Common Law Section

Common Law Section Faculty
Contact Information
Fauteux Hall
57 Louis Pasteur St
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 6N5

General Information:
(613) 562-5794
(613) 562-5124


(613) 562-5800 ext.3270
(613) 562-5124

Constance Backhouse

Full Professor

57 Louis Pasteur St., Room 345
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 6N5
(613) 562-5800 Ext. 3307
(613) 562-5124


Website re Books and Biography

B.A.(Man.), LL.B. (Osg. Hall), LL.M. (Harvard), LL.D. (hon. Law Society of Upper Canada), LL.D. (hon. University of Manitoba), F.R.S.C., C.M., O. Ont., of the Ontario Bar.

Professor Backhouse holds the positions of Distinguished University Professor and University Research Chair at the University of Ottawa. She teaches in the areas of criminal law, human rights, legal history, and women and the law.

Professor Backhouse's most recent book is De la couleur des lois : Histoire juridique du racisme au Canada, 1900-1950 (Ottawa:  University of Ottawa Press, 2010).  Her Carnal Crimes: Sexual Assault Law in Canada, 1900-1975  (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2008) was the recipient of the Canadian Law & Society Association Book Prize, 2009, as well as being short-listed for the Harold Adams Innis Prize, presented each year to the best English-language ASPP-supported book in the social sciences.  She is the co-author, along with her sister, the Hon. Justice Nancy L. Backhouse, of The Heiress versus the Establishment: Mrs. Campbell’s Campaign for Legal Justice (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2004), which was named by the Literary Review of Canada as one of the five “books most likely to become classics of their kind” for the year 2004. It was also selected by The Beaver magazine as a “Book Club Title” for 2005, and short-listed for the Toronto Book Award in 2005. She is the author of Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada,1900-1950 (Toronto: U of T Press, 1999), which was awarded the 2002 Joseph Brant Award as the “best book in multicultural history published within the past three years” by the Ontario Historical Society.  Her book, Petticoats and Prejudice: Women and the Law in Nineteenth-Century Canada (Toronto: Women’s Press, 1991), was awarded the 1992 Willard Hurst Prize in American Legal History by the Law and Society Association. Another of her books, Challenging Times: The Women’s Movement in Canada and the United States (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s U. Press), co-edited with David H. Flaherty, was named the 1993 “Outstanding Book on the Subject of Human Rights in the United States” by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in the U.S. She is the co-author with Leah Cohen of two books on sexual harassment: Sexual Harassment on the Job (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1981) and The Secret Oppression: Sexual Harassment of Working Women (Toronto: Macmillan, 1979). The latter was the first book published in Canada on the topic, and the second in North America.

Professor Backhouse has received a series of research grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Osgoode Society, and the Department of Justice. In 1999, she received the Bora Laskin Human Rights Fellowship, She was honoured with two teaching awards at the University of Ottawa in 2001-02 and 2002-03.  In 2006, she was selected by the University of Ottawa for its "Award for Excellence in Research."  That year she was also awarded the Jules and Gabrielle Léger Fellowship, and became a Trudeau Fellow.  In 2008, she received the Killam Prize in Social Sciences.

Professor Backhouse has served for many years as a mediator and adjudicator of human rights complaints. She served as an adjudicator for the compensation claims arising from the physical, sexual and psychological abuse of the former inmates of the Grandview Training School for Girls, and for the former students at Indian residential schools across Canada. She has served as an expert witness and consultant on various aspects of sexual abuse and violence against women and children. Since 1982, she has been a member of Board of Directors of the Women's Education and Research Foundation of Ontario, Inc.  She will assume the Presidency of the American Society for Legal History in 2010, becoming the first non-US scholar to hold that position.   In 2003, she was elected a Bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada; she was re-elected to this position in 2007. 

In 1981, she was awarded the Augusta Stowe-Gullen Affirmative Action Medal by the Southwestern Ontario Association for the Advancement of Learning Opportunities for Women. In 1998, she received the Law Society Medal. In 2001, she was awarded the President’s Award by the Women and the Law Association of Ontario.  In 2006, the Canadian Bar Association awarded her the Ramon Hnatyshyn Award for Law.  In 2004, she became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and in 2010, she was elected Secretary, Academy II, Division I of the Society.  In 2008, she was a member of the delegation accompanying Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, Governor General of Canada, on her State Visit to Central Europe.  On 1 July 2008, she was named to the Order of Canada.In January 2010, she was named to the Order of Ontario.  In the spring of 2010, she was the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Manitoba.

In 2009, she co-founded the Feminist History Society:  This is an organization dedicated to compliling and publishing books about the history of Second Wave Canadian feminism.

Professor Backhouse is currently writing a biography of the Hon. Madam Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dubé, as well as a cohort biography of one hundred Canadian feminist lawyers who entered the profession in the 1970s and '80s.

© University of Ottawa
For additional information, consult our list of contacts.
Last updated: 2009.12.15