A respected lawyer, author, educator, and public intellectual, Constance Backhouse is recognized for her unwavering dedication to human rights and social justice in Canada and around the world. A graduate of the University of Manitoba, Osgoode Hall Law School and Harvard University, Ms. Backhouse has taught at the University of Western Ontario and the University of Ottawa. She is an inspiring teacher and a renowned scholar whose work is informed by feminism, critical race analysis and anti-poverty concerns.
Professor Backhouse was honoured twice with teaching excellence awards at the University of Ottawa where she teaches in criminal law, human rights, legal history, and women and the law. Prior to her move to Ottawa ten years ago, she spent 21 years at the University of Western Ontario and also lectured across Canada and in Australia and New Zealand.
Professor Backhouse is a prolific and award-winning author, whose academic publications span the fields of law, history, and law and society. She has written ten books, most of which employ a distinctive narrative style which illuminates and makes accessible difficult topics in legal theory and history. Her first book, The Secret Oppression: Sexual Harassment of Working Women, was the first book published on the topic in Canada and only the second in North America. Her most recent book, Carnal Crimes:Canadian Sexual Assault Law, 1900-1975, demonstrates the ubiquitous nature of sexual assault in Canada in the 20th Century and the appalling failures of the Canadian justice system.
Professor Backhouse is a model of the engaged scholar, who is an active member of her community and whose research is directly applicable to contemporary concerns. She is currently the vice-chair of the Content Advisory Committee of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. As part of this committee, Ms. Backhouse is working to gather human rights stories and communicate the values and responsibilities of human rights through the museum. She has served as a mediator and adjudicator of human rights complaints and as an adjudicator for the compensation claims for the former students of Indian residential schools across Canada. She has also served as an expert witness and consultant on various aspects of sexual abuse and violence against women and children. She hopes that her scholarship and activism will help inspire others, as she has been inspired by the courage of the women and children who took the witness stand to demand justice.
Ms. Backhouse has received numerous honours and distinctions for her work. She has received the Bora Laskin Human Rights Fellowship, the Jules and Gabrielle Léger Fellowship and the Killam Prize in Social Sciences. In 2006, she became a Trudeau Fellow. She is the 2010 President of the American Society for Legal History - the first non-US scholar to hold that distinction. She has also been recognized with the Law Society Medal and the CBA Ramon Hnatyshyn Award for Law. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a member of the Order of Canada.