Back in December, a student at Dalhousie University came forward with a complaint about comments posted on a Facebook page called Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen. The group was made up of male students from the Dalhousie School of Dentistry who had posted a number of misogynistic comments about female classmates, joking about drugging and “hate fucking” women, corrective rape in order to “wean and convert lesbians into productive members of society,” and more.
The complaint led to a University investigation and then the formation of a Task Force on Misogyny, Sexism, and Homophobia in the Faculty of Dentistry. Over the past five months, the Task Force conducted investigated the culture, practices and policies within the Faculty as well as within the University at large and published their final report, with recommendations towards addressing harassment and discrimination, on June 26. I spoke with Constance Backhouse, chair of the Taskforce, over the phone on July 6, 2015.
Prof. Backhouse is a Canadian legal scholar and historian specializing in gender and race discrimination and a Distinguished University Professor and University Research Chair at the Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa in Ottawa. She has a long-standing background in issues of gender equality, has extensive adjudication and mediation experience, serving as an adjudicator for the Indian Residential Schools Compensation Hearings, and is the author of Canada’s first major text on sexual harassment, “The Secret Oppression: Sexual Harassment of Working Women.” Prof. Backhouse is a member of the board of directors for the Women’s Education and Research Foundation and a founding co-publisher and co-editor of the Feminist History Society. For more on her work, visit, www.constancebackhouse.ca.