Added: March 7, 2015 – Last updated: November 7, 2015


Speaker: Constance Backhouse

Title: Canada's First Capital "L" Lesbian Sexual Assault Trial

Subtitle: Yellowknife, 1955

Conference: Joint Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association and the Canadian Law and Society Association: Les Territoires du Droit; Placing Law (May 29 - June 1, 2008)

Session: Beyond Critique 4: Unsettled Subjects

Place: Montreal, Canada

Date: May 30, 2008

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century | American History: Canadian History | Cases: Offenders / Willimae Moore; Offenders: Women; Types: Sexual Assault


Link: -


Speaker: Constance Backhouse, Faculty of Law - Common Law Section, University of OttawaSpeaker's Personal Website, ResearchGate Wikipedia

Abstract: »In 1955, Willimae Moore was charged with indecently assaulting a woman with whom she worked in the typing pool of a government office in Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories. Willimae Moore's prosecution appears to have been the first lesbian criminal trial in Canada. The sexual overture, an attempted kiss, was almost laughably trifling in comparison with the sexual acts of men typically accused of indecently assaulting women. However, the apprehensions of the Cold War era played out in unusual ways in the sexually-charged environment of the far north. Zealously prosecuted, the case resulted in a conviction at trial, but divided the appellate court, which wrestled with the concepts of coercion and consent as they affected sexual assault victims, and how rules shaped for male assailants and female victims should be applied in same-sex situations. Astonished legal authorities struggled with the definitions of 'homosexuality' and 'lesbianism,' as they sifted through the remarkable testimony of the alleged victim, the accused, and Willimae Moore's illustrious traveling companion, Beatrice Gonzales. The third woman in the triangle, Beatrice Gonazles orchestrated Willimae Moore's defence and jousted with government managers, the RCMP, and lawyers as she insisted upon the innocence of her friend. The case provides an excellent venue for examining ways in which female sexuality was negotiated in the workplace, the plight of lesbians in Cold War culture, and the role of the state in enforcing female heterosexual conformity through criminal law.« (Source: All Academic)

Publication: Backhouse, Constance. Carnal Crimes: Sexual Assault Law in Canada, 1900-1975. Toronto 2008: Chapter 8.

Wikipedia: History of the Americas: History of Canada / History of Canada (1945–60) | Types of rape: Sexual assault