Battered Women Under Duress: The Supreme Court of Canada's Abandonment of Context and Purpose in R. v. Ryan

Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, Spring 2017, Forthcoming

35 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2016 Last revised: 31 Jan 2017

See all articles by Jason MacLean

Jason MacLean

University of Saskatchewan - College of Law

Nadia Verrelli

Laurentian University

Lori Chambers

Lakehead University

Date Written: October 20, 2015

Abstract

The case of R. v. Ryan presented the Supreme Court of Canada with a novel question: may a wife, whose life is threatened by her abusive husband, rely on the defence of duress when she tries to have him murdered? In this article we argue that by answering this novel question in the negative, the Court missed an opportunity to clarify the nature and scope of the defence of duress in the context of battered and abused women in a principled manner and thereby enhance access to justice and equal benefit of the law. Instead, the Court retreated into a purely formalist doctrinal defence of the boundary separating duress and self-defence. In doing so, the Court not only failed in its responsibility to make the law less unsettled and piecemeal, more coherent and more just, but it also set back the judicial treatment of battered woman’s syndrome by more than a quarter century, harking back to the period prior to the Court’s groundbreaking decision in R. v. Lavallee.

Suggested Citation

MacLean, Jason and Verrelli, Nadia and Chambers, Lori, Battered Women Under Duress: The Supreme Court of Canada's Abandonment of Context and Purpose in R. v. Ryan (October 20, 2015). Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, Spring 2017, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2735324

Jason MacLean (Contact Author)

University of Saskatchewan - College of Law ( email )

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Canada

Nadia Verrelli

Laurentian University ( email )

935 Ramsey Lake Road
Sudbury P3E 2C6, Ontario P3E 2C6
Canada

Lori Chambers

Lakehead University ( email )

955 Oliver Road
Thunder Bay, Ontario P7B 5E1
Canada

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