Debra Haak successfully defended her PhD thesis in September 2019 and has been put forward to convocate Fall 2019.

Debra's graduate research with a title, The Wicked Problem of Prostitution and Sex Work Policy in Canada, seeks to reconcile divergent ideological approaches to prostitution and sex work that posit prostitution as sexual exploitation and a form of violence against women or sex work as legitimate work reflecting the exercise of agency to found a more nuanced approach to conducting and evaluating empirical work, identifying the problems associated with prostitution and sex work, and evaluating the law’s role in responding to them. She critically examines the decisions in the Bedford case and Canada’s new prostitution laws to consider how they reflect and employ the divergent ideological frames and their theoretical and normative features. Debra’s work raises concerns over the potential conflict between individual and class-based rights claims in Canada, as well as how the Charter might apply to the equality concerns of differently situated vulnerable groups.

Debra practiced commercial and insolvency litigation at Gowling WLG (previously Smith Lyons) for more than 20 years.  She now applies private law thinking in her research that focuses on the role of public law in a contested public policy space. 

Debra holds a Master of Philosophy from the University of St Andrews, Scotland and has received the RS McLaughlin Fellowship (2016-17), Bruce C McDonald Award (2015-16) and MD Failes Graduate Fellowship in Law (2016-17). 

Debra spent one court year at the Inns of Court in London, England, as the recipient of the prestigious Harold G Fox Foundation Scholarship. She marshaled for The Hon Mr. Justice John Thomas (later Baron Thomas of Cwmgiedd, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales) and undertook pupillage rotations at each of Essex Court Chambers, Brick Court Chambers, and 4 Pump Court. 

Debra was recently awarded the Queen’s University, Society of Graduate and Professional Students, John G. Freeman Faculty Excellence Award (2018/19) for her teaching at Queen’s Law, where she instructed and guest lectured in Introduction to Legal Skills, Insolvency Restructuring, Constitutional Law, Advanced Constitutional Law and Advanced Legal Research courses. Debra will be teaching Criminal Law at Osgoode Hall Law School this year.

Debera consulted to the Crown on the first constitutional challenge to new criminal laws applicable to adult prostitution in Canada. She was also interviewed on CBC and CTV, and have placed media pieces in The Globe and Mail, The National Post, and The Conversation on the subject matter of her research.


Recent Professional Achievements

Featured Publication

“Re(de)fining Prostitution and Sex Work: Conceptual Clarity for Legal Thinking” (2019) 40 Windsor Review of Legal & Social Issues 67.

Featured Conference Presentation

“The Case of the Reasonable Hypothetical Sex Worker: Determining the Constitutionality of Canada’s New Prostitution Laws” (Law and Society Association Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, June 2019).

Graduate Students