“I think law chose me,” Debra Haak says, reflecting on both her legal career (as a partner at Gowlings LLP) and her pursuit of a doctorate in the field.
A world traveller, formerly residing in small-town Ontario, big-city London, England, and a variety of towns and cities across Europe and the U.S., Debra now splits her time between Kingston and Toronto, where she lives with her husband (Hugh Christie, Law ’81) and two of her three children. Debra enjoys her time in Kingston, appreciating its small size and amenities including a “fantastic” market.
She was drawn to advanced studies by an abiding interest in her research topic. “Both within Canada and internationally, there is a growing debate over the law’s role in relation to the commercialization of sex and intimacy,” she explains. “Because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bedford in 2013, Canada’s legal approach to this issue was set to change. I found the then existing debate over the issue incomplete and I wanted to make a meaningful and informed contribution to it.”
“I think the current framing of issues related to buying and selling sex is incomplete,” she says. “The truth is that selling sex is work for some sellers and it is exploitation for others. There are a wide range of interests that should properly be considered when policy makers consider how to legislate in response to the harms of transactional sex. I am working on a theory of and policy framework for transactional sex that recognizes the full range of experiences, interests and harms relevant to the commercialization of sex and intimacy. This may allow for consideration of legal and policy responses beyond those currently in place.”
Debra hopes to use this research to influence policy makers and the public to recognize and consider all of the interests, rights and harms embodied in transactional sex and the relevance of choice in crafting legislative and policy responses to it. “I anticipate that even after I have earned my degree, I will continue to engage in research and writing related to law and policy around sex and human intimacy,” she says.
In addition to undertaking her research, Debra is gaining teaching experience during her PhD studies. She was appointed as a Teaching Fellow in the foundational Introduction to Legal Skills course at Queen’s Law in her second year of PhD studies.
MPhil (University of St Andrews, Scotland)
LLB (University of New Brunswick)
BA (Hons) and Certificat de francais pratique (University of Western Ontario)