LEAF, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, is a national feminist group dedicated to taking women’s equality issues into Canada’s courts. It was mobilized on April 17, 1985, the day the equality rights clauses of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into force.

Objectives

LEAF strives:

–    to educate the public concerning rights and the significance, interpretation and enforcement of the Constitution and Charter;
–    to establish a resource center with ties throughout Canada, and;
–    to sponsor selective litigation in equality-related matters.

They further states, “In all our actions and efforts, LEAF will reflect a commitment to the empowerment of women and to a concept of equality which respects the circumstances and differences of all women.”  And “as a member of Canada’s feminist community, LEAF will select cases in accordance with the national litigation strategy.” (emphasis added)

As part of that strategy, LEAF sponsors test cases, providing lawyers and researchers with precedent – setting legal opportunities, research and expertise, and clients with direct legal representation and other support.

They see themselves as also providing Canadian decision makers with research and expertise, and donors and volunteers with “an opportunity to participate in a unique effective vehicle for creating social change.”

That change is clearly the achievement of the feminist version of equality.

Legal interventions

Since it’s founding in 1985, LEAF has taken on more than 80 percedent-setting cases, generally promoting an anti-family, anti-child agenda. The following assortment of legal interventions is typical:

Borowski: abortion on demand.

Daigle: ‘no rights for fathers.’

Karen Andrews: lesbian couples should receive the same benefits as traditional heterosexual families.

Seaboyer and Gayme: a woman’s sexual history never has any bearing on rape and should not be disclosed in rape trials.

Baby R and Lemay and Sullivan: a child has no legal rights until the umbilical cord is cut and the child is breathing on it’s own.

LEAF also tries to avoid the presentation of alternate views. It has attempted to have REAL Women excluded from arguing several cases where they, too, had been granted intervener status.

Taxpayers money

In 1985, when the equality clauses of the Charter became effective, the federal Department of Justice established a fund to assist in fighting  Charter cases. This fund has now reached $13.75 million.

The panel that reviews applications and decides on the allocation of funding includes one of LEAF’s founders, and a number of its supporters. In its five-year history, LEAF has received more money from this Court Challenges program than any other group.

LEAF has also received financial assistance from the Secretary of State Women’s Program – over $11 million in operating costs alone, and much more in the form of various project grants.

Provincial branches of LEAF also receive money – LEAF was given a $1 million grant by former Attorney General Ian Scott as soon as the Liberals came to power in Ontario in 1985. Recently it received $100.00 from the Ontario Federation of Women Teachers.

As a registered non-profit organization, LEAF is entitled to give receipts for tax purposes.

New foundation

LEAF has now established a foundation and has begun a campaign to raise $5 million for a national endowment fund. This will be used to continue its “precedent-setting work.”

National co-chair of the foundation is Judy Erola, a feminist and former Liberal federal minister. In PEI, the endowment campaign is chaired by Dianne Porter, former chairperson of Status of Women (PEI) and a long-time activist in the national Child Care Advocacy movement. The premier’s wife, Rose Ellen Ghiz, is a member of the foundation national advisory Board.

Shoppers Drug Mart

In September, the foundation received its first corporate commitment. Shoppers Drug Mart pledged $200,000 to be raised largely through the sale of Fox 40 distress whistles at their pharmacies.

Promotional material claimed the sales would “help LEAF eliminate the root causes of violence.”  This is an inaccurate suggestion since LEAF has not at any time attempted to root out causes of violence, nor is it among their objectives. Indeed, many will argue that a number of LEAF positions are themselves a form of violence.

In mid-September, Lois Evans, a resident of Don Mills, Ontario, phoned Arthur Konviser, senior vice-president of the Canada-wide drugstore chain to express her objection to their support of LEAF.

She later wrote to the president of the company, Herb Binder, stating that, “He rudely referred to mea as someone having an axe to grind. He was mot offensive, curt and arrogant.”

Mr. Binder repudiates Ms. Evans’ claims. According to him, an independent outside party who heard the conversation on the speaker phone assured him that Mr. Konviser was most patient and understanding, certainly not discourteous, but or arrogant. “He stated clearly and concisely that if you were reluctant to support the LEAF organization, then you should not buy the whistle.”

Mr. Binder enclosed a copy of a letter of endorsement from Mary Collins, Federal Minister of State for Women. Ms. Collins, as Ms. Evans puts it, is “well-known advocate of feminist policies, whose views on these and most other issues are completely irrelevant to most Canadian women.”

Judy Anderson, national president of REAL Women of Canada, also wrote to Mr. Binder. “We support Shoppers Drug Mast’s desire to counteract violence, but we protest its promotion and endorsement of LEAF,” she said.

Mr. Binder replied that the media, the Minister of State for Women, and hundreds of customers approve.

He pointed out that all proceeds from the sale of the whistles will be placed in a specially created fund, and used to finance only those cases that concern violence against women and children.