Contextualism, Feminism, and a Canadian Woman Judge

Feminist Legal Studies 17 (1):27-42 (2009)


Feminist legal scholars have never cut the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada as much slack as the second. Yet the first, Justice Bertha Wilson, introduced the contextual method into the Court’s jurisprudence. Her approach to contextualism is consistent with one of three feminist legal methods that Katharine T. Bartlett identifies. More specifically, it is consistent with Bartlett’s feminist practical reasoning. However, Justice Wilson’s contextualism is not without its critics. The most challenging, Ruth Colker, contends it must work in conjunction with a distinctive substantive principle. Justice Wilson took a different approach, aligning the contextual method with the constitutional principle of proportionality. Thus construed, this paper argues, contextualism represents a new approach to feminist judging

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