5 February 2013 - 9:00am to 5 February 2013 - 5:00pm

Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto, Room 200

Criminal Law as Social Change: Intentions and Consequences.

In recent decades, social movements in Canada and beyond have turned to the criminal law as a vehicle for social change.  Feminists, victims’ rights advocates, law and order conservatives, and child protection groups have pursued criminal law reforms on several fronts and with a range of motives.  In Canada, this turn to criminal regulation can be seen in the elevation of the age of sexual consent, amendments to young offender legislation, HIV-disclosure case law, domestic violence and sexual assault law reforms, anti-trafficking laws, the addition of mandatory minimum sentences to drug laws, and an enhanced role for victims in the criminal justice process.  

Expanding criminal liability and lengthening prison sentences can be an effective means of appealing to popular sentiment, particularly on complex social problems that present few easy solutions. But the success of criminal law campaigns may come at the expense of other opportunities for social transformation. Greater emphasis on criminal law campaigns often coincides with shifts in resource allocation away from social welfare toward criminal justice – a turn some scholars have called a move from the “welfare state” to the “penal state.”

This Trudeau scholars’ workshop takes as a starting point the sense that some actors in these social movements maintain a formalist view of criminal law, whereby black letter criminal prohibitions are presumed to lead more or less straightforwardly to the actual reduction or abolition of an impugned activity.  This view elides the realities of under- and over-enforcement, disparities in criminal surveillance and punishment, and the sometimes counter-productive and unintended consequences of criminal prohibitions.  The workshop aims to develop a more realist vision of both criminal law and processes of social change.

The details for each panel are available in the complete program.

2012 Trudeau Mentors Cindy Blackstock and Bernard Richard, and 2010 Trudeau Scholar Lindsey Richardson will be part of the event.

Free admission – registration compulsory
To register for the workshop, please contact Lisa Kerr: coleenlisa@gmail.com

Lisa Kelly

Lisa aims to ensure that Canadian law includes children’s and adolescents’ rights and interests.

2010 Scholars

Lisa Kerr

She is rethinking current approaches to incarceration and justice, focusing on the quality of a prison sentence rather than on the length of time served.

2012 Scholars

Cindy Blackstock

An author of over 50 publications, her key interests include exploring, and addressing, the causes of disadvantage for Aboriginal children and families.

2012 Mentors

Bernard Richard

An Acadian lawyer and a former social worker and former MLA, Bernard Richer has been appointed ombudsman and first child and youth advocate of New Brunswick. He is Administrator of the Alumni Society of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.

2012 Mentors

Lindsey Richardson

Lindsey is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of British Columbia.

2009 Scholars