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SFU Advocacy for Men and Boys hosts open discussion of alleged gender bias in the Canadian legal system

Panel discusses family law, criminal law, divorce, custody, and media

The four panelists from left to right: Diana Davison, Don Dutton, Georgialee Lang, and Carey Linde.
The four panelists from left to right: Diana Davison, Don Dutton, Georgialee Lang, and Carey Linde.

The SFU Advocacy for Men and Boys (SFUAMB) club hosted a free event, “The Accusation is the Verdict: Is Canada’s legal system anti-male?on June 17 at Harbour Centre. The event was sponsored by the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) Vancouver, and hosted a four-person panel to discuss anti-male legal biases in Canadian society.

The panel included two lawyers: Carey Linde, a lawyer with 40 years of experience who pushed  for shared parenting in Canada; and Georgialee Lang, with 25 years of experience and the winner of the 2010 Best Canadian Legal Blog award for her blog, Lawdiva.

Also on the panel was Dr. Don Dutton, PhD in Social Psychology and a tenured professor at UBC. Dutton has researched and reported on the need for police to be trained in dealing with domestic disturbances,  and has published more than 120 peer-reviewed articles. Legal activist and YouTuber Diana Davison, who has focussed on gender equality and feminism in the legal system, was also on the panel. The panel was moderated by lawyer George Balabanian, whose specializations include gender and political theory.

The discussion focused primarily on family law, including custody disputes, divorce proceedings, domestic abuse cases, and disparities in legal aid resources provided by the government. The panel also tackled men and crime, gendered violence, and how men are treated by the courts.

When asked, “Is Canada’s legal system anti-male?” Dutton remarked, “I don’t know, but I have my suspicions.” He challenged what he saw as the misconception that men are always perpetrators and women are always blameless victims in domestic abuse, saying it is “not supported by research data.”

He also pointed out that men face 63 percent longer prison sentences in the US than women for the same crime. “Everything is perceived differently” when different genders perform the same criminal act, he said.

Davison focused primarily on public perceptions of the legal system, and the “court of public opinion.” She noted more high-profile cases are becoming subject to media opinion, regardless of what courts decide, exemplified by the cases of Jian Ghomeshi and Brock Turner, where calls for extrajudicial punishment have resonated on Twitter. She said that public faith in the legal system is very important, warning the audience of the emergence of “journalists [who] decide they’re cops” not reporting real facts because they “don’t make for good headlines,” in her opinion.

Lang discussed the challenges men face in family courts. Many fathers are “lucky to see their kids four times a month” following divorces, she said. When accused of domestic violence in family courts, “the burden of proof is on the accused [men],” a point echoed by Linde.

Linde challenged gender biases in Canadian society and the legal system. There is a general misconception, Linde claimed, that fathers are innately worse caregivers than mothers. This belief that a father is a passive bystander in childcare is reflected in the Supreme Court of Canada, when in the case of Young v. Young (1993), Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé wrote, “men as a group have not yet embraced responsibility for childcare.”

SFUAMB president Jesse Velay-Vitow thanked the SFSS for their support in hosting the event, as he said that SFU administration had requested the event be cancelled or postponed, although did not elaborate why.

He expressed his hopes for future collaboration with other SFU groups, like the Women’s Centre, who were invited but it seemed that none attended. He argued that both groups work to promote equality, and that gains for men are not losses for women. Both groups have “so much in common,” said Velay-Vitow.

  • Anonymous

    Because of no fault divorce in Alberta I was told by my lawyer that even if I pressed criminal charges against my ex-partner for domestic assault (which I easily could have and not because of any disproportionate burden of proof) that it would not impact either our custody arrangements or his ability to claim spousal support payments for “helping me with my career” and childcare since he was unwilling to work for nearly the duration of our marriage. The extent of those payments would have significantly impacted my ability to leave him while supporting my children. Hope situations like that came up when discussing what a tough time guys have it these days, given the statistics on who is most likely to be violently assaulted in their own home by their partner.

  • Sarah P

    God, wtf is happening at SFU? CAFE? The Men’s Rights Extremist neckbeard society? Jesus.

    • John Haythorn

      Your post is proof of our society’s inherent bias against the neck-bearded 🙂

  • PhilJ

    So grateful that there is a Canadian university that isn’t afraid to allow a platform for this student advocacy work. Thank you SFU!

  • Diana Davison

    I hope this is just the beginning of a true “conversation.”

  • SFUAMB is doing such important work, unabashedly saying the things that need to be said, supporting those for whom our society affords no support. In some instances, it is a fact: men are the underdogs and are being treated as such, dogs.

    • Ugghhhh…. I am not Donnie Lochrie, but somehow, because, my husband comments on more forums, I show up as HIM. I am a woman. Look me up. My name is Marian Lochrie. I can state that SFUAMB is NOT a men’s club. It is not an “extremist”, “neckbeard” society!!! The injustice men suffer under due to a gender biased legal system is extreme. This is a fact. Facts manifest themselves in real world ways. I have experienced the injustice towards men, not in my daydreams, in the actual world, according to actual fact. If you are unsure about this, go as ANY family law lawyer. Furthermore, as a woman, I have been welcomed with open arms into this alleged “men’s group”. There is no gender bias in this group. SFUAMB is an advocacy group that advocates for the underdog: men in our court system. When we see inequality we should not be ashamed to point out that inequality, nor should we be browbeaten into submission and silence. Lastly, strong women want strong men! I hate the legal system, our media, and our entertainment sources for beating men up, weakening them emotionally, psychologically and legally. The public is being gaslit. SFUAMB is combating the gaslighting with the light of truth. Kudos!

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