Marilou McPhedran

News Release - Backgrounder

Biography: Marilou McPhedran


Born and raised in rural Manitoba, called to the Bar of Ontario, the youngest lawyer to be named a Member of the Order of Canada (in 1985) in recognition of her co-leadership in the successful campaign for stronger gender equality protections in the Canadian constitution, Marilou McPhedran has specialized in starting, fundraising, designing, managing and sustaining mechanisms to promote equality and diversity for Canadian and international clients, having co-founded several internationally recognized non-profit systemic change organizations, such as LEAF – the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, which has conducted constitutional equality test cases and interventions for more than 20 years; METRAC – the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children; and the “always open” Gerstein Crisis Centre for homeless discharged psychiatric patients. She is a pioneer in research and advocacy to counter human rights violations through systemic reform – in law, medicine, education, government. She founded the International Women’s Rights Project – based on two of her intergenerational models: “evidence based advocacy” and “lived rights”. As chief executive officer of a federal center of excellence for women’s health, she directed staff and programs including a cyber research network; she has chaired two public inquiries into the sexual abuse of patients; and she has co-investigated and co-authored social justice research, including: the ten country pilot study to assess impact of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) completed in 2000; What about accountability to the patient? published in 2001; the National Study on Rural, Remote and Northern Women’s Health in Canada, completed in 2003; and the textbook, Preventing Sexual Abuse: a Legal Guide for Health Care Professionals published in 2004.

Marilou McPhedran holds a Masters in Law in Comparative Constitutional Law (2004) from Osgoode Hall Law School, York University. In 2003, she was the recipient of the Governor General’s Persons Case Medal – the highest civic award for women in Canada.

In 2002 she was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal; and in 2001, she was named as one of Canada’s ten most influential women’s rights advocates in Homemakers Magazine. In 1993 she was named Woman of the Year by B’Nai Brith Women, and in 1992 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws by the University of Winnipeg; in 1985 she was named to the Order of Canada by the Government of Canada.

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