May 12, 2017

LEAF and Avalon Sexual Assault Centre granted leave to intervene in R v Al-Rawi

By an order dated May 12, 2017, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal granted the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) and Avalon Sexual Assault Centre (Avalon) leave to intervene in R v Al-Rawi.

R v Al-Rawi is an appeal by the Crown from the March 1, 2017, acquittal of Bassam Al-Rawi, a Halifax taxi driver who was charged with sexually assaulting a female passenger in his taxi on May 23, 2015.

This appeal raises legal issues of public importance that are likely to shape the law of sexual assault in Canada. LEAF and Avalon will provide a substantive equality analysis on the issues arising in the appeal.

The Decision under Appeal

Following a trial in Nova Scotia Provincial Court, Judge Gregory Lenehan acquitted Mr. Al-Rawi of the charge of sexual assault. Judge Lenehan cited the Crown’s failure to prove the complainant’s lack of consent to sexual contact. Judge Lenehan also found that the Crown had failed to prove that the complainant was incapable of offering her consent. The complainant had no recollection of the events due to her level of intoxication and, therefore, could offer no direct evidence of her state of mind at the time of the alleged assault. An unofficial transcript of Judge Lenehan’s decision is available here.

LEAF and Avalon’s Intervention

LEAF and Avalon will make submissions concerning how the courts should evaluate incapacity or lack of consent when a complainant has no memory of the events due to her intoxication. They will also highlight the ways in which discriminatory myths and stereotypes about women, including intoxicated women, have affected judicial decision-making in this area.

LEAF and Avalon believe that their expertise and unique perspective can assist the Court in its hearing of this appeal. LEAF has decades of experience in promoting and protecting women’s substantive equality rights, particularly in the context of laws governing sexual assault. Avalon directly serves individuals who have experienced sexualized violence in Nova Scotia, and has advocated in the areas of sexual assault law and law reform in Nova Scotia since 1983. You can read the written brief filed in support of the motion for leave to intervene here.

LEAF and Avalon are grateful to counsel Nasha Nijhawan and Kelly McMillan of Nijhawan McMillan Barristers for their pro bono representation in this case.

About Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) Since April 17, 1985, when equality rights were enshrined in sections 15 and 28 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, LEAF has used litigation, law reform and public education to work toward equality for women and girls. LEAF intervenes in key cases to ensure that when courts interpret equality rights, there will be a systemic improvement in women’s lives. For more information about LEAF, visit

About Avalon Sexual Assault Centre

Avalon Sexual Assault Centre is a feminist organization in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which provides services for those affected by sexualized violence. Avalon’s primary emphasis is on support, education, counselling and leadership and advocacy services for women and trans/non gender binary people. Avalon offers individual therapeutic counselling and group program services for women and trans/non gender binary individuals age 16 and older, community education, public awareness, legal and professional training targeting the prevention of sexualized violence and intervention and support of victims/survivors. Avalon also operates the Avalon Sexual Nurse Examiner Program which provides immediate response to sexual assault victims of all ages and genders requiring medical care and the collection of forensic evidence. For more information about Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, please visit