Karen Busby

Karen BusbyKaren Busby
Professor, Academic Director of the Centre for Human Rights Research

Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, Canada, R3T 2N2
tel: 204.474.6155
fax: 204.474.7580



Courses Taught

Teaching & Research Areas

Professor Karen Busby’s research and teaching interests include constitutional law, in particular human rights and equality law, civil procedure and administrative law. The equality law research is action-oriented, inter-disciplinary and collaborative; civil procedure research involves conventional legal scholarship (a fastidiously technical pursuit); and administrative law marries law and politics. Her research is also directed at diverse audiences including equality theorists (legal and non-legal); students in different disciplines (Law and Women’s Studies); practitioners; judges across Canada and the grassroots women’s movement.

Teaching awards
Barney Sneiderman Award for Teaching Excellence (2018)
Dr. and Mrs. H.H. Saunderson Award for Excellence in Teaching (2015)

Student comments
“Phenomenal professor. Really cares about students and goes out of her way to make students comfortable and that they can reach out for help.”

“She is the most warm, kind, knowledgeable professor I’ve had this year. She is clearly passionate about her subject and this really enhances the delivery of her course.”

“Fantastic professor! Professor Busby is very thorough in her explanations and makes a very difficult subject understandable.”

Professor Busby is the Founding Director of the University of Manitoba Centre for Human Rights Research  (www.chrr.info). Under the auspices of the CHRR, she organizes a series of seminars that include the topics: Indian Residential Schools and Truth and Reconciliation, The Idea of a Human Rights Museum, the Human Right to Water and Sexual and Reproductive Rights. Juris Doctor (JD) and Master of Laws (LLM) students may participate in these seminars for credit. Her research is animated by a commitment to social change and the desire to be an effective, accessible writer. Her contributions as an engaged researcher have been recognized through awards given by the Senate of Canada  (Senate of Canada 150 medal, 2017), the Canadian Bar Association, the Manitoba Bar Association, the YW-YMCA (Woman of Distinction), induction into the Canadian “Q” Hall of Fame, and a nomination for the Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case.

Equality Law
Professor Busby’s research has focused on the discriminatory impacts of laws regulating sex, gender, sexuality and violence. Her current research is on laws related to inequality, sex and gender including sexual violence, child abuse, prostitution/sex work, surrogacy, queer rights, museums, human rights to water, and civil procedure.

Her research funding has come from the “rare trifeca” of the federal tri-council agencies: CIHR, SSHRC and NSERC.

She is a member of the Water Rights Research Consortium and working on research related to water as a human right. Together with Andrew Woolford and Adam Muller, she edited a collection titled “The Idea of a Human Rights Museum”. Some of her research and advocacy projects have included:

* HUMAN RIGHT TO WATER:  The Centre for Human Rights Research has formed a Water Rights Consortium made up of almost 50 community and university based researchers. Our goal is to ensure that people living in First Nations communities can enjoy the same access to clean running water and wastewater services as others living in Canada. The consortium has been funded, in part, through grants from SSHCR, NSERC and CIHR.

* RELIGIOUS RIGHTS:  Recent work includes two papers on the clash between religious and other rights. One of Professor Busby’s current research projects aspires to weave together the insights pulled from various research methodologies to create a rich tapestry of the lives of young Muslim women. This research focuses on the potential for discrimination at the axis of religion, gender, age related vulnerability and race or ethnicity. It could provide information to social service agencies to help them make better decisions and it could also sensitize politicians, policymakers, judges and others involved in the administration of justice about whether they rely on stereotypes or discriminatory thinking when making laws or policies that touch on the lives of Muslim women.

LGBTQ ISSUES: From The Adoption Act to The Vital Statistics Act, Manitoba has the most comprehensive laws concerning the legal recognition of same sex relationships of any jurisdiction in North America and probably in the world. Professor Busby is widely acknowledged as the intellectual force and organizing mind behind these changes. Following this work in Manitoba she joined the national board of Egale Canada where she worked tirelessly on the Equal Marriage Campaign, challenges to the bawdyhouse/indecency laws, the age of consent laws and gender identity issues. Her participation included brief and factum writing, appearing before legislative and other committees, media interviews and op-ed pieces, and organizing the Manitoba marriage challenge.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Professor Busby has published numerous papers on laws related to sexual violence and she has been consulted frequently by the federal government on sexual assault laws. Her work has been cited by the Supreme Court of Canada. Since the 1990s she worked with LEAF (the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund) on intervener facta related to sexual violence laws, sexual expression and other law reform projects, including most recently the J.A. and the Rhodes cases.
Professor Busby has worked with collaborative, inter-disciplinary, academic-community teams across the prairie provinces on two projects; one on girls involved in prostitution and the other on civil responses to domestic violence. The Status of Women funded project on girls involved in prostitution was published as Being Heard (Gorkoff and Runner (eds)) in 2003. The results of a project reviewing the operation of domestic violence laws and policies in the prairie provinces (funded by a CURA grant) were published in Ursel (et al) (eds), “What’s Law Got To Do With It?” in 2008. She was active with RESOLVE Manitoba from its inception until 2006.

* ASSISTED HUMAN REPRODUCTION:  She has published three articles on surrogacy. Under the auspices of the CHRR she convened a national roundtable of feminists working on AHR in 2012 and she was co-editor of a special issue of Canadian Journal of Women and the Law/ Revue femmes et droit on this topic.

PORNOGRAPHY, EXPRESSION AND EQUALITY: In 1991 Professor Busby was invited to participate in the LEAF sub-committee that was working on the R. v. Butler case, a case involving a challenge to the constitutionality of Canada’s criminal obscenity law. Subsequent to the Butler case, she wrote “LEAF and Pornography: Litigating on Equality and Sexual Representations” on LEAF’s involvement in that case. Following publication of this paper, she became the “go to” feminist in Canada on this issue. In 1999, she wrote a discussion paper “LEAF and Little Sisters: Some Issues to Consider”. This paper was used as the basis for consultations with women across Canada on what position LEAF should take in the Little Sisters case. (This case involves the discriminatory treatment of a gay and lesbian bookstore by Canada Customs.) In 1999-2000 she was lead counsel for LEAF in its intervention inLittle Sisters. Subsequently she published, “The Queer Sensitive Interveners in the Little Sisters Case”. She also worked on Egale Canada’s 2005 intervention in Little Sisters #2 (on advanced costs).

Professor Busby has edited The Manitoba Queen’s Bench Rules Annotated (Carswell/Thomson Publishing) since it was first published (originally as an in-house publication) in 1989. The 15th edition is forthcoming and almost 80 supplements have been prepared for the annotated looseleaf version. In 1999, the Manitoba Law Reform Commission published Class Proceedings, a report which she co-authored with Jonathan Penner. In 2002, the Manitoba government introduced legislation which incorporated almost all of the MLRC’s recommendations.

Improving Administrative Justice in Manitoba: Starting With The Appointment Process, a report she wrote for the Manitoba Law Reform Commission was published in 2010. “Mapping the Maze: Supreme Court of Canada Jurisprudence on Standards of Judicial Review” a paper presented at a National Judicial Institute (NJI) Conference in 1994 was published in Reid’s Administrative Law. Other work on administrative law includes “Raising the Dough: Funding for Lawyers at Public Inquires”, was published in Pepper in Our Eyes: Police/State in Canada (2000). She has worked as a consultant to Manitoba Hydro on Clean Environment Hearings related to new projects. She has presented papers at community and professional conferences including, for example, the Manitoba Council for Administrative Tribunals annual proceedings.

Curriculum Vitae


Karen Busby has been with the Faculty since 1988, and she is the founding Academic Director of the Centre for Human Rights Research. She has a J.D. (Manitoba, 1981) and LL.M. (Columbia, 1988). She was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1982 and she practiced for a year with Thompson, Dorfman, Sweatman. After studying in France for a year, she was the first clerk with the Federal Court of Appeal (1984-87).

Selected Publications

Research in Progress

  • “Seeing Justice Done: Accountability Mechanisms in University Sexual Misconduct Policies.” Paper under peer review.
  • “Muslim Women on Religious Identity, Practices and Beliefs: A Study on Religious Freedom in Canada.” With Sara Mahboob and Kobra Rahimi. Paper under peer review.
  • “Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting by Health-Care Providers in Canada: Barriers and Obligations” with Lorna Turnbull and Marie Edwards. Paper under peer review.
  • “Defense Lawyers’ Observations on the Implementation of the 2014 Amendments to Canada’s Prostitution Laws” [Working title]. With Katie Kidder. Research Ethics Certificate obtained. Interviews for pilot study complete.
  • Sex Work Laws in India and Canada: A Comparative Analysis”. With Sarasu Esther Thomas, National Law School of India University. Work in Progress.
  • “Where We Have Come From: The Evolution of Queer Rights in Canada” [Working Title], invited submission for a collection tentatively titled, “LGBTQ Law in Canada: A Practical Handbook” (Emond Publishing). First draft submitted.

Books and Edited Collections

  • Manitoba Queen’s Bench Rules Annotated. Preparation of four supplements each year for the three-volume looseleaf version. Published by Thomson Reuters (formerly Carswells). Release #77 & 78 issued in Feb. and April 2018 (respectively); Release 79 – 80 in progress. Bi-annual publication of a soft cover version (15th ed. forthcoming)
  • The Idea of a Human Rights Museum.  With Adam Muller and Andrew Woolford (co-editors). University of Manitoba Press, 2015.
    – Introduction (co-authored with Muller and Woolford).
    – Change of Plans: Conceptualizing the Inaugural Exhibits
  • Guest Editor (together with Susan Drummond) for a Special Issue of Canadian Journal of Women and the Law on Assisted Human Reproduction. (2013, Vol 25)
  • Improving Administrative Justice in Manitoba: Starting with the Appointments Process (2009). Report prepared for the Manitoba Law Reform Commission.

Articles and Papers

  • “Desperately Seeking Surrogates: Thoughts on Canada’s emergence as an International Surrogacy Destination”. With Pamela White. For inclusion in Surrogacy in Canada: Critical Perspectives in Law and Policy (forthcoming July 2018) Irwin Law.
  • “Legislated Ministerial Pre-Enactment Review for Fundamental Rights Compliance.” In Janine Lesperance et al (eds), Canada and the Rule of Law, 150 Years after Confederation / Le Canada et la primauté du droit, 150 ans après la Confédération. Ottawa: International Commission of Jurists (2017).
  • “Tied up in K/nots: The Criminalization of BDSM in Canada” Law Matters (Special Issue on Personal Autonomy) (Canadian Bar Association-Alberta: Summer 2016) 22-26.
  • “Troubling Waters: Recent Developments in Canada on International Law and the Human Right to Water and Sanitation” (2016) 5 Canadian Journal of Human Rights 1 – 26.
  • “Providing Essential Services of Reasonable Quality to All Canadians”: Understanding Section 36(1)(c) of the Constitution Act 1982 (2016) 20 Review of Constitutional Studies/Revue d’études constitutionelles 191-212.
  • “All Manner of Wickedness Abounds: Reconciling Religious Rights and Queer Rights”, solicited by G. Digiaco (ed.) for Human Rights: Current Issues and Controversies. University of Toronto Press, 2016.
  • “One little, too little: Counting Canada’s Indigenous people for improved health reporting.” (2015) 138 Social Science and Medicine 179. With Brenda Elias and Pat Marten.
  • “The Politics of Religious Diversity: Can Legal Principles Advance Cooperation?” in Jan Aart Scholte (ed.) Towards Democracy-through-Diversity in Global Cooperation. Duisburg: Centre for Global Cooperation Research. 2015.
  • “On Democracy and Dialogue at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.” (2015) 9 Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law 147.
  • Contributor to “The Human Rights to Water and Sanitation in Courts Worldwide: A Selection of National, Regional and International Case Law” published by WASH United and WaterLex (2014).
  • “Discussed, reformulated and enriched many times”: The Supreme Court of Canada’s Equality Jurisprudence” Conference Proceedings, National Constitutional and Human Rights conference organized by the Canadian Bar Association. Printed proceedings and online access. 2014
  • ‘Sex was in the air’: Pernicious Myths and Other Problems with Sexual Violence Prosecutions”, Elizabeth Comack (ed.) Locating Law: Sex, Race and Gender Connections, Fernwood Publications, 2014.
  • “Of Surrogate Mother Born: Parentage Law in Canada and Elsewhere” 2013 25 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 284-313.
  • “Every Breath You Take: Erotic Asphyxiation, Vengeful Wives and Other Enduring Myths In Spousal Sexual Assault Prosecutions” (2012) 24 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law/Revue Femmes et droit.  328-358.
  • “Revisiting The Handmaid’s Tale: Feminist Theory Meets Empirical Research on Surrogate Motherhood”. With Delaney Vun. (2010) 26 Canadian Journal of Family Law 1.

Community Involvement

Professor Busby has an impressive record of community service. She has received numerous awards recognizing her work including induction in the Q [Queer] Hall of Fame (2011), the YMCA-YWCA Woman of Distinction Award (Business and the Professions) (2007); Manitoba Bar Association “Pro Bono” Award (2005); Canadian Bar Association’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Conference “Hero” Award (2004); LAMBDA Magic “Community Changer”Award (2002); and University of Manitoba Community Outreach Award (2010). She received the University of Manitoba Community Outreach Award (1996, 2010). In 2001 she was nominated for a Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of The Persons Case.

In her capacity as the Director of the Centre for Human Rights Research, she has worked on developing a close relationship between the University of Manitoba and organizations such as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Trudeau Foundation. She has also organized five seminar series on the CHRR’s research areas. For more details, go to www.chrr.info.

Professor Busby was a member of the board of Egale Canada from 2003-2008 where she was active on the Legal Issues and the Nominations Committees.  She was very active in the equal gay marriage campaign and sexual rights cases and projects. In 2001 she was a founding member of an ad hoc group later called Group Organizing on Same Sex Issues and Principles (GOSSIP). Professor Busby was honoured to be a speaker at the Winnipeg Pride Day Rally in both 2001 and 2002. She also served a seven year term (1989-96) on the editorial board of the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law/Revue “Femmes et Droit”. She recently rejoined this board. From 1998-2008, she was a Board Member for RESOLVE (formerly the Manitoba Research Centre on Family Violence and Violence Against Women).

She was very active with LEAF in the 1990s and 2000s and was a member the LEAF’s National Legal Committee from 1992-1997. Membership on the NLC involved hundreds of hours of volunteer work as this committee is responsible for choosing the cases in which LEAF will intervene, managing LEAF’s litigation, and approving all LEAF facta and other submissions. She has worked on other LEAF projects; including most recently the J.A. and the Rhodes cases. She has also worked with the Manitoba Association of Women and the Law on summer student projects.

Professor Busby was a member of the Review Panel established under The Vulnerable Persons Living With Mental Disabilities Act s from 2001-13. She has also been appointed as a labour arbitrator under collective agreements.

Professor Busby has been a frequent participant at conferences organized by the National Judicial Institute. She is a regular speaker on administrative law at continuing education programs presented by various community and professional organizations.

Professor Busby has also served on the Board of Directors of various artist-run centres in Winnipeg including Ace Art (founding board member); Videopool, Inc, and Mentoring Artists for Women’s’ Art. She was on the Board of Governors of the Winnipeg Art Gallery from 2000-2009.  She served in various executive capacities including Vice-Chair and Chair of the Works of Art Committee.

She does about 50 interviews a year with local, national and international print and broadcast media on various topics related to her teaching, research and service interests.

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