Colleen Sheppard

Full Professor - On leave

FR Scott Chair in Public & Constitutional Law

Chancellor Day Hall
Room 33
Montreal, Quebec
Canada H3A 1W9

514-398-5098 [Office]
Colleen.Sheppard [at] (Email)

Colleen Sheppard


Publications on SSRN
Website: Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism


Colleen Sheppard is Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law, McGill University. She recently completed a term as Director of the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism.  She has an honours BA and LLB from the University of Toronto, an LL.M. from Harvard University and is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Her teaching and research focus on systemic discrimination, equality rights, mental health in the workplace, Canadian and comparative constitutional law and feminist legal theory.

A former law clerk to Chief Justice Brian Dickson, she has also been a visiting professor at Dalhousie Law School, the University of Maine School of Law, and the Institute of Comparative Law, Université Lyon III.

In addition to her teaching and research, she has been active in public interest work.  She served as a Commissioner on the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission from 1991-1996 and has worked with the federal Department of Justice, the National Judicial Institute, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the Ontario Métis Aboriginal Association and the International Labour Organization.  She was also on the Board of Directors of Equitas – International Centre for Human Rights Education, from 2006-2012.

Professor Sheppard was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada's Academy of Social Sciences in September 2016. She was named to the FR Scott Chair in Public & Constitutional Law for a seven-year term, beginning on 1 September 2023.


  • LLM (Harvard) 1985
  • LLB (Toronto) 1984
  • BA (Toronto) 1980


  • Director, Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, McGill University, 2010-2015
  • Research Director, Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, McGill University, 2005-2010
  • Full Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University, 2006-present
  • Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University, 1993-2006
  • Commissioner, Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, 1991-1996
  • Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University, 1988-1993
  • Visiting Assistant Professor (joint appointment), Dalhousie University and University of Maine, 1986-1988
  • Law Clerk for Chief Justice Brian Dickson, Supreme Court of Canada, 1985-1986
  • Research on equal employment opportunities and affirmative action, Ontario Ministry of Labour, Women's Bureau, 1980-1981

Areas of Interest

Constitutional Law, Human Rights (especially equality rights), Feminist Legal Theory, Economic and Social Rights and Anti-discrimination in the workplace.



Human Rights and Diverse Societies: Challenges and Possibilities (co-edited with Francois Crépeau) (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013);

Dialogues on Human Rights and Legal Pluralism (co-edited with René Provost) (Springer Press, 2013);

Inclusive Equality: The Relational Dimensions Of Systemic Discrimination In Canada (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010). Link.


Substantive Equality and Jordan’s Principle: Challenges and Complexities.  Journal of Law and Social Policy 35. (2021): 21-43. (co-authors: Vandna Sinha, Kathryn Chadwick; Maya Gunnarsson, & Gabriella Jamieson). Link.

Contesting Discrimination in Quebec’s Bill 21: Constitutional Limits on Opting out of Human Rights Canadian Race Relations Foundation, November 2019 (co-authors: Rebecca Jones & Nathaniel Reilly). Link.

Jordan’s Principle: Reconciliation and the First Nations Child (2019) Constitutional Forum / Forum constitutionnel v27 n1 (20190315): 3-12. Link.

Contester la discrimination systémique au Canada: Droit et changement organisationnel (2018) 14 La Revue des droits de l’homme 1. Link.

Obstacles to Crossing the Discrimination Threshold: Connecting Individual Exclusion to Group-Based Inequalities (2018) 96 (1) Canadian Bar Review 1 (with Mary Louise Chabot). Link.

Jordan’s Principle: Reconciliation and the First Nations Child (2018) 26(4) Constitutional Forum 3. Link.

’Bread and Roses’: Economic Justice and Constitutional Rights (2015) 5 (1) Onati Socio-legal Series 225. Link

Institutional Inequality and the Dynamics of Courage (2013) 31(2) Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice 103. Link.

Inclusion, Voice and Process-based Constitutionalism (2013) Osgoode Hall L.J. 547. Link.

Mapping anti-discrimination law onto inequality at work: Expanding the meaning of equality in international labour law
Sheppard, C. (2012) 151 International Labour Review 1-19.

Reducing Group-based Inequality in a Legally Plural World
Sheppard, C. (2010), Working Paper, CRISE (Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity), Oxford University; published online, February 2010. LIEN .

Diversity, Dialogue and the Role of the State: Articulating the Values of Democratic Constitutionalism
Sheppard, C.  (2008) 2 Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law (Part 1) 99.

Pragmatic Feminism in the Work of Bertha Wilson
Sheppard, C. (2008), 41 Supreme Court L.R. (2d) 83; also published in Jamie Cameron ed. Reflections on the Legacy of Justice Bertha Wilson (Toronto: Lexis-Nexis, 2008-2009) 83-101.

Constitutional Recognition of Diversity in Canada
Sheppard, C. (2006), 30 Vermont Law Review 463.

Inclusive Equality and New Forms of Social Governance
Sheppard, C. (2004), 24 Supreme Court Law Review (2d) 1.

Intimacy, Rights and the Parent-Child Relationship: Rethinking Freedom of Association in Canada
Sheppard, C. (2004) 16 N.J.C.L. 101.

Narratives, Law and the Relational Context: Exploring Stories of Violence in Young Women’s Lives
Sheppard, C. and S. Westphal. (2000) 15 Wisconsin Women’s Law Journal 335.

Women as Wives: Immigration Law and Domestic Violence
Sheppard, C. (2000) 26 Queen’s Law Journal 1.

Equality Rights and Institutional Change: Insights from Canada and the United States
Sheppard, C. (1998) 15 Arizona Journal of International & Comparative Law 143.

Systemic Inequality and Workplace Culture: Challenging the Institutionalization of Sexual Harassment
Sheppard, C. (1995) 3 Canadian Labour and Employment Law Journal 249.

Uncomfortable Victories and Unanswered Questions: Lessons from Moge v. Moge
Sheppard, C. (1995) 12 Canadian Journal of Family Law 283.

Equity and the University: Learning from Women's Experience
Sheppard, C. and S. Westphal (1992) 5 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 5.

AIDS and Disability Employment Discrimination in and beyond the Classroom
Sheppard, C. and D.J. Jones (1989) 12 Dalhousie L. J. 103.

Book chapters

#MeToo Canada: Towards a Culture of Equality, in Ann Noel & David Oppenheimer, eds., The Global #MeToo Movement: How Social Media Propelled a Historic Movement and the Law Responded (Washington, DC: Full Court Press, 2020) 37-45. Link. 

Anti-Discrimination law in Canada and the Challenge of Effective Enforcement, in Marie Mercat-Bruns, David Oppenheimer & Cady Sartorious, eds., Enforcement and Effectiveness of Discrimination Law in a Global World (2018, Springer Press)

The Rule of Law as a Non-Discrimination Principle, in Janine Lespérance et al., eds., Canada and the Rule of Law: 150 Years after Confederation / Le Canada et la primauté du droit: 150 ans après la Confédération (Ottawa: International Commission of Jurists, 2017)

Inclusive equality and new approaches to discrimination in transnational labour law in Adelle Blackett & Anne Trebilcock eds., Research Handbook on Transnational Labour Law (Edward Elgar Publishing: 2015) 247-259

Three Ideas for Reimagining Law and Institutions in Richard Janda, Rosalie Jukier and Daniel Jutras (eds.) The Unbounded Level of the Mind – Rod Macdonald’s Legal Imagination (McGill-Queen’s University Press: 2015) 270-272

Systemic Discrimination and Gender Inequality: A Life-cycle Approach to Girls' and Women's Rights
in Errol P. Mendes & Sakunthala Srighanthan, eds. Confronting Discrimination and Inequality in China (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2009) 232-243.

Pragmatic Feminism in the Work of Bertha Wilson
in Jamie Cameron ed. Reflections on the Legacy of Justice Bertha Wilson (Toronto: Lexis-Nexis, 2008-2009) 83-101; also published in (2008), 41 Supreme Court L.R. (2d) 83

Individual accommodation versus institutional transformation: two paradigms for Reconciling paid work and family responsibilities
in Les 15 ans du Tribunal des droits de la personne et les 30 ans de la Charte des droits et libertés de la personne (Cowansville: Yvon Blais, 2005) 379-406.

Harcèlement en milieu de travail: Vers une approche systémique
in Droit à l’égalité et discrimination: aspects nouveaux (Cowansville, Québec: Éditions Y. Blais, 2002) 139-154.

Grounds of Discrimination: Towards an Inclusive and Contextual Approach
in Les 25 ans de la Charte québécoise (Yvon Blais, 2000) (also published in (2001) 80 Canadian Bar Review 893)

The Promise and Practice of Protecting Human Rights: Reflections on the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms
in N. Kasirer & R. MacDonald, eds., Mélanges Paul-André Crépeau, (Cowansville: Yvon Blais, 1997) 641-678.

Book reviews

Book Review of Jean-François Gaudreault-DesBiens & Diane Labrèche, Le contexte social du droit dans le Québec contemporain – L’intelligence culturelle dans la pratique des jurists (Éditions Yvon Blais 2009), (forthcoming, Canadian Journal of Law and Society)

Book Review of Robert J. Sharpe & Patricia I. McMahon, The Persons Case – The Origins and Legacy of the Fight for Legal Personhood, (2008) 53 McGill L.J. 367

Book Review of Lucie Lamarche, Perspectives occidentales du droit international des droits économiques de la personne (Editions Bruylant, Editions de l'Université de Bruxelles, 1995) (1996) 41 McGill L.J. 907

Reports & study papers

Colleen Sheppard, The principles of equality and non-discrimination, a comparative law perspective - Canada (Research European Parliament Research Service, November 2020). Link.

Indigenous Peoples in Canada: Understanding Divergent Conceptions of Reconciliation, Institute for the Study of International Development, ISID Aboriginal Policy Study Paper, No. 4, McGill University (March 2013). Link.

Indigenous Peoples and Residential Schools: Historical and Continuing Violations of Equality and Non-Discrimination, Internal Working Paper, prepared for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (May 2013)

Multiple Discrimination in the World of Work, Working Paper, International Labour Organization, Global Report on Equality at Work (August 2010). Link.

Rights, Respect and Dignity: Interface of Labour Standards and Human Rights Legislation. Research Report, prepared for the Federal Labour Standards Task Force (Chair: Harry Arthurs), (November 2005)

Systemic Discrimination and Equality at Work: Canadian Developments
Sheppard, C. Working Paper, Prepared for the Equality at Work: Concepts and Policy Responses in a Changing World, International Labour Organization, Technical Meeting of Country Experts, Geneva (June 2002).

Litigating the Relationship between Equality and Equity, Study Paper, Ontario Law Reform Commission, 1993 (cited by the Supreme Court of Canada in Lovelace v. Ontario, [2000] 1 S.C.R. 950). Link.

In the media

"Understanding how racism becomes systemic" Globe and Mail, 24 July 2020 (with Tamara Thermitus & Derek Jones). Link. 

“Comprendre la discrimination systémique” (with Kara Sheppard-Jones) Le Devoir, 13 September 2018 (op-ed). Link.

“Advancing Americans’ right to health” (with Derek Jones), The Globe and Mail, 29 June 2012 (op-ed). Link.

Back to top