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Task Force

Task Force on Misogyny, Sexism and Homophobia in the Faculty of Dentistry

Updated June 29, 2015
President Richard Florizone initially launched the Task Force on Misogyny, Sexism and Homophobia in the Faculty of Dentistry on January 9, 2015.

Download the report submitted by the Task Force on Misogyny, Sexism and Homophobia in the Faculty of Dentistry [PDF – 1.1 MB]


Constance Backhouse
, a distinguished university professor and university research chair at the University of Ottawa with a long-standing background in issues of gender equality, chairs the task force. Professor Backhouse is joined by Don McRae, a professor at the University of Ottawa, and Nitya Iyer, a lawyer with expertise in human rights and professional regulation.

The task force held meetings on campus on February 27-28, March 13-14, April 13-17, April 27-28, and, May 11-12.  During these meetings, the task force met with students, faculty, staff and the broader community to hear from those who had been directly involved in the Faculty of Dentistry’s Class of 2015 Facebook issue, or who had information regarding the culture, practices and policies within Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Dentistry related to these issues, or who had opinions about the broader policies and practices at Dalhousie to address the issues of misogyny, sexism and homophobia.

The task force’s mandate was to investigate the culture, practices and policies within the Faculty of Dentistry. The task force also considered broader policies and practices at Dalhousie; reviewed policies, standards and practices at other Canadian universities to address the issues of misogyny, sexism and homophobia; and identified policies and practices that could be put in place to investigate anonymous complaints of harassment and discrimination.

Task force terms of reference [PDF-61kB]

Read more: Dal News interview with Constance Backhouse (Feb. 25)

Biography: Constance Backhouse

Constance Backhouse holds a Distinguished University Chair and a University Research Chair at the Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa. She became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2004, has been a Member of the R SC Council since 2010, and was recently elected as President of the Academy of Social Sciences. From 2010 - 11, she chaired the R SC’s Task Force on Diversity, and has served as Chair of its Committee on Equity and Diversity since 2011.

Professor Backhouse was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2008 and the Order of Ontario in 2010, and awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.  Her other awards include the Governor General’s Person’s Medal in 2013, SSHRC Gold Medal in 2011, the Killam Prize for Social Sciences in 2008, the Trudeau Fellowship in 2006, the Jules and Gabrielle Léger Fellowship in 2006, the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Law in 2006, the Bora Laskin Human Rights Fellowship in 1999, and the Law Society Medal in 1998.

She has extensive adjudication and mediation experience, serving as an adjudicator for the Indian Residential Schools Compensation Hearings, and as an adjudicator for Professional Disciplinary Hearings at the Law Society of Upper Canada, among others. 

Professor Backhouse has a long - standing background in issues of gender equality. She was the co - author of the first book on sexual harassment published in Canada (1979). She was the Director of the Human Rights Centre at the University of Ottawa, and has served on the boards of the Women’s Education and Research Foundation of Ontario, the Ontario Justice Education Network, the London Sexual Assault Centre, and the London Battered Women’s Legal Clinic.

Professor Backhouse’s prize - winning books on the history of law, women, and race have been awarded the David W. Mundell Medal in 2011, the Canadian Law & Society Association Book Prize in 2009, the Joseph Brant Award in 2001, and the Willard Hurst Prize in American Legal History in 1992.   

Biography: Don McRae

Professor McRae holds the Hyman Soloway Chair in Business and Trade Law at the University of Ottawa where he teaches international law, international trade law, and law of the sea.  He is also an adjunct professor at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.  He was formerly Professor and Associate Dean at the University of British Columbia. From 1987-94 he was Dean of the Common Law Section of the Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa where he was widely regarded as having negotiated successfully issues relating to gender, race, ethnicity and homophobia.

Professor McRae was elected to the United Nations International Law Commission in 2006.  He was awarded the Canadian Council on International Law’s John E. Read Medal in 2003 and made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2002. He was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2014.

Professor McRae has published widely in the field of international law and has argued cases before international courts and tribunals on behalf of governments and sat as an arbitrator in trade and investment disputes.  He was Special Investigator for the Canadian Human Rights Commission into complaints brought by Innu Nation against the Government of Canada, 1992-93, and then as a follow up (with Constance Backhouse) in 2001-2002.

Biography: Nitya Iyer

Nitya Iyer joined Lovett Westmacott in 2011, after practicing with Heenan Blaikie for ten years. Prior to that, she was an associate professor at the University of British Columbia after starting her academic career on the Law Faculty of the University of Toronto in 1990. In 1986, she clerked for the Honourable Gerald E. Le Dain of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Nitya was a full-time member of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal from 1997 to 2000. In 2001, she was appointed by the BC government as a one-person task force to study the merits of private sector pay equity legislation for BC. She has been the Equal Pay Commissioner of the Northwest Territories since 2004. Nitya is also independent legal counsel to the Yukon Human Rights Panel of Adjudicators.

Nitya practices in the fields of administrative and constitutional law, with special expertise in human rights, freedom of information and protection of privacy, and professional regulation. She represents clients in these matters, and also provides policy advice to governments and administrative bodies. She has appeared before all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada. Nitya also acts as in a neutral capacity. She investigates and assists in the informal resolution of a variety of workplace complaints under internal discrimination, harassment and whistleblower policies for public and private sector organizations. For the past fifteen years, she has provided group training and individual support to administrative decision-makers in writing clear and compelling decisions, consistent with the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness.

Nitya has written extensively on human rights and equality. She was awarded the Marion Porter Prize for her article entitled Disappearing Women: Racial Minority Women in Human Rights Cases. She sat on the Board of Directors of the Bloom Group, which provides shelter and support services in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, and the Canadian Human Rights Reporter. She sat on the Board of the West Coast Women's Legal Education and Action Fund for many years, and has acted as pro bono counsel to the organization in numerous cases. Nitya has also been president of the Elizabeth Bagshaw Women's Clinic, as well as a member of the Legal Committee of the Canadian Disability Rights Council.

In 2010, Nitya was named by the Vancouver Sun as one of B'C's "100 Women of Influence." In 2012, she was awarded a Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal.