Petition asks why Osgoode Hall’s cramped ‘Lady Barristers’ room has just 12 lockers, but the men get about 70


At the Ontario Court of Appeal at Osgoode Hall, there are only 12 lockers for female lawyers who must change into their robes before appearing in court.

There are about 70 lockers over on the men’s side, which has a lot more space and was once described in a legal publication as “opulent.”

Osgoode Hall, seen here in a Sept. 18, 2018, file photo.
Osgoode Hall, seen here in a Sept. 18, 2018, file photo.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

“What it says is that ‘We think your numbers will continue to be limited,’” lawyer Lori Anne Thomas said of the cramped quarters in the women’s robing room. “It says ‘We don’t expect growth.’”

Yet numbers from the Law Society of Ontario, the province’s legal regulator, show that the profession is approaching a 50/50 split between male and female lawyers; about 57 per cent of lawyers are men and 43 per cent are women.

With that in mind, a petition that has already gathered more than 500 signatures is calling on the regulator to do something about the lack of space in the women’s robing room, which as recently as a few weeks ago was referred to as the “Lady Barristers” room on courthouse signs.

“Retire the Lady Barristers robing room in favour of a unisex space where the men’s robing room currently is located that can be accessed and used by all lawyers appearing at the 130 Queen St. W. courthouse.”

A spokesperson for the law society said the regulator is looking into it.

“We appreciate the concerns outlined in the petition about the women’s robing room at Osgoode Hall and we are looking into options,” said spokeswoman Sue Tonkin. “We’ll provide an update as soon as we are able.”

Canadian lawyers are required to wear black robes when appearing in superior courts and courts of appeal, such as at Osgoode Hall, which houses both the Court of Appeal and Divisional Court. The robes typically include a waistcoat and two white tabs worn at the neck.

In a 2018 piece in Canadian Lawyer magazine on the barriers faced by women working in criminal law, the changing room for men at Osgoode Hall is described as something out of an “old-money golf and country club.”

“The male change rooms are opulent and spacious with nearly 70 full-length lockers, benches, several mirrors and a spacious bathroom area. There is also a comfortable lounge section with a sofa and a large wooden table and chairs for writing any last-minute notes before appearing in court,” the piece said.

On the women’s side, there are some small benches and floral-print furniture near the lockers, as well as a sitting room with a small desk and a bathroom.

“When you compare (the men’s side) to the woman’s, the women’s literally looks like leftover furniture from someone’s grandmother,” Thomas said.

The inside the robing room for female lawyers at Osgoode Hall.
The inside the robing room for female lawyers at Osgoode Hall.  (Supplied)

Needham, who said she was encouraged by the law society’s response to her petition, told the Star she’s never had access to a locker due to lack of space.

“We are seeing more and more women in law, even all-female trial teams, so it’s becoming more and more of a problem to fit all of the women in there,” she said. “Although it’s not an intentional exclusion, it’s still a barrier.”

She said that ideally, there would be a communal space for networking and discussions at Osgoode Hall for all lawyers, in addition to private changing areas.

“It’s about more than just the space, it’s about access to informal mentoring, the conversations that go on in these robing rooms,” Needham said. “And our practice should be inclusive for non-binary individuals, LGBTQ lawyers, lawyers of all faiths and backgrounds, and these robing rooms — space issues aside — don’t address that.”

Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering legal affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant


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The Lady from Shanghai | Miss Pandora


TIP: Cliquez sur une image pour l’afficher en entier (version responsive). Vous pouvez ensuite faire défiler les photos avec les touches ← et → du clavier ou en cliquant sur les flèches apparaissant au survol de l’image.

Pictures by Solene Ballesta

shot at and with Marine Pierrot Detry

Dress : Parosh / Turban : Brothers and Sisters / Bracelets and rings : Anna Rivka 

Dress : Vintage / Bracelets and rings : Anna Rivka / Turban : Brothers and Sisters / Headpiece : Anna Rivka

Marine’s dress and kimono : Vintage / Jewels : Oh My Lord, Camille Claustre and Émilie Roche

From Paris with Love,



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‘You can’t … look away’: Halifax cartoonist on his image of Lady Justice with a hand over her mouth


Lady Justice is on her back, blindfolded. And above her, a man with elephant cuffs on his wrist, is pinning her down with one hand and covering her mouth with the other.

Bruce MacKinnon drew the cartoon for Nova Scotia’s Chronicle Herald newspaper, inspired by Christine Blasey Ford’s Senate judiciary committee testimony last week against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

« I understand it’s hard for people to look at, especially people who might be survivors of sexual assault, » MacKinnon told CBC News. 

« For that reason though, I think a lot of people also agree that you can’t turn off the conversation, pretend it didn’t happen or look away. »

Bruce MacKinnon’s cartoon based on Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony has been repeatedly shared on Facebook and is drawing strong reaction. (CBC)

Ford told the committee Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school.

She alleges that a drunken, 17-year-old Kavanaugh forced her down on a bed, groped her and tried to take off her clothes during a high school gathering in the summer of 1982. She was 15 at the time.

Kavanaugh denied the allegations.

‘Powerful and emotional’ testimony

Like many people, MacKinnon was glued to the coverage last week.

« She gave her testimony, it was so powerful and emotional. You couldn’t even take a breath until it was done, » said MacKinnon.

MacKinnon said the cartoon mirrors the alleged attack: « Lady Justice being smothered the way Dr. Ford was allegedly attacked by Kavanaugh back when she was a teenager. »

Cartoon from ‘perpetrator’ perspective

MacKinnon said he drew the picture from the angle of « the perpetrator. »

« Which is kind of a shocking camera angle, but it was just sort of what was in my head — a bit of a difficult angle to draw from, but it seemed to flow out of the pen pretty naturally, » he said.

« So I think just the way the image fell on the paper kind of grabs a lot of people. »

Since the cartoon was posted Saturday, the cartoon has had a lot of response from people across North America, both from people who believe Ford and those who support Kavanaugh.

Impact ‘all you can hope for’ as a cartoonist

The Washington Post wrote a short piece about it Saturday.

« I guess that means the cartoon had an impact. And that’s all you can hope for as a cartoonist, » he said.

As of 3 p.m. AT Sunday, the cartoon had been shared more than 9,000 times from his Facebook account.

« To underscore the importance of the decision to allow someone who is going to be making decisions on the highest court of the land, to have that shadow hanging over his or her past, I think that’s a pretty weighty decision, » he said.

« A shocking image is probably the only way to be effective. »

Read more articles at CBC Nova Scotia 


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