Like many women and women’s organizations across Canada, Women’s Shelters Canada was appalled by the Ontario Court of Appeal’s ruling last week that extreme intoxication resulting in automatism can be used as a defense against sexual assault.

We therefore welcome the Crown’s decision to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

We stand with the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), which intervened in the case, and stated: “We are dismayed that women’s rights to equality and dignity are not given more adequate treatment…It also risks sending a dangerous message that men can avoid accountability for their acts of violence against women and children through intoxication.”

We know that sexual assault and violence against women is already not taken seriously by society or by judicial systems around the world. We fear that this decision will embolden abusers to the serious harm of women and girls in Canada. As LEAF asked, Why create another barrier to women getting justice?

We are also disappointed by the concern of women’s organizations being called “overblown,” as this plays into the trope that women are “emotional” or “hysterical” and can’t rationally respond. As Ottawa-based activist and author Julie Lalonde wrote, “the irony here is that automatism couldn’t easily be used because of Section 33.1. Even more than that, the idea that it would never be applied in the context of a sexual assault is a wild assertion considering Section 33.1 was created because of a bad decision in a sexual assault case.

Women’s Shelters Canada looks forward to a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that centres the experiences and lives of women in this country.