Comparing Women in Canada
21 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2012 Last revised: 19 Sep 2016
Date Written: April 9, 2012
In Feminism and the Power of Law Carol Smart argued “law must also be tackled at the conceptual level if feminist discourses are to take a firmer root” (p. 5). In Canada, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) “tackled” the concept of comparison in the age equality case of Withler v. Canada, 2008 BCCA 539. Rejecting “similarly situated” (or “groups”) comparison as inconsistent with substantive equality, LEAF advocated a “contextual” approach to import gender into the Withler frame. However, LEAF did not identify a male comparator even though all of the plaintiffs were women. Accordingly, it is unclear whether LEAF’s contextual approach obviates comparison, permits comparing some women to other women, or is synonymous with “grounds” comparison. I argue LEAF could have named the patriarchal state as the male comparator in Withler, thereby aligning their contextual approach with “grounds” comparison and offering substantive equality a “firmer root”.
Keywords: Feminism, equality rights, Canada, LEAF
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