The Supreme Court Law Review: Osgoode’s Annual Constitutional Cases Conference

Article Title

What is Left of Pelech?


Robert Leckey


This paper takes Justice Wilson’s majority judgments in the Pelech v. Pelech trilogy (1987) as point of departure for an inquiry into the life over time of family law judgments and family law scholarship. It argues that it is worth attending to the ways in which the experience of critically reading those judgments today is different than it was at the time of their release. A contemporary rereading of the trilogy and of the sophisticated feminist literature critical of it shows the contingency of scholarly interventions. Subsequent developments in political economy, notably the intensified downloading of the state’s responsibility for the costs of social reproduction, have altered the context from which we read Justice Wilson’s views on the state’s duty to support former spouses. The privatization of the process for family dispute resolution contrasts with the privatization of the substantive duty to provide support denounced by scholars in the 1990s. Moreover, recent criticisms of the post-divorce family unit and efforts to make space for alternative family configurations lend a different resonance to Justice Wilson’s comments on the importance of valuing people’s intentions in terminating family relationships.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.