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Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Queen's University, Ontario

Dr Debra M Haak PhD (Queen's), MPhil (St Andrews), LLB (UNB), BA Hons (Western) is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Law at Queen's University where she teaches Criminal and Constitutional Law.

Debra's research is concerned with how law and policy contend with the different and at times divergent interests of individuals and groups in a diverse society. Differently situated individuals and groups increasingly make conflicting demands on the state, often framing those demands as rights claims. Legal decision makers, including judges and policy makers, make difficult choices between and among individuals and groups in a liberal and constitutional legal context. They increasingly rely on empirical and theoretical scholarship. Debra’s research considers whether and how the state does and ought to respond to and reconcile stakeholder demands, including how legal decision makers balance competing rights claims and use scholarly literature. Her PhD research focussed on the intractable debate over the role of law in the commercial exchange of sex. Her current research project - Sex in the Age of Gender - aims to bring conceptual clarity to human rights protections based on sex and those based on gender. Her research has been published in the UBC Law Review, the Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues, the Queen's Law Journal, the Supreme Court Law Review, The Globe & Mail, National Post, Ottawa Citizen and in other print media and online publications across Canada.

Debra practiced commercial and insolvency litigation at Gowlings (formerly Smith Lyons) in Toronto for 20 years, and appeared regularly before all levels of court in Ontario. She spent one court year at the Inns of Court in London, England, as the recipient of the prestigious Harold G Fox Foundation Scholarship. She marshaled for The Hon Mr. Justice John Thomas (later Baron Thomas of Cwmgiedd, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales).


  • 2020–present
    Assistant Professor, Queen's University, Canada
  • 2020–2021
    Postdoctoral Fellow, Queen's University, Canada
  • 2016–2020
    Adjunct Professor/Visiting Scholar, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Canada
  • 2015–2019
    Teaching Fellow, Queen's University, Canada
  • 1993–2016
    Partner/Associate, Gowling WLG


  • 2019 
    Queen's University, PhD
  • 1996 
    Law Society of Upper Canada, Called to the Ontario Bar
  • 1995 
    University of New Brunswick, LLB
  • 1993 
    University of St Andrews, MPhil
  • 1990 
    University of Western Ontario, BA (Hons)


  • 2024
    Two Different Conceptions of Equality: Assessing the Constitutionality of Commercial Sex Laws in Canada” Supreme Court Law Review, Supreme Court Law Review
  • 2023
    Revisiting the Analytical Distinction Between Section 7 and Section 1 of the Charter: Legislative Objectives, Policy Goals, and Public Interests, 112 Supreme Court Law Review 115
  • 2022
    The Case of the Reasonable Hypothetical Sex Worker, 60:1 Alberta LR
  • 2021
    The Good Governance of Empirical Evidence About Prostitution, Sex Work, and Sex Trafficking in Constitutional Litigation, 46:2 Queen's LJ 187
  • 2019
    Re(De)fining Prostitution and Sex Work: Conceptual Clarity for Legal Thinking, 40 Windsor Rev Leg Soc Issues 67
  • 2017
    The Initial Test of Constitutional Validity: Identifying the Legislative Objectives of Canada's New Prostitution Laws, 50:3 UBC L Rev 657

Grants and Contracts

  • 2023
    Sex in the Age of Gender
    Funding Source:
    Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
  • 2023
    Sex in the Age of Gender
    Funding Source:
    Canadian Bar Association