Since March 1911, the global community has paused on March 8 to celebrate inspiring and courageous women, take stock of the status of women in all spheres of society, identify policies and strategies to achieve gender equality and justice at the intersections of gender, race, class, disabilities, and sexual orientation.
We will examine persistent gender gaps and collective actions needed to #BreakTheBias and effect sustainable change.
#BreakTheBias: Gender Justice at the Intersections
The Pandemics: Black Feminist Insights into Health Justice
Anti-Black racism, including misogynoir, is a pre-existing condition through which we need to understand the realities of health for Black people in Canada. While recognizing that “public health has historically been an extension of policing for Black people that has positioned us as suspicious and nefarious in our actions and movements” (Bain, Dryden, Walcott, 2020), continued commitment to colour-blindness is a deliberate choice that avoids engaging with anti-Black racism (and its intersections) in healthcare systems. These systems require substantive disruption in which we engage in co-creating health justice. Social justice activism requires a commitment “to produce knowledge for intervention, disruption, transformation and ultimately liberation” (Bailey and People, 2017).
Explore and reflect on the guidance provided by Black feminists, queer activists and scholars and what they teach us about transformative health interventions. Social justice must include a commitment and plan for health and wellness.
Dr. OmiSoore Dryden (she/her/they)
Dr. OmiSoore H. Dryden, a Black queer femme and senior scholar, is the James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies, Faculty of Medicine and the co-lead of the new national organization – The Black Health Education Collaborative. Dr. Dryden is a content expert and Associate Scientist with the Maritime Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) SUPPORT Unit (MSSU). In that capacity, she provides guidance on Canadian Black Health metrics needed to inform the development of health policies and improve the health care system. This specifically focuses on survey data and demographic information, determinants of trust, sexual health and qualitative data collection and analysis.
Dr. Dryden’s publications include an edited collection (with Dr. Suzanne Lenon): Disrupting Queer Inclusion: Canadian Homonationalisms and the Politics of Belonging (UBC Press, 2015); and the co-authored Commentary (with Dr. Onye Nnorom), Time to Dismantle Systemic anti-Black Racism in Medicine in Canada” (2021) in the CMAJ. Dr. Dryden is a member of the Black Feminist Health Science Studies International Collective and the past co-president of the Black Canadian Studies Association (2019-2021).
Why are we still fighting for change? Lack of progress on issues of inequity and racism in academia
Post-secondary institutions continue to be invoked as spaces of possibilities - possibilities of change and a re-imagining of society, particularly for social justice and equity issues. However, academic spaces continue to be rightfully critiqued for upholding and enabling inequalities (Ahmed, 2012; Monture, 2010; Smith, 2016). persistent inequality is evident in the gendered and racialized discrimination in hiring, tenure, promotion and pays within universities (Barrett and Barrett, 2011; Fotaki, 2013; Henry et al., 2017; Marbley et al., 2011; Gutierrez et al., 2012).
These discriminatory practices led Mohawk scholar Patricia Monture (2010) to label universities as violent spaces that require urgent transformation. In the context of the ongoing issues of inequity with the academy, I will discuss how the historical and structural factors hinder the meaningful transformation of systemic inequality and racism.
Dr. Irene Shankar (she/her)
Dr. Irene Shankar (she/her) is an associate professor of sociology at Mount Royal University and the president-elect of the Canadian Sociological Association. Dr. Shankar is dedicated to a critical engagement with complex intersections of marginalization and inequality within her scholarship and teaching. Dr. Shankar’s main areas of interest are Black Feminist Theories, Sociology of Gender, Critical Race Theory, and the Sociology of Health and Illness.
Dr. Shankar uses her critical scholarship to inspire activism and change, resulting in numerous commendations for her leadership in teaching and research. Her current research projects concern individualized and gendered construction of risk and responsibility during the H1N1 Pandemic in Alberta in 2009. SSHRC IDG funded research on (under)utilization of feminist expertise within PSI sexual assault policies and programs.
Women’s Charter Equality at the Supreme Court of Canada: Surprising Losses or Anticipated Failures?
Jennifer Koshan and Jonnette Watson Hamilton examine the failure of the Supreme Court of Canada to recognize sex discrimination against women under Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms until 2018, with only two successful claims to date.
We explore how this failure exists despite the mobilization of women’s and other equality-seeking groups to ensure that the Charter’s equality rights would be worded and interpreted to result in transformative change, despite women’s continuing lack of equality in Canada, despite the promise of the Court’s firsts 15 decision in 1989, and despite women’s early successes in human rights sex discrimination claims. Women have also lost almost every other case where they relied on other grounds of discrimination, and we critique the lack of intersectional analyses in the Court’s judgments despite opportunities to consider how sex intersects with other grounds in (re)producing women’s inequalities.
We conclude by offering thoughts on the uncertain future of women’s Section 15 claims.
Professors Jennifer Koshan and Jonnette Watson Hamilton have co-authored "Women’s Charter Equality at the Supreme Court of Canada: Surprising Losses or Anticipated Failures?" for the forthcoming book Surprising Constitution, edited by Professor Howard Kislowicz, Kerri Froc and Dick Moon.
Jennifer Koshan (she/her)
Jennifer Koshan (she/her) is a Professor in the Faculty of Law, University of Calgary, Canada. Her research and teaching focus on equality, human rights, and legal responses to interpersonal violence. With her colleague Jonnette Watson Hamilton, she has written over a dozen papers on equality rights, several of which have been cited by the Supreme Court of Canada. She is also a founding member of the Women’s Court of Canada, a shadow court that rewrites equality rights judgements from feminist perspectives. Jennifer also works with The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) in developing arguments for equality rights litigation, most recently in Fraser v Canada (2020).
Jonnette Watson Hamilton (she/her/hers)
Jonnette Watson Hamilton (she/her/hers) is a Professor in the Faculty of Law, University of Calgary, Canada. Her research and teaching focus on Charter equality rights (with Professor Jennifer Koshan), property law and theory, and discourse analysis. Jonnette has also worked with The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) in developing arguments for equality rights litigation, most recently in Fraser v Canada (2020).
Elder Colleen Sitting Eagle
Oki nistowaok Sipiyanatohkomia”ki.
Elder Colleen Sitting Eagle is the Siksika Language Instructor at Siksika Outreach School located in Siksika Nation since 2009.
Previously, Colleen worked as a researcher with Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park. She has worked with Siksika culture and heritage since 1992. Colleen learned her Siksika history from her late parents and the honour of working with knowledgeable elders.
She was one of the first groups from Siksika to be integrated to start her schooling in Strathmore, AB. She previously attended and continues to take courses from the University of Calgary. She is the proud mother of three children and eight grandchildren.