From theory to praxis: Understanding substantive equality through experiential learning

Posted on Friday, April 6, 2018

Community Service Learning (CSL) was integrated into a common law course for the very first time in the fall of 2017. Professor Angela Cameron incorporated CSL into her Gender Sexuality and the Law course (CML 3181) because she believes that “practising substantive equality on the ground against the backdrop of well-theorized gender and sexuality is an excellent way to learn what the messy, beautiful reality of equality might look like if we liberated it from the common law a little bit.” The goal was to move “from theory to praxis, from the abstract to the concrete” because “we need a new generation of lawyers who’ve mastered the complexity of substantive equality, in theory and in practice, to be able to move beyond what the common law can accomplish in 2018.”

Two of Professor Cameron’s students did a placement with Law Needs Feminism Because (LNFB), an initiative that gathers stories and narratives from law students, lawyers and legal professionals on why the practice of law requires a feminist lens to better understand how to shape the legal system and profession of tomorrow. The organization hopes to “amplify the voices of marginalized groups who have historically been excluded from the workings of law, particularly those who are racialized, indigenous, queer, trans, intersex, non-binary, and/or disabled.”

The purpose of the student placement was to assist LNFB prepare for their second national forum, which took place at the University of Ottawa in March 2018. Zaynab Al-Waadh, one of the organizers, underlined that, as part of their CSL placement, “the students helped ensure the LNFB forum content was inclusive of marginalized communities, including the LGBTQ+, racialized, disabled, low-income and Indigenous communities.” According to the 2018 forum organizers, Zaynab Al-Waadh and Stephanie Tadeo, the students helped line up 17 workshops on topics related to feminist issues in the legal community, including “disrupting inequitable access to justice” and “rebuilding feminist law reform capacities in Canada” as well as a panel on Indigenous feminist perspectives in decolonization and allyship. The students also helped showcase some of the portraits from the LNFB uOttawa chapter photo campaign on why law needs feminism. According to Professor Cameron, the option for her students to “merge their passion for feminism with a practical community engagement project while deepening their academic learning creates the perfect balance for student life.”

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