Kerri Froc

Study program:
Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Law and Legal Studies and an adjunct research professor, Carleton University.

Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Law and Legal Studies and an adjunct research professor at Carleton University.

Kerri's research proposes a new tool to challenge traditional understandings of rights that have caused many women's Charter claims to founder: section 28 of the Charter, guaranteeing rights and freedoms "equally to male and female persons." Although section 28 has been profoundly marginalized by the courts, she hypothesizes that it could fundamentally reshape how Charter claims are adjudicated by requiring that rights be interpreted through a gender lens. With a view to reinstating section 28 as a fully functional, effective constitutional provision, her doctoral research carries out the first comprehensive examination of its history, interpretation, and potential application. Using concrete examples, such as the constitutionality of court orders requiring sexual assault complainants to remove their niqabs before testifying, her research demonstrates that, properly interpreted, section 28 could be used to resolve contemporary constitutional problems in a way that ensures the Charter delivers on its promise of ensuring a fair, equal and democratic society for Canadian women.

Kerri A. Froc is Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Law and Legal Studies and an adjunct research professor at Carleton University. Her 2015 doctoral dissertation (completed at the Faculty of Law, Queen’s University) is entitled, “The Untapped Power of Section 28 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” Her current research concerns the relationship between liberal political philosophy and equality rights doctrine. In 2017, she will join the Faculty of Law at the University of New Brunswick as an Assistant Professor.

Dr. Froc received her Master of Laws at the University of Ottawa (2009); her Bachelor of Laws from Osgoode Hall Law School, York University (1996); and her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Regina (1993, with distinction). She worked for a decade as a staff lawyer in the areas of law reform and equality at the Canadian Bar Association (CBA). Prior to her work with the CBA, she was a staff lawyer for the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), and as a civil litigator in Regina, Saskatchewan. She is a member of the bars of Ontario (2005) and Saskatchewan (1997).

A passionate advocate for women’s rights, Kerri Froc has acted as co-counsel in notable cases including Falkiner v Ontario (Ministry of Community and Social Services) (2002), 212 DLR (4th) 633, 59 OR (3d) 481 (CA) (finding Ontario's punitive "spouse in the house" regulation discriminated against single mothers on social assistance), and Merk v International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, Local 771, 2005 SCC 70, [2005] 3 SCR 425 (finding Saskatchewan's labour legislation protected a whistleblower who reported financial mismanagement within her workplace). She is consulted on equality rights cases and her research has appeared in the Canadian Bar Review, the Review of Constitutional Studies, the Canadian Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law, and in the anthologies Feminist Constitutionalism and Advancing Social Rights in Canada, among others. Her research interests include theories of constitutional interpretation (including originalism), women’s underrepresentation in Parliament, access to justice, reproductive rights, and the capacity of constitutional doctrine to recognize the complex rights violations experienced by working women, poor women and racialized and Indigenous women.

Experience as a Trudeau Scholar

One of the aspects I look back upon most fondly about my experience as a Trudeau Scholar is the way in which the Foundation’s support allowed me to collect oral history from the women (and some men) involved in the entrenchment of section 28 in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This has seldom been done in relation to any provision of the Charter, and is a valuable part of our country’s story that risks being lost.

My doctoral project truly would not have been the same without the opportunity to meet with these extraordinary people. Their words made my historical research “come alive.” They generously gave me the benefit of their time, their wisdom, and their experiences during my interviews, and their continued encouragement keeps my “fire burning” for social justice. I hope that in some small way, my work can contribute to fulfilling their vision for the Charter: that it will contribute to a society in which equal rights and gender equality are a reality for all Canadians.

The Foundation’s support was not merely financial: members of the Trudeau Community gave me information and opened doors for me to collect some of this research. Participating in Trudeau events with people from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds played a role in shaping my interdisciplinary approach to research, which draws from cultural and post-colonial theory, legal geography, and political science, among other fields. Another critical part of my experience as a Trudeau Scholar was my mentor, whose guidance helped ensure my research was accessible and pragmatic, and who was an important ally as I navigated significant decisions about my professional and academic life.