Debra is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Law, Queens University. Debra’s graduate research 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 teaches Introduction to Legal Skills and Insolvency Restructuring at Queen’s Law where she also guest lectures in Constitutional, Advanced Constitutional and Advanced Legal Research Courses.
Recent Professional Achievements
“The Initial Test of Constitutional Validity: Identifying the Legislative Objectives of Canada’s New Prostitution Laws.” (2017) 50:3 UBC L Rev 657
Featured Conference Presentation
“Re(de)fining ‘Prostitution’ and ‘Sex Work’: Attending to the Role of Consent in Constructing Problems and Imagining Legal Responses.” Paper presented at the Law and Society Association/ Canadian Law and Society International Conference, Toronto, Canada, 2018.