Working in Coalition

Women working in coalition around a table, with a person in a wheelchair doing a presentation to the group.


This module focuses on the importance of working in coalitions to advance women’s equality rights. 

True coalition work engages with the inequalities within and between the coalition’s members. By creating space for dialogue and accountability, working in coalitions helps ensure that reforms account for the diversity of women’s experiences and do not primarily benefit the already privileged. 

Sometimes, coalitions form to address long-term and broad issues, like gun control. Some tackle more pointed issues like universal access to pharmacare. Some coalitions, like the one NAWL and Luke’s Place led on Bill C-78, are formed with pointed, short term feminist law reform goal in mind. You can explore the differences and similarities between these different coalitions in the various sections below.

Coalitions help avoid recreating existing power structures not only between women and men but also between different groups of women. This, of course, can be a challenge. We provide an example below some of the risks of avoiding and negative outcomes that can result when an intersectional approach is not adopted.

“We know that we have to continue to advocate, we know how critical it is for the sector to stand together against unjust policies, to give strategic advice to Government when the opportunity arises to ensure that public policy is to the benefit of the most marginalized of our cities, provinces and country. And to build communities of inclusion so that all who find themselves here have an opportunity to participate in the potential in ways that they choose.”

Debbie Douglas from the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

From a presentation on “Immigration and Refugee Services: Negotiating Spaces for Advocacy” during the National Symposium on Intersections of Violence against Women and Precarious Immigration Status on June 5, 2014 at the University of Toronto


Below, Sheila McIntyre digs into the importance of committing to working in coalition.


Readings on working in coalition

Coalition Politics: Equality in Struggle

Sheila McIntyre

“We’ll make sure we’re heard”: New Quebec feminist coalition wants improved access to justice

CBC News

Introduction: After Equality

Robert Leckey and Régine Tremblay

Groups seeking equality sometimes take a legal victory as the end of the line. Once judgment is granted or a law is passed, coalitions disband and life goes on in a new state of equality. For their part, policy-makers may assume that a troublesome file is now closed. The After Equality project arises from the sense that law reforms made under the banner of equality invite fresh lines of inquiry. It takes a judgment, law, or other measure not as an end, but, rather, as a starting point for reflections on equality.

Examples of Feminist Coalitions

Here are some examples of Canadian coalitions that are engaging with feminist law reform issues as well as the different format their work can take, such as writing briefs, mobilization and education campaigns, lobbying, etc.

Up For Debate 2019

The Alliance for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality

During the 2019 federal election, the Up For Debate Alliance called on all federal party leaders to commit to a national televised debate to share their priorities on women’s rights and gender equality.

Unfinished Business: A Parallel Report on Canada’s Implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

Beijing +25 Network

This report provides an assessment of Canada’s progress in meeting the goals for gender equality set out in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. It was produced by a network of more than 50 women’s rights and equality-seeking organizations, trade unions and independent experts representing millions of members from across the country.

Coalition for Gun Control

For almost 30 years, the Coalition for Gun Control has been working to make Canada safer and is supported by more than 200 health, crime prevention, victims, policing, women’s and community organizations from across Canada.

“We heard from a lot of witnesses, including many representatives from a large Canadian coalition, including representatives from the Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale, the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, the Elizabeth Fry Society, and I could go on and on. They told us that the bill must highlight just how likely women are to be victims of domestic violence. Does my colleague believe that the bill does enough to help stop domestic violence?”

Brigitte Sansoucy, Member of Parliament — Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, NDP


Engage & Discuss

What are some of the key feminist law reform issues currently being advocated for at the federal level? Are any of the reforms being sought driven by coalitions?

What kinds of decision-making structures might work for coalitions?

Given your own background, training, skills, strengths, barriers and privileges what role could you play in a feminist coalition?

How might accountability operate differently in the context of coalition work as opposed to when working as one lawyer with one client? Should it operate differently? What about if you work with/for a non-profit organization or the public service?

Additional Resources

Indigenous Ally Toolkit

Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network

Calling for Change: Women, Law, and the Legal Profession

Sheila McIntyre and Elizabeth Sheehy

Transforming Women’s Future: A 2004 Guide to Equality Rights Theory and Law

West Coast LEAF