Debra Haak teaches criminal law, constitutional law, and insolvency restructuring. 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.
- “Revisiting the Analytical Distinction Between Section 7 and Section 1 of the Charter: Legislative Objectives, Policy Goals, and Public Interests” (2023) 112 Supreme Court Law Review (forthcoming) https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4235425
- “The Case of the Reasonable Hypothetical Sex Worker” (2022) 60:1 Alberta Law Review 205 https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4018725
- “The Good Governance of Empirical Evidence about Prostitution, Sex Work, and Sex Trafficking in Constitutional Litigation” (2021) 46:2 Queen’s Law Journal 187 https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3820090.
- “Re(de)fining Prostitution and Sex Work: Conceptual Clarity for Legal Thinking” (2019) 40 Windsor Review of Legal & Social Issues 67 https://ssrn.com/abstract=3333280.
- “The Initial Test of Constitutional Validity: Identifying the Legislative Objectives of Canada’s New Prostitution Laws” (2017) 50:3 UBC Law Review 657 https://ssrn.com/abstract=3031586.
Selected Recent Presentations
- “Whose (Vision of) Equality Matters (Most): Equality Arguments About the Constitutionality of Canada’s Criminal Commercial Sex Laws”, The Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities Annual Conference, University of Toronto, 2023
- “The Commercial Exchange of Consent: Potential Implications of a Market for Sexual Touching on Criminal Sexual Assault Laws in Canada”, Canadian Law and Society Association Annual Meeting, Toronto, 2023
- “Criminal Prostitution Laws and Sex Workers’ Rights: Rethinking the Analytical Distinction Between Section 7 and Section 1”, CLF Annual Symposium on Religion, Law and Human Rights, Peter A Allard School of Law, UBC, 2022
- “From Bedford to NS: Revisiting the Constitutionality of Commercial Sex Laws in Canada”, University of British Columbia, Peter A Allard School of Law, UBC, Centre for Feminist Legal Studies, 2022
- “The Limits of Empirical Scholarship about Prostitution, Sex Work, and Sex Trafficking in Canada”, US National Centre on Sexual Exploitation Online Global Summit, 2021
- “What We Know about Sex Work but Don’t Know about Prostitution in Canada”, Canadian Law and Society Association Annual Meeting, Edmonton (online), 2021
- “Revisiting Bedford: The Nature and Scope of Sex Workers’ Right to Security of the Person post-PCEPA”, Law and Society Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, USA (online), 2021
- “The Case of the Reasonable Hypothetical Sex Worker”, Socio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference, Cardiff, UK (online), 2021
- “(Dis)abling Equality for Women through (Un)equal Knowledge Production”, Feminist Legal Studies Queen’s Annual Conference, Queen’s University, 2020
- “Teaching Dispute Resolution in a JD Law Curriculum”, The Osgoode Mediation Clinic’s 10th Anniversary Symposium on Dispute Resolution, Osgoode Hall Law School, 2019
- “What if All the Facts Were Legally Relevant? Thinking Like a (Practicing) Lawyer”, ACCLE/CALT Joint Conference: The Whole Lawyer 2.0, Queen’s University, 2018
- Review of Sharon Cowan, Chloë Kennedy & Vanessa Munro, eds, Scottish Feminist Judgments: (Re)Creating Law from the Outside In (2021) 36:3 Canadian Journal of Law & Society 539 https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4182705
- Review of Robert Jensen, The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men (2020) 34:1-2 Canadian Woman Studies 177. https://ssrn.com/abstract=3634893
- Rights and Interests in Tension
- Women’s Rights
- Sex Laws
- Constitutional Law
- Constitutional Litigation