Feminist Activism in the Supreme Court
272 pages, 6 x 9
21 tables
Release Date:01 Jan 2005
Release Date:01 Mar 2004
Release Date:01 Oct 2007

Feminist Activism in the Supreme Court

Legal Mobilization and the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund

SERIES: Law and Society
UBC Press

Since 1980, the Canadian women’s movement has been an active participant in constitutional politics and Charter litigation. This book, through its focus on the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), presents a compelling examination of how Canadian feminists became key actors in developing the constitutional doctrine of equality, and how they mobilized that doctrine to support the movement’s policy agenda.

The case of LEAF, an organization that had as its goal the use of Charter litigation to influence legal rules and public policy, provides rich ground for Manfredi’s keen analysis of legal mobilization. In a multitude of areas such as abortion, pornography, sexual assault, family law, and gay and lesbian rights, LEAF has intervened before the Supreme Court to bring its understanding of equality to bear on legal policy development. This study offers a deft examination of LEAF’s arguments and seeks to understand how they affected the Court’s consideration of the issues. Perhaps most importantly, it also contemplates the longterm effects of the mobilization, and considers the social impact of the legal doctrine that has emerged from LEAF cases.

A major contribution to law and society studies, Feminist Activism in the Supreme Court is unparalleled in its analysis of legal mobilization as an effective strategy for social movements. It will be widely read and welcomed by legal scholars, political scientists, lawyers, feminists, and activists.


  • 2005, Winner - Book Prize, Canadian Law Society Association
  • 2004, Short-listed - Donner Prize, Donner Foundation
Feminist Activism in the Supreme Court is a well-crafted, thorough study that will serve as a major reference for anyone interested in the role and impact of organized interests in Canada’s high court. Roy B. Flemming, Department of Political Science, Texas A&M University
Professor Manfredi provides a fascinating description of the legal and political feminist mobilization efforts of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) … Manfredi’s elaboration of the various political proposals put forth by feminist groups in 1980 and the subsequent constitutional discussions of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords offer a distinctive and illuminating lens through which to examine the context of feminist litigation and to speculate as to its future …this is a well-researched book that makes an important contribution to section 15 related scholarship and the conditions that gave rise to the equality provision and jurisprudence of the Charter. Natasha Bakht, University of Ottawa, Ottawa Law Review, 36:2
Manfredi’s book offers an insight into LEAF’s influence and how special interest groups’ submissions to courts influence those courts’ decisions. It is also a good introduction to how the Canadian Charter and its interpretation by the Supreme Court have affected women’s rights over the past 20 years. Sara Collin, McGill Law Women’s Caucus, McGill Centre for Research and Teaching on Women Newsletter, March 2006
Christopher P. Manfredi is a professor of Political Science at McGill University.




1 Legal Doctrine, Legal Mobilization and LEAF

2 The Path to Substantive Equality

3 Gaining Ground

4 Family Matters: Breakdowns and Benefits

5 A Difficult Dialogue

6 Making A Difference: The Policy Consequences of Legal Mobilization




Cases Cited


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