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Honorary degree citation - Jane Doe

By: Geneviève Rail, June 2012

Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour to present to you Jane Doe, author, teacher, and activist.

Jane Doe has received many awards for her work including Chatelaine magazine’s “Woman of the Year”, the Elizabeth Fry Society’s “Rebel With a Cause” and the YWCA’s “Woman of Distinction”. Earlier this month she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa.

D’une importance essentielle, son histoire, ses contributions et sa quête permanente d’une plus grande justice à l’endroit des femmes violentées sexuellement sont très connues dans les domaines du droit, des études des femmes, de la sociologie et de la criminologie. D’ailleurs, son travail est si influent qu’il est pratiquement impossible d’aborder certains sujets tels que les femmes et la résistance, les agressions sexuelles, les pratiques policières ou les études féministes du droit sans faire référence au procès pour négligence et discrimination (« le cas Jane Doe ») qui l’a opposée au Service de police de Toronto et qu’elle a gagné. Du reste, le cas et le livre qu’elle a écrit à ce sujet, The Story of Jane Doe, figurent maintenant au programme de bon nombre d’universités, au Canada comme à l’étranger.

Jane Doe’s work began in her own experience of sexual assault from which she drew critical and key observations about the nature and manner in which that crime and the women who experience it are perceived and treated by all of our institutions – most particularly the media and law enforcement. Her law suit against the Toronto Police set several legal precedents. Jane Doe V the Toronto Police argued that under the Canadian Charter, women have the right to live free from sexual violence. It also established the right for all of us to sue the police and other bodies for negligence in their actions.

But she was not nearly finished. Jane Doe’s published academic work has questioned the purpose and motives behind the publication ban as applied to all women who report their rapes. Her work questioned the use and efficacy of the sexual assault evidence kit and the police practice of “rape warnings” to the public. In her writing, teaching and lectures, Jane Doe asks us to question our own perceptions of sexual assault. She integrates race, colonialism and class with gender and asks the question, “who benefits” from current legislation, policies and practice that do not work in women’s best interests.

Son labeur et ses réalisations ont changé pour toujours la manière dont les femmes abordent la législation et la façon dont elles se définissent par rapport aux lois, à la société et aux conceptions de la sexualité et de l’agression sexuelle.

Author, teacher, activist, Jane Doe inspires her audience, interrogating and analyzing women’s inequality in all of our institutions. Her involvement in and support of the Bedford case – currently working its way to the Supreme Court –demands we question constructions of female sexuality in relation to sex work, current legislation and practice that cause harm to sex workers, denying them human and labour rights. Her work has ensured a continued and necessary reflection on the nature of violence and women’s equality, all with a positive impact for both women and men.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and honour to present to you Jane Doe so that you may confer upon her the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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