UN Special Report on Parental Alienation and Implications for Canada

Date: Thursday, January 11 th , 11:00 – 1:00 PM ET  

Presenter: Reem Alsalem, UN Special Rapporteur  

Discussants: Youth with lived experience, Mary Birdsell, Nneka MacGregor, Simon Lapierre, and Suzanne Zaccour  

In April of 2023, UN Special Rapporteur Reem Alsalem released a report addressing the link between custody cases, violence against women and violence against children, with a focus on the abuse of the term “parental alienation”. In this report, she concludes that the discredited and unscientific concept of parental alienation is used in family law proceedings by abusers as a tool to continue their abuse and coercion, undermine and discredit allegations of domestic violence made by mothers who are trying to keep their children safe, and leads to decisions that violate the best interests of children. She makes a series of recommendations including: legislation to prohibit the use of parental alienation or related concepts  in family law cases; establishing regular monitoring mechanisms to oversee the effectiveness of family justice systems for victims of domestic abuse; ensuring mandatory training of the judiciary and other justice system professionals and requiring that no evaluations be made in family law proceedings without consideration of relevant criminal law and/or child protection proceedings. In this webinar, Ms. Alsalem will summarize the major findings and recommendations of her report. Her presentation will be followed by comments from youth with lived experience and a panel of respondents who will reflect on the relevance of these recommendations to Canada on steps that might be needed to implement change.  



Ms. Reem Alsalem was appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences in July 2021 by the UN Human Rights Council for a three-year tenure. She started her tenure on 1 August 2021.  

Reem Alsalem is an independent consultant on gender issues, the rights of refugees and migrants, transitional justice and humanitarian response. She has consulted extensively for United Nations departments, agencies and programmes such as UN-Women, OHCHR, UNICEF and IOM, as well as for non-governmental organizations, think tanks and academia. Previously, she worked as an international civil servant, serving with the UNHCR in thirteen countries. During her service, she has planned, implemented, and monitored programs that served to protect persons that were survivors of gender-based violence, particularly women and girls.  

She has also been a visiting professional with the Prosecutor’s Office of the ICC from January to March 2009 and a visiting researcher with the Feinstein International Center of Tufts University in December 2008. Visiting Professional, Investigation Unit of the Prosecutor Office, International Criminal Court, the Hague, the Netherlands, January 2009-March 2009.  

Reem has a Master’s in International Relations from the American University in Cairo, Egypt (2001) and a Masters in Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (2003).  


Nneka MacGregor  


Nneka MacGregor is a co-founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Centre for Social Justice, better known as WomenatthecentrE, a unique non-profit created by/for women, trans, and gender-diverse survivors of gender-based violence. A Black Intersectional abolitionist feminist, international speaker, and Transformative Justice practitioner, Nneka is an expert advisory panel member of the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability and sits on several Boards and committees, including the Federal Advisory Council on the Federal Strategy Against GBV. She co-founded the Black Femicide Canada Council, and her research focuses on sexual violence, and the intersection of strangulation, Traumatic Brain Injury and GBV. She received the 2019 PINK Concussions Award and the 2020 YWCA Women of Distinction Social Justice Award.  

Simon Lapierre  


Simon Lapierre, PhD, is a Full Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Ottawa, and a founding member of the Feminist Anti-Violence (FemAnVi) Research Collective. Dr Lapierre’s work has investigated women’s and children’s experiences and perspectives on domestic violence, with a focus on mothering and mother-child relationships in this context. His work has also investigated practices in domestic violence shelters, child protection services, family courts and the criminal justice system. His recent work has provided a critical perspective on ‘parental alienation’ discourses and its implications for women and children who have experienced violence.  

Mary Birdsell  


Mary Birdsell , is the Executive Director of Justice for Children and Youth (JFCY). Mary has been a lawyer at JFCY since she was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1996. She is one of Canada’s leading experts on children’s rights in a broad array of legal subjects; in particular, with expertise on the application of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children in domestic law. Mary has advocated on a range of youth justice issues at all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada. She is the Chair of the CBA Child and Youth Law section; a board member of A Way Home Canada; a member of the OBA’s Access to Justice committee; and many other committees and activities to advance the rights of children. She is co-author of Prosecuting and Defending Youth Criminal Justice Cases, 2d. ed., and has been the recipient of many awards and honours.  

Suzanne Zaccour   


Suzanne Zaccour (she/her) is the Director of Legal Affairs at the National Association of Women and the Law. She is a feminist author, researcher and public speaker who recently completed her doctoral degree at Oxford University. Her research interests include sexual and domestic violence, family law, animal rights, and gender and language, and she has published two articles about the use of parental alienation theory in legal cases in Quebec. Suzanne is the author of La fabrique du viol (Leméac 2019), a book in French about sexual violence and rape culture, and is finalizing her next book, called "Why feminists don't eat animals".  


Registration link: https://kh-cdc-ca.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_n7Mti6ofRM6QgVR7gX9ZAw#/registration