U of O Watch mission, in the words of Foucault...

"One knows … that the university and in a general way, all teaching systems, which appear simply to disseminate knowledge, are made to maintain a certain social class in power; and to exclude the instruments of power of another social class. … It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticise the workings of institutions, which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticise and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them." -- Foucault, debating Chomsky, 1971.

U of O Watch mission, in the words of Socrates...

"An education obtained with money is worse than no education at all." -- Socrates

video of president allan rock at work

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The power of a public letter - Feldthusen on rape case

At 11:53AM graduate student in law Mireille Gervais wrote an open letter demanding that former VP and dean of the Faculty of Law (University of Ottawa) Bruce Feldthusen retract his statements recently reported in the media. See Gervais’ email below.
At 3:01PM
Feldthusen made a public retraction. See Feldthusen’s email below.
Feldthusen appears to be claiming that he provided his opinion on current legal practice to a reporter without inquiring or being informed about the context of the reporter’s interest. The reporter would have then concocted the piece that clearly has Feldthusen commenting on the violent rape case in question: LINK to media article.
It appears that either Feldhusen is misrepresenting his interview with the reporter or that the reporter (Ottawa Citizen, CanWest) is rather creative in her transmission of the facts: “Much of the university's statement of defence is standard legal language, said Bruce Feldthusen, dean of law at the University of Ottawa …” (LINK to media article.)
In the latter case, we can trust that Citizen Publisher Jim Orban (and BOG member, University of Ottawa) will make any needed corrections to in-house journalistic practice and to the public record.
[Photo credit: University of Ottawa; Bruce Feldthusen.]
From: Mireille Gervais
Sent: August 12, 2009 11:53 AM

To: Bruce Feldthusen

Cc: roseann_runte[at]carleton.ca; Allan Rock; jorban[at]thecitizen.canwest.com; wrc[at]sfuo.ca; womyns_centre[at]cusaonline.com

Faculty of Law Dean Feldthusen must retract legitimization of rape victim blaming



August 12, 2009


Bruce Feldthusen


Faculty of Common Law

University of Ottawa


RE: Your Comments In Ottawa Citizen Article on Carleton University Rape Victim Lawsuit


Dean Feldthusen,


You were cited in a Saturday August 8, 2009, Ottawa Citizen article (Carleton Accused of ‘Victim Blaming’) regarding your opinions on the lawsuit involving the brutal August 2007 campus rape of a female student at Carleton University. Carleton University’s statement of defense claims that the victim failed to keep a ‘proper lookout’ and that the victim did not take sufficient steps to ensure her own safety.


You were quoted as saying “pleadings are pleadings, and everybody is obligated to overstate their case at the pleadings stage.” Contrary to your inexcusable position, when a woman is attacked and raped while in her workspace on a university campus, her face smashed to the floor repeatedly necessitating serious medical attention, to blame her for not having kept the ‘proper lookout’ is not to overstate a defense, it is victim blaming in a most vile form and a shameful attempt at making women responsible for rape.


You go on to state that “there's a case, I think, where the legal culture is just a little different from what people think.” This type of elitist logic cannot be justified in our legalistic world where so few can afford legal representation. If the legal culture is one where it is legitimate to fabricate arguments in a way that reinforces the worst sexist stereotypes and assigns the blame for violent attacks squarely on the victims, then there is something profoundly wrong with the legal profession as you profess it.


As both an alumnus of and a graduate student at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, I am outraged that an official from the University would attempt to pass off Carleton University’s pleadings as normal, healthy, and ethical.


In light of the seriousness of the circumstances, I believe that at the very least a retraction of your statements is necessary to show that the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law does not condone Carleton University’s unacceptable position.


Mireille Gervais LL.L

Graduate Student in Law (Social Justice Concentration)


cc. Roseann O’Reilly Runte, President, Carleton University

Allan Rock, President, University of Ottawa

Jim Orban, Publisher, The Ottawa Citizen

Amy Hammett, Women’s Resource Centre, University of Ottawa

Kandace Price, Womyn’s Centre, Carleton University

Media and made public

From: Bruce Feldthusen
Date: Wed, Aug 12, 2009 at 3:01 PM

Subject: RE: Faculty of Law Dean Feldthusen must retract legitimization of rape victim blaming

To: Mireille Gervais

Cc: roseann_runte[at]carleton.ca, Allan Rock , jorban[at]thecitizen.canwest.com, wrc[at]sfuo.ca, womyns_centre[at]cusaonline.com

Dear All,


It is true that I was interviewed by a reporter at the Ottawa Citizen and portions of that interview were later quoted in the Citizen on Saturday August 8. During the interview I expressed no opinion whatsoever about a particular sexual assault that had occurred at Carleton University, nor about the lawsuit arising from that sexual assault. I know nothing whatsoever about that case. To her credit, the reporter did not ask me to comment upon a case before the courts Nor did I discuss civil claims and defenses arising from sexual assault in particular. The interview dealt with civil procedure in damage claims generally. I discussed the difference between statements that appear in legal pleadings and statements proven in evidence. I was not asked, and I did not make any comments about the present state of the law as it affects victims of sexual assault. On that subject, my published work speaks for itself.


Saturday August 8, 2009, Ottawa Citizen article (Carleton Accused of ‘Victim Blaming’)


Bruce Feldthusen

Doyen/Dean Common Law

Faculté de Droit/Faculty of Law

Université d'Ottawa/University of Ottawa

57 Louis Pasteur

Ottawa ON K1N 6N5




Anonymous said...

I agree with Mireille Gervais. Lawyers should express and defend what is fair as opposed to some flimsy legal strategy. At any rate, he probibly hasn't even thought of the implications and consequences of what he is saying. He is implying that this violation is foremostly something of a financial negotiation. That is disgusting! Any extra medical bills, loss of careere etc... is only consequential to the violation; all liability cases do not fit neatly in a little box with a formula. If anything the University should be trying to prove they understand this issue; the University needs to come out with the statement that the only person to blame for this is the rapist.

Denis Rancourt said...

The original Jane Doe was just interviewed on the 5 O'Clock Train radio show (trainradio.blogspot.com) and said that Feldthusen's comments (without the proper qualifiers that any law dean should have added) were a "horror show".

thoramcmurtrie said...

Tobacco controversy?
The Fulcrum - November 5th, 2009

WHEN IT COMES to controversy, the University
of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law is no stranger. In the
article “Ban on l avoured cigarillos closer to
becoming law,” published in the Vancouver Sun
on Sept. 30, Debra Steger, a part-time lecturer at
the Common Law department and Rothmans,
Benson & Hedges tobacco lobbyist, was quoted on
the record saying that Health Canada “didn’t do
its homework” when passing a ban on l avoured
tobacco products aimed at young smokers. Steger
also claimed that its decision was “a mistake.”
Ms. Steger, how dare you make such a claim?
Would you encourage your students or even
your children to light up? Fact: smoking kills
thousands of Canadians every year and tobacco is
a proven carcinogen. h e tobacco industry needs
your so-called “professional” legal advice to glaze
over this inconvenient truth to hook new and
ever younger clients.
One needs to look no further than the recent
multi-billion dollar lawsuits brought against the
tobacco industries by the provinces of Ontario
and Quebec to realize that it is you who needs to
do some homework. It sickens me that lawyers
like you would forgo ethics for a fee. How much
would you charge to go on the record to deny the
Holocaust? All in all Ms. Steger, you haven’t come
a long way, baby.

Thora McMurtrie
Visiting post-doctoral researcher
in public health