Peter A Allard School of Law

Debra Parkes

Chair in Feminist Legal Studies
B.A. (Trinity Western), LL.B. (UBC), LL.M. (Columbia)



Professor Parkes joined the Allard School of Law in July 2016. She was a member of the Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba from 2001 to 2016 where she served a term as Associate Dean (Research and Graduate Studies) from 2013-2016. She has also been a visiting researcher at the University of Woollongong and the University of Sydney. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law from 2009-2013 and President of the Canadian Law & Society Association from 2007-2010.
Professor Parkes' scholarly work examines the challenges and possibilities of addressing societal injustices through rights claims, with a focus on the criminal justice, corrections, and workplace contexts. The lens she brings to this work is feminist, intersectional, and socio-legal. Professors Parkes takes a particular interest in the incarceration of women, the limits of prison reform, and the framing and adjudicating of prisoners’ rights claims.
With funding from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Professor Parkes has examined mechanisms for oversight and accountability of imprisonment in Canada and she is leading on a new SSHRC-funded project examining life sentences in legal and social context. In 2015 she guest edited a special volume of the Canadian Journal of Human Rights on solitary confinement and human rights.
Before beginning her academic career, Professor Parkes worked as a law clerk to justices of the BC Supreme Court (1997-1998) and practiced with the litigation group at Gowlings LLP in Toronto (1998-2000). She maintains strong connections with the bench and bar, welcoming opportunities to present at judicial education conferences and at continuing professional development workshops for the practicing bar.
Professor Parkes supervises graduate students in the fields of sentencing, penal policy, and the criminalization of women.




  • Women, Law & Social Change
  • Constitutional Law: Charter
  • Constitutional Law: Aboriginal and Treaty Rights
  • Penal Policy


Debra Parkes, Jane Sprott & Isabel Grant, “The Evolution of Life Sentences for Second Degree Murder: Parole Ineligibility and Time Spent in Prison,(2022) 100:1 Canadian Bar Review 66-94.

Isabel Grant, Crystal Choi & Debra Parkes, “The Meaning of Life: A Study of the Use of Parole Ineligibility for Murder Sentencing,(2021) 52:1 Ottawa Law Review 133-176.

Debra Parkes, “Starting With Life: Murder Sentencing and Feminist Prison Abolitionist Praxis,” in Kelly Struthers Montford & Chloë Taylor, eds., Building Abolition: Decarceration and Social Justice London: Routledge, 2021. 151-164.

Sonia Lawrence & Debra Parkes, “R v. Turtle: Substantive Equality Touches Down in Treaty 5 Territory,” Case Comment (2020) 66 Criminal Reports (7th) 430-447.

Isabel Grant & Debra Parkes, “Constitutionalizing a Flawed Defence,” (2019) 55 Criminal Reports (7th) 137-146.

Debra Parkes, “Punishment and Its Limits,” (2019) 88 Supreme Court Law Review 351-367.

Isabel Grant & Debra Parkes, “Equality and the Defence of Provocation: Irreconcilable Differences,” (2017) 40:2 Dalhousie Law Journal. 455-495.

Debra Parkes, “Solitary Confinement, Rights Litigation, and the Possibility of a Prison Abolitionist Lawyering Ethic,” (2017) 32:3 Canadian Journal of Law and Society 165-185.

Susan Boyd & Debra Parkes, “Looking Back, Looking Forward: Feminist Legal Theory in SLS,” (2017) 26:6 Social and Legal Studies 735-756.

Debra Parkes, “Women in Prison: Liberty, Equality and Thinking Outside the Bars,” (2016) 12 Journal of Law & Equality 126-156. 

Debra Parkes, “Precedent Revisited: Carter v Canada (AG) and the Contemporary Practice of Precedent” (2016) 10:1 McGill JL & Health S123-S158.

Debra Parkes & Emma Cunliffe, “Women and Wrongful Conviction: Concepts and Challenges,” (2015) 11:3 International Journal of Law in Context 219.

Debra Parkes, “Ending the Isolation: Introduction to the Special Volume on Human Rights and Solitary Confinement,” (2015) 4:1 Canadian Journal of Human Rights vii.

Debra Parkes, “The Punishment Agenda in the Courts,” (2014) 67 Supreme Court Law Review 589.

Debra Parkes & David Milward, “Colonialism, Systemic Discrimination, and the Crisis of Indigenous Over-incarceration: Challenges of Reforming the Sentencing Process,” in Elizabeth Comack, ed., Locating Law: Race/Class/Gender/Sexuality Connections, 3rd ed. (Toronto: Brunswick Books, 2014) at 116.

Debra Parkes, “The ‘Great Writ’ Reinvigorated? Habeas Corpus in Contemporary Canada,” preface to James Oldham, “The DeLloyd Guth Visiting Lecture in Legal History: Habeas Corpus, Legal History, and Guantanamo Bay,” (2013) 36 Manitoba Law Journal 351-360.

Debra Parkes, “From Smith to Smickle: the Charter’s Minimal Impact on Mandatory Minimum Sentences,” (2012) 57 Supreme Court Law Review 149-172.

Debra Parkes, “Ipeelee and the Pursuit of Proportionality in a World of Mandatory Minimum Sentences,” (2012) 33:3 For the Defence 22-27.

Debra Parkes & Meaghan Daniel, “Political Protest, Mass Arrests, and Mass Detention: Fundamental Freedoms and (Un)Common Criminals,” (2011) 22(2) Journal of Prisoners on Prisons 155-170.

David Milward & Debra Parkes, “Gladue: Beyond Myth and Toward Implementation in Manitoba,” (2011) 35 Manitoba Law Journal 84-110.

Debra Parkes, “The Rand Formula Revisited: Union Security in the Charter Era,” (2010) 61 University of New Brunswick Law Journal 223-242.

Debra Parkes & Isabel Grant, Contextualizing Criminal Defences: Exploring the Contribution of Justice Bertha Wilson,” in Kim Brooks, ed., Justice Bertha Wilson: One Woman’s Difference (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2009) at 153.

Debra Parkes, Kathy Bent, Tracey Peter & Tracy Booth, “Listening to their Voices: Women Prisoners and Access to Justice in Manitoba,” (2008) 26 Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice 85-119.

Natasha Bakht, Kim Brooks, Gillian Calder, Jennifer Koshan, Sonia Lawrence, Carissima Mathen & Debra Parkes, “Counting Outsiders: A Critical Exploration of Outsider Course Enrolment in Canadian Legal Education,” (2008) 45 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 667-732.

Debra Parkes, “A Prisoners’ Charter? Reflections on Prisoner Litigation under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” (2007) 40 UBC Law Review 629-676.

Debra Parkes, “Precedent Unbound? Contemporary Approaches to Precedent in Canada,” (2007) 32 Manitoba Law Journal 135-162.

Debra Parkes, “Employment Standards that Work for Women,” (2007) 5 Underneath the Golden Boy: A Review of Recent Manitoba Laws and How They Came to Be 49-82.

Debra Parkes & Kim Pate, “Time for Accountability: Effective Oversight of Women’s Prisons,” (2006) 48 Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice 251-285.

Gayle Horii, Debra Parkes & Kim Pate, “Are Women’s Rights Worth the Paper They’re Written On? Collaborating to Enforce the Human Rights of Criminalized Women,” in Elizabeth Comack and Gillian Balfour, eds., Criminalizing Women: Gender and (In)justice in Neo-Liberal Times (Halifax: Fernwood Press, 2006) at 302.


Selected publications are also listed on the Law Library Faculty Research Publications Database.

Debra Parkes

Organization Affiliations

  • Centre for Feminist Legal Studies

Research Interests

  • Criminal law and criminal justice
  • Feminist legal studies
  • Human rights
  • Law and social justice
  • Public and constitutional law

Women are the fastest growing prison population in Canada and internationally. Why is this happening and how might law, legal actors, and legal institutions be involved in changing it?

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