Debra Haak teaches courses on criminal law and insolvency restructuring and regularly guest lectures in constitutional law and advanced legal research courses. She studied political science at Western University and earned an LLB at the University of New Brunswick. She earned an MPhil at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, in international relations and terrorist studies. Dr Haak earned her PhD at Queen’s University, Faculty of Law. Her thesis, entitled The Wicked Problem of Prostitution and Sex Work Policy in Canada considered the debate over Canada’s current prostitution policy and criminal prostitution laws as a conflict between and among stakeholders prioritizing different and at times divergent interests. In 2019, she was awarded the Queen’s University, Society of Graduate and Professional Students, John G. Freeman Faculty Excellence Award for excellence in teaching.

Until 2016, Dr Haak was a partner at Gowling WLG where she practiced commercial and insolvency litigation and appeared regularly before all levels of court in Ontario. She was a member of the Commercial List Users Committee, a committee that considered improvements to the operations and organization of a specialized Commercial Court within the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto. She spent one court year at the Inns of Court in London, England, as the recipient of the 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).


Dr Haak’s research is motivated by a concern over how law and policy in Canada contend with the different and at times divergent interests of individuals and groups in a diverse society. Differently situated individuals and groups increasingly make conflicting demands on the state, often framing demands in the language of rights. Legal decision makers, including judges and policy makers, make difficult choices between and among individuals and groups in a liberal and constitutional legal context. They increasingly rely on empirical and theoretical scholarship. Dr Haak’s research considers whether and how the state does and ought to respond to and reconcile competing stakeholder interests, including how legal decision makers balance competing rights claims and use scholarly literature. Drawing on 20 years of practice experience, Dr Haak approaches her research through the conceptual and analytical lens of interest focussed legal problem-solving – an example of the study of law in context she calls “thinking like a practicing lawyer.”

Alongside her scholarly publications, Dr Haak's work has appeared in The Globe & Mail, National Post, Ottawa Citizen, CBC News, CTV News, and The Conversation. 


Book Reviews

  • Review of Sharon Cowan, Chloë Kennedy and Vanessa Munro, eds, Scottish Feminist Judgments: (Re)Creating Law from the Outside In (forthcoming, Canadian Journal of Law & Society).
  • Review of Robert Jensen, The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men (2020) 34:1-2 Canadian Woman Studies 177.