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Schulich Law Student Wins Canadian Bar Association Essay Contest

Posted by Amanda Kirby-Sheppard on October 3, 2023 in News, Awards, Students
Amelia Eaton (Provided Photo)
Amelia Eaton (Provided Photo)

Congratulations to third-year Schulich Law student Amelia Eaton, the 2023 winner of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) Women Lawyers Forum Writing Them In essay contest, for her paper titled, "Beyond System Solutions: Indigenous Motherhoods and Canadian Prison Abolition."

The annual essay contest, established in 2019, was created to help promote interest in women's legal history in Canada and is open to student papers focusing on developments in Canadian law and/or Canadian legal history related to advancing gender equity. The winner receives a $500 cash award and their submission is published on the CBA's website.

Eaton's paper came out of the course 'Revitalizing Indigenous Feminism(s)' taught by Schulich Law Professor Sherry Pictou. In it, she argued that in Canada, like many other parts of the world, the majority of women who are incarcerated are mothers, but the way that prisons separate families and communities is rarely discussed. For Indigenous women, in particular, this is part of a broader colonial history of family separation.

"In law school, I often have discussions with other students about these and other harms of incarceration, but the conversation quickly turns to how prisons could be reformed," says Eaton. "This paper allowed me to systematically go through some of the 'solutions' that have been proposed and implemented in Canada and show how they have not meaningfully addressed the way that Indigenous women continue to be separated from their children and Indigenous children continue to be separated from their mothers."

Eaton shares that the success of the paper wouldn't have been possible without the generous support and guidance of Professor Pictou, who regularly met with her to offer reading suggestions, discuss the paper, and share her expertise.

"My goal with the paper was to highlight and disrupt mainstream narratives which naturalize the prison system and place the blame for family separation on Indigenous women themselves. It means a lot to me that the paper can now have a wider reach."

Eaton's paper is available to read now on the CBA Women Lawyers Forum's website.