Margot Young


Research Classification

Research Interests

Constitutional law
women’s right
Housing rights
Equality law
Social welfare law
International rights
Environmental rights

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.

Research Methodology



Master's students
Doctoral students
Any time / year round
I am interested in supervising students to conduct interdisciplinary research.

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Exploring the route from Nairobi to Beijing plus twenty: feminist activist reflections on rights advocacy (2019)

This dissertation consists of five written chapters and a film chapter. The thesis explores how a selected sample of feminist activists used certain international human rights mechanisms and processes within the United Nations (UN) over a thirty-year period, from 1985 to 2015, to achieve women’s equality and human rights. The findings document the opinions and perceptions of forty-five feminist activists working in the transnational feminist movement. The written chapters situate the historical context of that thirty-year time frame within UN world conferences, outline the methodology of the research process and the making of the film, and share the research findings. A review of feminist scholarship is provided on feminist movement theory, violence against women, and international human rights law and policy. The research shows that these feminists believe that engaging with the UN system has strengthened some women’s organizations and coalitions through networking and sharing of strategies. They think that their work has resulted in changes to the UN system itself and to international law and policy on issues of women’s rights, especially violence against women. They believe that global and local perspectives work together as part of a dynamic, intersectional paradigm, wherein different actions and objectives call for different strategies, both globally and domestically. The conclusion reviews current debates about whether and how the transnational women’s movement should continue to engage with the UN system.

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"Common Sense" and Legal Judgment: Community Knowledge, Political Power and Rhetorical Practice (2013)

This dissertation is a critical, interdisciplinary assessment of “common sense.” More specifically, “common sense” is located in relation to practices of legal judgment that have the potential to address injustices occasioned by poverty and inequality. Taking methodological guidance from the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, augmented by feminist theory, my goal is to construct a “perspicuous representation” of “common sense” in legal judgment. I engage with the writings of three major thinkers who use the language of “common sense” to communicate their ideas: 18th century Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid, Italian Marxist political thinker and activist Antonio Gramsci, and political theorist Hannah Arendt. I place their writings in conversation with Canadian Supreme Court jurisprudence in which judges invoke the phrase “common sense,” including cases about the admissibility of expert evidence, the justification of breaches of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the definition of judicial impartiality. Special attention is paid to the case of Gosselin v. Quebec, in which the Court prominently relies on “common sense” to uphold the constitutionality of social assistance regulations that placed young adults in dire poverty.The meaning and consequences of “common sense” in legal judgment are more complex than might be anticipated. Unreflective reliance on common sense poses a significant threat to the quality and legitimacy of legal judgment. Common sense is rhetorically powerful and can be self-justifying. Yet, when different aspects of common sense are explored with careful critical attention, its democratic, egalitarian and community-sustaining components are also brought to light. This is very important in cases involving poverty and social marginalization, where the invocation of “common sense” strikes at the heart of many issues raised by the three theorists, including the value of quotidian and non-expert knowledges, the boundaries of reasonable debate, the significance of political history and social relations of inequality, and the way common sense claims both reflect and create communities.This dissertation offers some criteria to guide the use of common sense in practices of legal judgment, and generates new ways of thinking about and using common sense as a part of rigorously reflective and politically accountable legal judgment.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Current trends in Canadian civil justice system reform: manufactured simplicity or equitable access to justice? (2021)

The civil access to justice problem in Canada is recognized as a crisis, but even with widespread justice system stakeholder recognition and ongoing attempts at reform, progress is slow. This thesis undertakes a critical review of modern civil access to justice reforms and jurisprudential developments, using British Columbia as the site of inquiry, to identify limitations to the current approach. Then, by analyzing the current state of inequality in Canada, and using existing sociological research into processes of cumulative advantage and disadvantage in society, it argues that an expanded framework that will lead to more responsive access to justice reforms is one that takes into account the broader context of socioeconomic stratification and inequality in Canada and that asks how these have impacted the evolution of Canada’s civil justice system. This analysis also makes clear that achieving progress in civil access to justice requires a conception of access to justice that focuses on the concept of equitable access to justice, which is one that seeks to level the playing field by neutralizing disproportionate advantage or disadvantage in navigating the civil justice system either through structural system change or policy interventions such as robust legal aid funding to provide wider availability of legal representation. It then operationalizes this expanded framework by conducting an exploratory mixed methodology study, through quantitative statistical case outcome analysis and qualitative interviews of low income legal service providers, that looks at the relationship between: (1) British Columbia’s procedural and jurisdictional structure; (2) legal outcomes; and (3) legally advantaged and disadvantaged users. Lastly, it provides recommendations for future study and reforms that will advance the cause of equitable access to justice.

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Law's meanings for equality in the Americas: less impoverished visions for Canada (2019)

Equality is a ubiquitous concept that many assume is intuitively understood. There is however significant contention over its ‘true’ meaning. Following the enactment of constitutionalized equality guarantees under s. 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there were high expectations for judicial interpretation that moved decisively away from a formal equality conception and embraced a substantive understanding. An extensive critique emerged early in response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s jurisprudence and criticism has been sustained. For its part, the Court has consistently framed its approach as that of “substantive equality”. Although its jurisprudence purportedly incorporates substantive elements that extend beyond the formalist “treating likes alike” and “same treatment” approach, the widespread disappointment is generally well-founded, given the gap between aspiration or rhetoric and the Court’s judgments. The arguably contingent nature of equality means that other rights protection systems have generated different conceptions of its meaning. The approach to equality in the Inter-American human rights system (IAHRS) offers one such set of understandings. The objective of bringing together these two different systems is to consider how s. 15 jurisprudence falls short of a substantive equality vision, by considering the regional rights system of which Canada is a member. Critical equality scholarship provides the basis for elaborating key elements of substantive equality. Three such elements are highlighted in evaluating the Court’s jurisprudence and how the IAHRS’s equality law and discourse stands up to a similar analysis, namely, the contextualized methodology, an indivisible approach to social rights, and a strong state responsibility doctrine. The two systems are generating different equality meanings and the IAHRS’s framework is more consonant with redress of pervasive substantive inequalities in the Americas, including through its employment of a deeply contextualized analysis, the development of positive state obligations and ‘indivisible’ approaches to equality in conjunction with other civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights. As such, the IAHRS is of interest to Canadian equality-seeking groups, including those interested in exploring engagement with the system. At a minimum, the IAHRS’s understandings may stir the legal imagination of advocates assessing future strategies for transformative social change in Canada.

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News Releases

This list shows a selection of news releases by UBC Media Relations over the last 5 years.

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