Three strikes but not out: judicial losses and women's political activism ahead of the Charter

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Hooper, Tom
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University of Guelph

This thesis examines how the Canadian women's movement utilized judicial losses to achieve long-term political and social gain. The 'Lavell, Murdoch' and 'Bliss' Supreme Court cases of the 1970s were pivotal in galvanizing the women's movement ahead of the 'Charter of Rights and Freedoms'. Each case demonstrated the movement's growing frustration with the limited interpretation of the 'Canadian Bill of Rights', which was seen as inadequate in protecting the rights of women. These cases also helped to demonstrate the movement's discomfort with the perceptions, expectations and attitudes toward women, and challenged traditional gender roles both in the family and in the broader society. When the Supreme Court decided against the women involved in each case, the movement's strategy went from legal to political, and thus helped to reshape Canada's constitution. As a result, the women's immediate losses at the Supreme Court aided in achieving the movement's longer-term policy objectives.

Canada, women's movement, judicial losses, political gain, social gain, Charter of Rights and Freedoms, women's rights