Elizabeth Sheehy
Elizabeth Sheehy
Professeure émérite



Elizabeth Sheehy holds an LL.B. (Osgoode 1981), an LL.M. (Columbia 1984), and an LL.D. (Honoris causa) (Law Society of Upper Canada 2005). She started teaching at the University of Ottawa in 1984 and was a Full Professor from 1995 until 2018, when she retired from the University and became Professor Emerita. She held the Shirley Greenberg Chair for Women and the Legal Profession (2013-15 and 2002-04). In 2013 she was awarded the Roman John Hnatyshyn Award for Law by the Canadian Bar Association, and in 2014 she was welcomed as a new member of the Royal Society of Canada. Her book, Defending Battered Women: Lessons from the Transcripts (UBC Press, 2014) was awarded the David Walter Mundell Medal by the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario for fine legal writing in 2015. Among other awards for her research and advocacy, Professor Sheehy received the Person’s Award from the Governor General of Canada, which honours Canadians who advance women’s equality, and in 2018 she joined the Order of Ontario for her work on legal responses to men’s violence against women.


Professor Sheehy taught Criminal Law and Procedure, Advanced Criminal Procedure, Sexual Assault Law, and Defending Battered Women on Trial. She was a Visiting Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, the University of New South Wales, Faculty of Law, Sydney University, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Faculty of Law, and the University of Auckland, Faculty of Law. She has also participated in various educational programs for the Canadian Judicial Institute on topics such as sexual assault, wife assault, and women and girls in the justice system. In 1999 Professor Sheehy received the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Common Law Students’ Society at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law.

Professional Activities

Professor Sheehy was a Member of the Law Society of Upper Canada 1987-2019. She was co-counsel for the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) in its intervention in R v JA (“advance consent” to sexual assault) (2011 SCC 28) and has participated in ten LEAF interventions, including R v Sullivan; R v Chan (ONCA 2020); R v Boyle (ONSC 2019); R v Gagnon (SCC 2018);  R v Ryan (2013 SCC 3), R v NS (2012 SCC 72), and R v Ewanchuk (SCC 1999). She has participated in legal work on the Jane Doe litigation (ONCJ 1998) and the legal intervention by Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter in the Bonnie Mooney litigation against the AG of BC (BCCA 2004).

In 2019 she appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to comment on Private Member’s Bill C-337, An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code (Sexual Assault) and before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (2018) and the Standing Senate Committee (2019) on Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts, and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Also in 2018, she spoke on Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, before the Senate Standing Committee and in 2017 before the House of Commons Standing Committee.

Professor Sheehy is involved in many other law reform activities around equality rights and social justice issues: she has worked in a consultative capacity with the Department of Justice on the reform of criminal law (Preliminary Inquiries, Provocation, Self-Defence, Extreme Intoxication, Disclosure of Women’s Confidential Records), with the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies on Judge Lynn Ratushny's Self-Defence Review, through the Policy Implementation Assistance Program (CIDA) and the Social Affairs Committee of the Vietnam National Assembly on its Gender Equality Law, with the African Canadian Legal Clinic on its intervention in R v Golden (strip searches) (SCC 2001) and R v Nur (challenge to mandatory minimum sentences) (2011 ONSC 4874), and with The Equality Effect on its women’s rights litigation project aimed at criminalizing marital rape in three African countries.

In 2009 she convened the first national conference in Canada on sexual assault law, entitled Sexual Assault Law, Practice and Activism in a Post-Jane Doe Era, featuring 70 speakers from across Canada as well as New Zealand, South Africa, and Israel. With Jane Doe (the litigant in Jane Doe v. Metropolitan Toronto Commissioners of Police (1998), 39 O.R. (3d) 487) as Conference Co-Ordinator, they fund-raised and launched a sold out conference March 6th and 7th 2009, attended by over 350 law students, activists, professors and lawyers. The event was opened by Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé, cheered on by multiple standing ovations, and closed by a slide show tribute to Jane Doe and her work. Over 50 papers arising from this event were published in three collections edited by Professor Sheehy.

Professor Sheehy currently sits on the Expert Advisory Panel for the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (2017-) and the Monash Gender and Family Violence and Prevention Centre (2017-) and is on the Editorial Advisory Board for the Legal Education Review (2016-). She has acted as a Collaborator with artist cj fleury in a project joining art, feminism, and law,  Templates for Activism (1999-2006) ( cjfleuryart.ca/templates_for_activism/fleurysheehy.html), as Board Member for the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (2015-2018), as a Member of the University of Ottawa Task Force on Respect and Equality (sexual violence on campus) (2014-2106), as a Member of the Battered Women’s Subcommittee for the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (1992-97), as English Language Editor of the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law (1989-93), and as President of Lawyers Against Apartheid (1989-91)


Professor Sheehy contributes regularly to print and radio media analyses of current developments in criminal law and policy as well as legal responses to male violence against women. She has published more than 35 op eds on topics such as wrongful convictions and issues affecting women and the criminal justice system, for example:


Professor Sheehy’s research focuses on criminal law and on legal responses to male violence against women.

Books and Edited Collections

  • Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law: “Family Violence and Parental Alienation” (2020) 42:1. With Simon Lapierre.
  • Canadian Journal of Women and the Law: “The Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Inquiry” (2016) 28:2. With Jane Bailey and Sherene Razack.
  • Canadian Journal of Women and the Law: “Men’s Groups: Challenging Feminism” (2016) 28:1. With Susan Boyd.
  • Defending Battered Women on Trial: Lessons from the transcripts (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2014).
  • Criminal Law and Procedure: Proof, Defences and Beyond, 5d Ed. With Jennie Abell and Natasha Bakht (Toronto: Captus Press, 2014).
  • Sexual Assault in Canada: Law, Legal Practice and Women’s Activism (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2012) (double volume book), 819 pp. 
  • Criminal Law and Procedure: Cases, Context, Critique, 5th Ed. (Toronto: Captus Press, 2012). With Jennie Abell and Natasha Bakht, 522 pp.
  • Canadian Journal of Women and the Law “Ten Years After Jane Doe: Reflections on the State of Rape” (2010) vol. 22:2, 255 pp
  • Canadian Woman Studies “Women Resisting Rape: Feminist Law, Practice, Activism” (2010) vol. 28:1, 161 pp. With Jane Doe, Carol Latchford and Rakhi Ruparelia
  • Co-Editor, Calling for Change: Women, Law and the Legal Profession. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2006. With Sheila McIntyre, 428 pp. Reviewed by Susan B Boyd in (2007) 40 UBC L Rev 309.
  • Adding Feminism to Law: The Contributions of Claire L’Heureux-Dubé (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2004)
  • Co-Editor, Special Issue Honouring Madam Justice L'Heureux-DubéCanadian Journal of Women and the Law (2003) volume 15, number 1, 246 pp.
  • Mandatory Minimum Sentences: Law and Policy (2001) vol 39: 2 & 3 Osgoode Hall LJ.

Selected Book Chapters

  • “Criminalizing Private Torture as a Feminist Strategy: Thinking through the implications” in Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Sandra Walklate, Jude McCulloch, and JaneMaree Maher, eds, Intimate Partner Violence, Risk and Security: Securing women’s lives in a global world (London: Routledge 2018) 251.
  • “Responding to Sexual Assault on Campus: What Can Canadian Universities Learn From US Law and Policy?” in Elizabeth Quinlan, Andrea Quinlan, Curtis Fogel and Gail Taylor, eds. Sexual Violence at Canadian Universities: Activism, Institutional Responses and Strategies for Change (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2017) 291. With Daphne Gilbert.
  • “A Feminist Reflection on Domestic Violence Death Reviews” in Myrna Dawson, ed. Domestic Homicides and Death Reviews: An International Perspective (Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) 373.
  • “Making Universities Safe for Women: Sexual Assault on Campus” in Wayne Antony, Jessica Antony and Les Samuelson, eds. Power and Resistance: Critical Thinking About Canadian Social Issues, 6th ed (Black Point, NS: Fernwood 2017) 260.
  • “When Self-Defence Fails: The Other Defences for Battered Women” in Arie Freiberg and Kate Fitz-Gibbon, eds. Homicide Law Reform in Victoria: Prospects and Retrospect (Sydney: Federation Press, 2015) 110. With Julie Stubbs & Julia Tolmie.
  • “Judges and the Reasonable Steps Requirement: The Judicial Stance on Perpetration Against Unconscious Complainants” in Elizabeth Sheehy, ed. Sexual Assault in Canada: Law, Legal Practice and Women’s Activism. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2012, pp 483-540
  • “The Victories of Jane Doe” in Elizabeth Sheehy, ed. Sexual Assault in Canada: Law, Legal Practice and Women’s Activism. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2012, pp 23-45
  • “Equality and Supreme Court Jurisprudence: Never the Twain Shall Meet” in Sheila McIntyre and Sanda Rodgers, eds. The Supreme Court of Canada and the Achievement of Social Justice: Commitment, Retrenchment or Retreat. Markham, Ontario: Supreme Court Law Review and LexisNexis Canada, 2010, pp 329-348
  • “Misogyny is Deadly” in Trish Hennessy and Ed Finn, eds. Speaking Truth to Power: A Reader on Canadian Women's Inequality (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2010) 107.
  • “Legal Responses to Violence Against Women” reprinted in Barbara A. Crow and Lise Gotell, eds, Open Boundaries. A Canadian Women’s Studies Reader (2d ed.). Toronto: Pearson Education, 2004, pp. 256-267; in Michelle Webber and Kate Bezanson, eds, Rethinking Society in the 21st Century: Critical Readings in Sociology. Toronto: Scholar’s Press, 2004, pp. 275-287; and in in Katherine M.J. McKenna and June Larkin, eds, Violence Against Women. New Canadian Perspectives. Toronto: Iana Publications, 2002, pp. 473-491.
  • “Justice L’Heureux-Dubé and Canadian Sexual Assault Law: Resisting the Privatization of Rape” with Christine Boyle, in Elizabeth Sheehy, ed, Adding Feminism to Law: The Contributions of Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé. Toronto: Irwin Law, 2004, pp. 247- 283.
  • “Compensation for Women Who Have Been Raped” in Julian Roberts and Renate Mohr, eds. Confronting Sexual Assault. A Decade of Social and Legal Change. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994, pp. 205-240.

Selected Journal Articles

  • *“Penalizing Women’s Fear: Parental alienation and intimate partner violence in Canadian family law cases.” (2020) 42(1) Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law 80-91. With Susan Boyd.
  • *“Feminist Interventions: Learning from Canada.” (2019) 2 New Zealand Women’s Law Journal 201-242. With Julia Tolmie.
  • *“The Merits of Restricting Provocation to Indictable Offences: A Critical Analysis of Provocation Law Reform in Canada and New South Wales, Australia” (2019) 31:2 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 197-231. With Kate Fitz-Gibbon.
  • *“Coercive Control Evidence in Support of Self-Defence: The Trial of Teresa Craig” (2018) 18:1 Criminology & Criminal Justice 100.
  • *“Strip-searching of women: Rights and wrongs” (2016) 94:2 Canadian Bar Review 241. With Michelle Psutka.
  • *“Defending Battered Women in the Public Sphere” (2016) 5:2 International Journal of Crime, Justice and Democracy 81.
  • *“Securing Fair Outcomes for Battered Women Charged with Homicide: Analysing Defence Lawyering in R v Falls” (2014) 38:2 Melbourne University Law Review 666. With Julie Stubbs and Julia Tolmie.
  • *“Defences to Homicide for Battered Women: A Comparative Analysis of the Laws of Australia, Canada and New Zealand” (2012) 34:3 Sydney L Rev 467-492. With Julie Stubbs and Julia Tolmie.
  • *“Battered women charged with homicide in Australia, Canada and New Zealand: How do they fare?” (2012) 45:3 Aust & NZ J Criminology 383-399. With Julie Stubbs and Julia Tolmie.
  • *“The Discriminatory Effects of Bill C-15’s Mandatory Minimum Sentences” (2010) 70(2) Criminal Reports (6th) 302-317.
  • *“Causation, Common Sense, and the Common Law: Replacing Unexamined Assumptions with What We Know About Male Violence Against Women, or, From Jane Doe to Bonnie Mooney” (2006)17 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 97-126.
  • *“Thrice Punished: Battered Women, Criminal Law and Disinheritance” (2004) 8 Southern Cross University Law Review96-130. With Barbara Hamilton.
  • *“Advancing Social Inclusion: The Implications for Criminal Law and Policy” (2004) 46 Canadian Journal of Criminology73-95.
  • *“Evidence Law and the ‘Credibility Testing’ of Women: A Comment on the E Case” (2002) 2 Queensland University of Technology Law and Justice Journal 157-174.
  • *“Battered Women and Mandatory Minimum Sentencing” (2001) 39 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 529-554.
  • *“From Women’s Duty to Resist to Men’s Duty to Ask: How Far Have We Come?” (2000) 20 Canadian Woman Studies 98-104.
  • *“Review of the Self-Defence Review” (2000) 12 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 197-234.
  • *“Legalizing Justice for All Women: Canadian Women’s Struggle for Democratic Rape Law Reforms” (1996) 6 Australian Feminist Law Journal 87-113.
  • *“The Intoxication Defence in Canada: Why Women Should Care” (1996) 23 Contemporary Drug Problems 595-630.