to restrict dissent. These methods include: the threat or revocation of charitable status, defunding, harassment/privacy violation, withholding information, interference with independent institutions, surveillance, and vilification/smearing. In some cases, rhetorical vilification has carried implicit or even explicit overtones of criminalization. (...)

While these trends in the relationship between the State and dissent in Canada can be described in broad terms, there are specific issues and groups who exist in a particularly and even increasingly adverse relationship with the Canadian State. Groups working on gender issues are among these. Research undertaken to date indicates that women and gendered-focused civil society organizations attempting to critically discuss government policy decisions have been the target of legal and extralegal measures that undermine their capacity to participate in public debate and dissent on important policy issues. In particular, it appears that these practices have impacted those working on gender and socio-economic equality. (...)

To read the full report, click the link below [PDF].

Photo: Dissent, Democracy & the Law Network