Comparing Women in Canada

21 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2012 Last revised: 19 Sep 2016

See all articles by Beverley Baines

Beverley Baines

Queen's University - Faculty of Law

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

Suggested Citation

Baines, Beverley, Comparing Women in Canada (April 9, 2012). Feminist Legal Studies, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2012. Available at SSRN:

Beverley Baines (Contact Author)

Queen's University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Macdonald Hall
Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6 K7L3N6

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics