Gillian Calder

Associate professor


Gillian Calder

Gillian Calder



Twitter Logo@gilliancalder
Faculty of Law
University of Victoria
PO Box 1700, STN CSC
Victoria, BC  V8W 2Y2
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I joined the Faculty of Law in 2004 from the practice of Aboriginal law with Mandell Pinder, LLP in Vancouver. My legal training has included a year of clerking at the BC Supreme Court in the 1997-1998 term, articles and practice with Russell and Dumoulin, LLP (as it then was) and teaching at the University of New Brunswick (2001-2002). Since coming to Victoria, I have taught Legal Process, Constitutional Law, Family Law, Civil Liberties and the Charter, Advanced Family Law and Sexual Orientation and the Law. I am deeply committed to the study of critical legal pedagogy and served as Associate Dean, Academic and Student Relations from July 2015 – June 2020.

General Research Interests

I am interested in legal imagination, theories of constitutional law, law's impact on our understanding of the family and family formation, and storytelling. In general, I have focused my scholarly energy in these broad interests around three questions. The first is about how the form and structures of particular legal regimes or systems are determinative of the kinds of questions that we ask of law. That is, what does it say, for example, about our societal commitments to gender equality and shared care-giving that we deliver a benefit for maternity and parental leave through Employment Insurance? Through this and related projects I have had the chance to think carefully about the role that intersecting legal regimes play in our understanding of substantive and formal equality in Canadian law.

The second question that I have pursued in my scholarship, teaching and administrative work to date, examines the role of critical legal pedagogy, and in particular experiential learning, as a means of reaching the 21st century law student. This work, and primarily its equity and equality dimensions, has lead to a research agenda that includes both qualitative and quantitative analysis of the institutional and external factors influencing critical engagement in Canadian law schools today.

Finally, and related closely to the second question, a third aspect of my scholarship to date has been about the relationship between performance, pedagogy and law. Here I have been engaged in a more theoretical exploration of particular methodologies of learning law ranging from political theatre through non-textual sources, primarily to interrogate the relationship between how we learn, experience and practice law and what we understand law to be.

All of these questions are asked and considered through an approach to law and legal education that is grounded in feminist, anti-oppressive, and anti-colonialist practice.  In particular I am very conscious of the role that Indigenous ways of knowing and being plays in my life, work and teaching.

Curriculum vitae

  • BA Honours – UBC (1993)
  • LLB – UBC (1997)
  • Diploma in University Teaching – University of New Brunswick (2002)
  • LLM – Osgoode Hall Law School, York University (2003)

Access Gillian's research publications through the Social Science Research Network (SSRN).

  • The Constitutional Law Process LAW100
  • The Legal Process LAW106
  • Family Law LAW322
  • Advance Family Law LAW343
  • Sexual Orientation and the Law LAW357
  • Civil Liberties and the Charter LAW359

Polygamy: I have been working on an edited collection of essays responding to the question "What is Inherently Wrong with Polygamy." The collection flows from SSHRC and Law Foundation of BC funded research. My co-editor is Lori G. Beaman, and our text will be published by UBC Press in late 2013.

Children's Literature and Parenting in Law: I am presently working on a research project that explores the relationship between children's literature, oral story-telling, and legal understandings of the family, particularly foster parenting.

Empathy, Equality and Imagination: I have been very actively involved in the legal and social questions surrounding legal ethics and professionalism in Canada legal education. Since the summer of 2010, I have been writing and presenting on how questions of empathy, tolerance, equality and imagination are relevant to the development of the ethical professional.

Law's Regulation of the In-tact Family: Law in its various forms in formally and informally engaged in the construction of the normative family.  I have been working to investigate the impact of law on our understanding of the benefits, privileges and obligations that flow to certain kinds of families as a result.

Penguins: How is the ubiquity of the penguin in popular culture a question for law? Since 2009, I have been working on a series of research projects aimed to interrogate how popular culture is integral to our understanding of family and family forms. My primary project focused specifically on the movie, March of the Penguins.

Play-readings as Pedagogy: Since 2008, I have been using play-readings as a means for students to engage with some of law's most difficult questions, specifically anti-terrorism and same-sex marriage. I have also published on the work associated with this form of embodied legal pedagogy.

Theatre of the Oppressed in the Law School Classroom: Since 2007, I have been working with the student body to bring anti-oppression training into the legal curriculum at UVic Law. I have also worked with the Beyond Text project out of the University of Edinburgh to write about this work, and to connect it to other scholarly work that challenges how today's law student learns law.

Federalism, Equality and Autonomy: Since 2006, I have been working on projects, book reviews and presentations that look at the relationship between federalism and the Charter in constitutional litigation and advocacy.

Maternity and Parental Leave. Since 2003, I have been working on questions that engage the intersection of family law and constitutional law, particularly with attention to equality. What does the choice to deliver maternity and parental leave through Employment Insurance tells us about social reproduction in Canada?