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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Baker, William Osgoode's Marginalia on reception of Imperial Law on SSRN

Posted on SSRN, forthcoming in the Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Blaine Baker ,
"Musings and Silences of Chief Justice William Osgoode: Digest Marginalia about the Reception of Imperial Law":
This essay focuses on musings and silences in the margins of Canadian Chief Justice William Osgoode's late-eighteenth-century law library, to understand the role he assigned to Westminster-based imperial law in the transmission of 'British justice' to the colonies. It concludes that role was limited, mostly by Osgoode's greater commitment of time and energy to legislative and executive branches of government than to the judiciary, and by his sometimes cavalier impatience with English courts and legal commentators.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Osgoode Society Legal History Workshop Schedule--Fall term, 2017


All sessions will be held in the Jackman Building, U of T Faculty of Law, Room 219, at 6.30 pm. The exception is the September 27th session – see below.

Wednesday September 13: Christopher Moore, Independent Historian: “Federalism, Free Trade within Canada, and The British North America Act, s.121”

Wednesday September 27: Special Law Society of Upper Canada Event – Lawyers and Canada at 150. This will take place at the Donald Lamont Learning Centre, Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, from 3.00-6.00, with a reception to follow 6 – 7.30, in Convocation Hall at Osgoode Hall. The programme is reproduced below. The event is free but you are asked to register.

Wednesday October 4:  Jim Phillips, University of Toronto: “Squatting and the Rights of Property in British North America”

Wednesday October 18: Ian Kyer, Independent Historian, “The Ontario Bond Scandal of 1923 Revisited”

Wednesday November 1 – Constance Backhouse, University of Ottawa: “Claire L’Heureux-Dubé.”

NOTE: The Osgoode Society 2017 Annual Book Launch will take place on Thursday, November 2. 

Wednesday November 15 – Philip Girard, Osgoode Hall Law School, "Two Cheers for the Constitutional Act of 1791."

Wednesday November 29 - Nick Rogers, York University: " 'Strumpet hot bitch!' Defamation Suits before Bristol's Bawdy Court, 1720-1790."

Details of September 27 Event
The Law Society will mark Canada’s 150th birthday with a special event highlighting the role of lawyers in making the Constitution and in the development of the inclusive society we are committed to building.
Panel 1: The first panel will speak to the role of lawyers in the making of the Constitution in 1867 and beyond.
Moderator: Professor Jim Phillips, University of Toronto
Christopher Moore, award winning author and historian, will discuss the confederation debates over the division of powers.
The Honourable Robert Sharpe of the Ontario Court of Appeal will assess the origins and significance of thePersons Case.
Eric Adams of the University of Alberta will examine the career and ideas of lawyer and political activist Frank (F.R.) Scott.
Leading constitutional litigator Mary Eberts will revisit the drafting of section 15 of the Charter, in which she played an instrumental role.
Panel 2: The second panel will examine the careers of visionary lawyers who, from the causes they pursued and the careers they built, were ahead of their time.
Moderator: Professor Philip Girard, Osgoode Hall Law School
Hamar Foster of the University of Victoria will discuss the early lawyers who represented British Columbia’s Indigenous peoples in the struggle for recognition of their land rights.
Barrington Walker of Queen’s University will talk about the struggles and triumphs of Delos Rogest Davis, the son of an escaped slave who was the second African-Canadian called to the Bar in Ontario, in 1886.
Laurel Sefton McDowell of the University of Toronto looks at labour activist, civil libertarian and lawyer Jacob Laurence (J.L.) Cohen, the most influential labour lawyer of the turbulent 1930s.
Constance Backhouse of the University of Ottawa will discuss the ways in which women have contributed to the legal profession from Clara Brett Martin’s first entry in 1897 and beyond.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

LSUC presents Lawyers and Canada at 150, Sept. 27

lawyers-canada-150-bilingualMark your calendars--
The Law Society of Upper Canada will present

Lawyers and Canada at 150
on September 27, 2017 from 3 to 6 pm, at Osgoode Hall, Toronto, followed by a reception 6 to 730 pm.

Note that this is a free event, but space is limited: RSVP required.

Moderator: Professor Jim Phillips, University of Toronto
Christopher Moore, award winning author and historian, will discuss the confederation debates over the division of powers.
The Honourable Robert Sharpe of the Ontario Court of Appeal will assess the origins and significance of the Persons Case.
Eric Adams of the University of Alberta will examine the career and ideas of lawyer and political activist Frank (F.R.) Scott.
Leading constitutional litigator Mary Eberts will revisit the drafting of section 15 of the Charter, in which she played an instrumental role.
Hamar Foster of the University of Victoria will discuss the early lawyers who represented British Columbia’s Indigenous peoples in the struggle for recognition of their land rights.
Barrington Walker of Queen’s University will talk about the struggles and triumphs of Delos Rogest Davis, the son of an escaped slave who was the second African-Canadian called to the Bar in Ontario, in 1886.
Laurel Sefton McDowell of the University of Toronto looks at labour activist, civil libertarian and lawyer Jacob Laurence (J.L.) Cohen, the most influential labour lawyer of the turbulent 1930s.
Constance Backhouse of the University of Ottawa will discuss the ways in which women have contributed to the legal profession from Clara Brett Martin’s first entry in 1897 and beyond.
Reception: 6 to 7:30 p.m.
The Law Society of Upper Canada
130 Queen Street West
Donald Lamont Learning Centre followed by a reception in Convocation Hall
This program is also available via simultaneous webcast.
Les avocats et le Canada à l’heure du 150e 
Christopher Moore, auteur et historien primé, parlera des débats autour de la division des pouvoirs dans la Confédération.
L’honorable Robert Sharpe de la Cour d’appel de l’Ontario évaluera les origines et l’importance de l’affaire « personne ».
Eric Adams de l’Université de l’Alberta examinera la carrière et les idées de l’avocat et militant politique Frank (F.R.) Scott.
La plaideuse constitutionnelle renommée Mary Eberts revisitera la rédaction de l’article 15 de la Charte, dans laquelle elle a joué un rôle déterminant.
Hamar Foster de l’Université de Victoria parlera des premiers avocats qui ont représenté les peuples autochtones de la Colombie-Britannique dans leur lutte pour la reconnaissance de leurs droits territoriaux.
Barrington Walker de l’Université Queen’s parlera des luttes et des triomphes de Delos Rogest Davis, le fils d’un esclave en fuite qui était le deuxième Afro-Canadien admis au barreau en Ontario, en 1886.
Laurel Sefton McDowell de l’Université de Toronto analyse le militant syndical, défenseur des libertés civiles et avocat Jacob Laurence (J.L.) Cohen, l’avocat syndical le plus influent à l’époque turbulente des années 1930.
Constance Backhouse de l’Université d’Ottawa parlera des façons dont les femmes ont contribué à la profession juridique depuis la première entrée de Clara Brett Martin en 1897 et après.
Réception : 18 h à 19 h 30
130, rue Queen Ouest, Toronto (Ontario)
Centre Donald Lamont
Une réception suivra dans la Grande Salle
Ce programme est également disponible par webémission simultanée.
The second panel will examine the careers of visionary lawyers who, from the causes they pursued and the careers they built, were ahead of their time.
Moderator: Professor Philip Girard, Osgoode Hall Law School
September 27 2017
Program: 3 to 6 p.m.
CPD Hours: 3 Substantive
Photographs and video taken at this public event will be used in Law Society and partner organization print and online publications.
Le Barreau célèbrera le 150e anniversaire du Canada avec un évènement spécial soulignant le rôle des avocats dans la Constitution et dans le développement d’une société inclusive en laquelle nous croyons.
Le premier panel parlera du rôle les avocats dans la Constitution en 1867 et au-delà.
Modérateur : Professeur Jim Phillips, Université de Toronto
Le deuxième panel examinera la carrière des avocats visionnaires qui, depuis les causes qu’ils ont défendues jusqu’aux carrières qu’ils se sont bâties, étaient en avance sur leur époque.
Modérateur : Professeur Philip Girard, Faculté de droit d’Osgoode Hall
27 septembre 2017
Programme : 15 h à 18 h
Barreau du Haut-Canada
Heures de FPC : 3 h de droit de fond
Cet évènement public est gratuit, mais les places sont limitées. Pour vous inscrire, veuillez cliquer ici.
Les photographies et les vidéos prises à cet évènement public seront utilisées dans les publications en ligne et imprimées du Barreau et de l’organisation partenaire.

Call for presenters: Osgoode Society Legal History Workshop

The Osgoode Society holds an evening workshop at U of T  more-or-less fortnightly during the academic year for legal historians (broadly defined) to present their work-in-progress for constructive, friendly feedback.

Jim Phillips is inviting expressions of interest for 2017-18. If you are interested in presenting your work, would like to be on the distribution list to receive papers, or just have questions, please email him at

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Roberts and Reid, Aboriginal Incarceration in Canada since 1978

AnRelated information

* Please direct correspondence to Julian V. Roberts, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford, Manor Road Building, Manor Road, Oxford OX1 3UQ; 
University of Oxford

Julian Roberts and Andrew A. Reid have an article, "Aboriginal Incarceration in Canada since 1978: Every Picture Tells the Same Story" in the latest issue of Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice  that may be of interest to legal historians.


Sentencing in Canada is beset by many problems, yet one weakness stands above the rest: the disproportionately high rates of Aboriginal incarceration. This article documents current and historical trends in levels of Aboriginal incarceration at the provincial/territorial and federal levels since 1978. We pay particular attention to the years following two important Supreme Court judgements (in 1999 and 2012) that directed the courts to use custody with greater restraint when sentencing an Aboriginal offender. The primary data derive from the annual Adult Correctional Services survey conducted by Statistics Canada. In 2014, Aboriginal persons accounted for just over one quarter of all provincial and territorial admissions, significantly higher than the percentage recorded in 1978 (16%). In fact, over the past 20 years, all jurisdictions save one have experienced an increase in the percentage of Aboriginal admissions to provincial and territorial correctional institutions. Despite judgements from the Supreme Court and provincial courts of appeal, as well as several other remedial interventions, such as the creation of so-called Gladue courts and an alternate form of custody that would be served in the community, the problem of Aboriginal over-incarceration has worsened, not improved.

Au Canada, la détermination de la peine comporte de nombreux problèmes, mais un point faible se démarque : le très haut taux d'incarcération chez les Autochtones. Cet article documente les tendances actuelles et historiques des taux d'incarcérations des Autochtones aux niveaux provincial/territorial et fédéral depuis 1978. Nous nous attardons particulièrement aux années qui ont suivies deux jugements importants de la Cour suprême (en 1999 et 2012) qui a ordonné les cours de faire preuve de plus grande retenue quand venait le temps de déterminer la peine de détenus autochtones. Les données primaires viennent de l'enquête sur les Services correctionnels pour adultes réalisée par Statistiques Canada. En 2014, les personnes autochtones formaient un peu plus d'un quart de toutes les incarcérations provinciales et territoriales, une hausse importante depuis le pourcentage noté en 1978 (16 %). En fait, au cours des 20 dernières années, toutes les juridictions sauf une ont noté une augmentation du pourcentage d'incarcérations d'Autochtones dans les établissements correctionnels provinciaux et territoriaux. Malgré les jugements de la Cour suprême et des cours d'appel provinciales, ainsi que plusieurs autres interventions de rééducation, notamment la création de tribunaux dits Gladue et une forme alternative de détention passée dans la communauté, le problème de la surincarcération des Autochtones s'est empiré au lieu de s'améliorer.

Prize winners announced at Osgoode Society AGM

Congratulations to Jason Hall and Dennis Molinaro!

Jason Hall, who has just completed his PHD at the University of New Brunswick, is the winner of the Peter Oliver Prize for best published student writing, for his article "High Freshets and Low-Lying Farms: Property Law and St. John River Flooding in Colonial New Brunswick", published in volume 39 of the Dalhouse Law Journal.

Dennis Molinaro, also a recent PHD, currently teaching at Trent University, was awarded the McMurtry Fellowship in Canadian legal history.

Dennis is the author of An Exceptional Law: Section 98 and the Emergency State, 1919-1936, one of the Osgoode Society's books for 2016. 

To become a member of the Osgoode Society, or learn more about the Society and our work, visit our website.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Supreme Court of Canada and Library and Archives Canada sign agreement on transfer, preservation and access to case files

Very good news for legal and constitutional historians: by a press release dated June 9th, Library and Archives Canada and the SCC announced access to the case files of SCC cases older than 50 years (h/t Trish McMahon).

Ottawa, Ontario, June 9, 2017 — Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) are pleased to announce an agreement that will ensure that the case files of Canada’s highest court will be preserved and accessible to future generations.

Under the agreement, the SCC will transfer ownership to LAC of its case files older than 50 years. This will bring many historical SCC case files under LAC’s control, where they can be preserved and used for research purposes.

Among the cases covered by the agreement are:
         Roncarelli v. Duplessis, a landmark 1959 ruling on the rule of law involving the Premier of Quebec;
         the Margarine Reference which outlined the proper exercise of the criminal law power under the Canadian Constitution; and
         several matters decided in the aftermath of the enactment of the Canadian Bill of Rights in August 1960.

The LAC-SCC agreement also means that certain categories of the Court’s judicial information, such as the Collegial files of the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada, will become accessible to the public 50 years after a case file has been closed, thereby providing insights into the inner deliberations of the Court. 

The SCC will continue to control its active case files and closed files until 50 years after a judgment has been rendered. 


“On behalf of the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada, I am very proud of this important milestone in the preservation of the Court’s historical records. I wish to thank all who played a role in this matter for their untiring efforts to arrive at this important agreement which will add to our country’s institutional memory.”
Roger Bilodeau, Q.C., Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada

“Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is very pleased to be adding an important part of the country’s judicial and legal history to its collection. The Supreme Court of Canada has played a key role in making Canada the just and equitable society that we all enjoy today, and it is with much pride that LAC will help preserve and share that legacy.  ”
Dr. Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada, Library and Archives Canada

For more information, please contact:

Gib van Ert
Executive Legal Officer
Supreme Court of Canada

Richard Provencher
Media Relations
Library and Archives Canada

About the Supreme Court of Canada
The Supreme Court of Canada is Canada's final court of appeal. It serves Canadians by deciding legal issues of public importance, thereby contributing to the development of all branches of law applicable within Canada.

About Library and Archives Canada
The mandate of Library and Archives Canada is to preserve the documentary heritage of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations, and to be a source of enduring knowledge accessible to all, thereby contributing to the cultural, social and economic advancement of Canada. Library and Archives Canada also facilitates co-operation among communities involved in the acquisition, preservation and diffusion of knowledge, and serves as the continuing memory of the Government of Canada and its institutions. Stay connected with Library and Archives Canada on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube.


La Cour suprême du Canada et Bibliothèque et Archives Canada
signent une entente sur le transfert et la conservation des dossiers d’instance de même que sur l’accès à ces dossiers

Pour diffusion immédiate

Ottawa (Ontario), le 9 juin 2017 — Bibliothèque et Archives Canada (BAC) et le Bureau du registraire de la Cour suprême du Canada (CSC) sont heureux d’annoncer la conclusion d’une entente qui garantira la conservation des dossiers d’instance du plus haut tribunal du pays et la possibilité pour les générations futures d’y avoir accès.

Selon l’entente, la CSC cèdera à BAC la propriété de ses dossiers d’instance de plus de 50 ans. Un grand nombre de dossiers d’instance historiques de la CSC passeront ainsi entre les mains de BAC, où ils pourront être conservés et consultés à des fins de recherche.

Parmi les dossiers visés par l’accord, mentionnons :
         Roncarelli c. Duplessis, un arrêt célèbre de 1959 sur la primauté du droit impliquant le premier ministre du Québec;
         Le Renvoi sur la margarine, où la Cour a décrit l’exercice légitime de la compétence en droit criminel au regard de la Constitution canadienne;
         Plusieurs arrêts rendus dans la foulée de l’adoption de la Déclaration canadienne des droits en août 1960.

L’entente intervenue entre BAC et la CSC signifie également que certaines catégories de renseignements judiciaires de la Cour, tels que les dossiers collégiaux des juges de la Cour suprême du Canada, seront mises à la disposition du public 50 ans après la fermeture d’un dossier d’instance, ce qui fournira des éclaircissements sur les délibérations à huis clos de la Cour. 

La CSC conservera la mainmise sur ses dossiers d’instance actifs et dossiers fermés durant les 50 années qui suivent le prononcé d’un jugement. 


« Au nom du Bureau du registraire de la Cour suprême du Canada, je suis très fier de ce jalon important dans la conservation des dossiers historiques de la Cour. Je tiens à remercier tous ceux et celles ayant joué un rôle dans cette entreprise des efforts sans relâche qu’ils ont consentis pour parvenir à cette entente d’importance qui contribuera à la mémoire institutionnelle de notre pays. »
Roger Bilodeau, c.r., registraire de la Cour suprême du Canada

« Bibliothèque et Archives Canada (BAC) est très heureux d’enrichir sa collection de ces éléments importants de l’histoire juridique et légale du pays. La Cour suprême du Canada a joué un rôle prépondérant dans l’édification de la société juste et équitable qu’est le Canada d’aujourd’hui. C’est donc avec grande fierté que BAC participera à la préservation et à la diffusion de cet héritage. »
Guy Berthiaume, bibliothécaire et archiviste du Canada, Bibliothèque et Archives Canada

Pour de plus amples renseignements, veuillez communiquer avec :

Gib van Ert
Conseiller juridique principal
Cour suprême du Canada

Richard Provencher
Relations avec les médias
Bibliothèque et Archives Canada

À propos de la Cour suprême du Canada
La Cour suprême du Canada est la juridiction d’appel de dernier ressort du pays. Elle sert les Canadiens en tranchant des questions de droit d’importance pour le public, contribuant ainsi à l’évolution de toutes les branches du droit au Canada. 

À propos de Bibliothèque et Archives Canada
Le mandat de Bibliothèque et Archives Canada consiste à préserver le patrimoine documentaire du Canada pour les générations présentes et futures, et à être une source de savoir permanent accessible à tous, contribuant ainsi à l’épanouissement culturel, social et économique du Canada. Bibliothèque et Archives Canada facilite également la concertation des divers milieux intéressés à l’acquisition, à la préservation et à la diffusion du savoir, en plus d’être la mémoire permanente de l’administration fédérale et de ses institutions. Restez branchés avec Bibliothèque et Archives Canada sur Twitter, Facebook, Flickr et YouTube.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Adams and Stanger-Ross on WWW Japanese-Canadian internment on SSRN

Eric Adams of the University of Alberta and Jordan Stanger-Ross of the University of Victoria have posted 

"Promises of Law: The Unlawful Dispossession of Japanese Canadians" on SSRN

The article will appear in vol.54 (3) of the Osgoode Hall Law Journal.


This article is about the origins, betrayal, and litigation of a promise of law. In 1942, while it ordered the internment of twenty-one thousand Canadians of Japanese descent, the Canadian government enacted Orders in Council authorizing the Custodian of Enemy Property to seize all real and personal property owned by Japanese Canadians living within coastal British Columbia. Demands from the Japanese-Canadian community and concern from within the corridors of government resulted in amendments to those orders which made clear that the Custodian held that property as a “protective” trust, and would return it to Japanese Canadians at the conclusion of the war. That is not what happened. In January 1943, a new order in council authorized the sale of all property seized from Japanese Canadians. The trust abandoned, a promise broken, the Custodian sold everything it had taken. This article traces the promise to protect property from its origins in the federal bureaucracy and demands on the streets to its demise in Nakashima v Canada, the Exchequer Court decision that held that the legal promise carried no legal consequence. We argue that the failure of the promise should not obscure its history as a product of multi-vocal processes, community activism, conflicting wartime pressures, and competing conceptions of citizenship, legality, and justice. Drawing from a rich array of archival research, our article places the legacy of the property loss of Japanese Canadians at the disjuncture between law as a blunt instrument capable of gross injustice and its role as a social institution of good faith.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Research Colloquium for grad students in legal history (with funding possibility!)

The American Society for Legal History will host a Student Research Colloquium (SRC) on Wednesday, October 25, and Thursday, October 26, 2017, immediately preceding the ASLH’s annual meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada. The SRC enables a small number of Ph.D. students and law students to discuss their in-progress dissertations and law review articles with distinguished ASLH-affiliated scholars.
The SRC’s target audience includes early-post-coursework graduate students and historically minded law students. The colloquium seeks to introduce such students to legal history, to each other, to the ASLH, and to the legal-historical scholarly community generally. Students working in all chronological and geographical fields are encouraged to apply, as are students whose projects engage legal-historical themes but who have not yet received any formal training in legal history. Applicants who have not had an opportunity to present their work at ASLH annual meetings or who have not otherwise had an opportunity to discuss their work with legal historians are particularly encouraged to apply. A student may be on the program for the annual meeting and participate in the SRC in the same year.
Each participating student will pre-circulate a twenty-page, double-spaced, footnoted paper to the entire group. The group will discuss these papers at the colloquium, under the guidance of two faculty directors. The ASLH will provide at least partial and, in most cases, total reimbursement for travel, hotel, and conference-registration costs.
The application deadline is July 15, 2017. Applicants should submit:
* a cover letter;
* a CV;
* a two-page, single-spaced “research statement,” describing an in-progress project; and
* a letter of recommendation from a faculty member, sent separately from, or together with, the other materials.
Organizers will notify all applicants of their decisions by August 15, 2017. Please direct questions and applications to John Wertheimer at jowertheimer [at] 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

CFP: Two day seminar in Cambridge on legal history and empire across centuries

via Ed Cavanagh:

This is a general call for papers in anticipation of an intimate two-day seminar to be held at the University of Cambridge on Friday 23rd March and Saturday 24th March, 2018. This will be an advanced workshop, with drafts circulated in advance. The event will showcase a number of rare and searching attempts to identify continuities and differences across ancient, medieval, and modern legal and imperial contexts. This moves back towards Braudel while also tailing in the direction of all that heat left by David Armitage and Jo Guildi’s fiery interventions in The History Manifesto, which calls for newly ambitious historical studies to break from long-set moulds. Empire lends itself naturally to explorations of this kind using large time-frames. Not only is this due to the endurance of many empires across centuries, but this also owes to the presence (and comparability) of empires within different periods. Legal source materials are helpful for facilitating this kind of approach, whether relating to private law events or the public nature of imperium. In the right hands, legal texts, court records, official opinions, drafted constitutions and acts, along with the correspondences and commentaries relating thereto can push us to contemplate a number of bold conclusions about economics, politics, society, religiosity, and humanity in general.

Abstracts of proposals (between 200 and 500 words) will be accepted until July 31st, 2017, at PhD students and postdoctoral scholars are encouraged to include a CV with their proposal. Your proposal will be especially welcome if you anticipate to be able to share work according to the following guidelines:

  1. It will extend across at least three centuries OR will otherwise offer an original reinterpretation of a more focused period with the explicit goal to allow for new studies across periodizations;
  2. It will cover any period from Ancient Greece to the present day (900 BC — 2017 AD), with preference, however, shown for the period between the latter Roman Empire and the interwar period (500 AD – 1939 AD);
  3. It will explore a historical topic relevant to law (broadly encompassing legal thought, legal process, public law, private law, and constitutionalism) OR empire (pertaining either to specific imperial regimes or to imperium as synonym for public authority, sovereignty, authority), with preference shown to approaches that consider BOTH;
  4. It will be laid out in a thematic or chronological narrative style, or otherwise in case studies unified appropriately in conclusion.

For enquiries and submissions, please contact Dr Edward Cavanagh, at

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Petition regarding secret Government of Canada Archives

Via Osgoode Society author Dennis Molinaro:

It has come to the attention of the public that the Canadian government over the course of decades has amassed large quantities of historical documents, numbering in the millions, and has kept this material in several different areas linked to institutions such as the Privy Council Office, Global Affairs, the Department of Justice and others. The holdings of the government have been kept secret. A petition has been created and is available to sign electronically on the e-petition government website. It is petition number e-1090. The petition calls on the government to transfer all historical material to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) as well as to reform the Access to Information Act to ensure historical material is regularly transferred to the archives, as well as enabling transparent citizen access to documents. The LAC Act anticipates the direct transfer of material from government departments, institutions and agencies to the National Archivist and, therefore, the practice of holding back such transfers thwarts the spirit and letter of the Act and undermines the role of LAC as a central repository for the documentary heritage of Canada.

Monday, May 8, 2017

U of T library online exhibit: Pierson v. Post judgment roll

The policy of this blog has been to post on Canadian legal history, rather than legal history written by Canadians. I have made a few exceptions, and here is an exceptionally worthy one. (Beside which, Pierson v. Post has been taught in Canadian as well as American classrooms, although it is very much an American case.)

fc4ab5a71c1423bea6189e30cc0670b1.jpgAngela Fernandez of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, a notable Pierson v. Post scholar, has arranged an online library exhibit of the judgment roll.

The exhibit includes a short piece by Angela on the context of the judgment, and reproduces the twenty pages of the judgment roll in PDF format.

Here's the description of the exhibit:

Pierson v. Post has been made famous by its use in American property law classrooms since the 1950s. It is often the first case law students study in property as it provides an introduction to the concept of first possession and how one acquires possession in a wild animal, the fox, owned by no one. 

The case report reproduced in law school casebooks was created by New York’s first official law reporter George Caines after the case was argued by eminent counsel and reversed in Pierson’s favor at the New York Supreme Court. What law students generally read is a brief statement of the facts, followed the majority decision by Justice Daniel Tompkins and a dissent by Justice Brockholst Livingston. 

The Judgment Roll is a copy — probably made by the clerk of Pierson’s lawyer Nathan Sanford — of the documents Sanford filed in his writ of certiorari to the New York Supreme Court. This was a process in which the loser before a Justice of the Peace could appeal the decision by asking for the New York Supreme Court to command that the Justice of the Peace explain what had been done before him in the magistrate’s court, in this case a jury trial held at Post’s request on December 30, 1802, for their review. It was the job of the New York Supreme Court to check, yes, all the ‘i’s were dotted and ‘t’s were crossed in the magistrate’s proceedings and if they were not, Pierson (the “now plaintiff” before the New York Supreme Court) was justified in winning a reversal of the jury’s 75¢ award for Post and his $5 in costs. The Judgment Roll also includes the command to Justice of the Peace John N. Fordham to return the documentation, Sanford’s six specific grounds of appeal, as well as the words the New York Supreme Court used in order to hold the case over from year to year until it was ultimately decided in Pierson’s favor on September 10, 1805. Sanford then filed this copy of all of the documents (those provided by Fordham, his own, and the New York Supreme Court) as the “Record” in the case on the same day.
This judgment roll was found by University of Toronto law professor and legal historian Angela Fernandez at the Division of Old Records, New York County Clerk’s Office in New York City in May 2007.
Each page of the judgment roll is reproduced with an accompanying transcript prepared by Professor Fernandez.
It has subsequently disappeared but a dataset was created to preserve the images and make them publicly available. You can find it here. A transcript of the Judgment Roll is also available as an appendix in Angela Fernandez, Pierson v. Post, the Hunt for the Fox: Law and Professionalization in American Legal Culture (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017).
Running Fox by Paul de Vos, courtesy of Museo Nacional del Prado.

See also related articles through the U of T Dataverse accessible here.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Thomas McMahon, 'We Must Teach the Indian What Laws Are': The Laws of Indian Residential Schools in Canada on SSRN

Thomas L. McMahon has posted 'We Must Teach the Indian What Law Is': The Laws of Indian Residential Schools in Canada (April 18, 2017) on SSRN. 

Here's the abstract:

This paper provides a chronological sequence of the laws that were used to create and enforce Indian Residential Schools in Canada. The paper provides extensive excerpts from the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The excerpts are chosen based on how directly they are related to law, and the excerpts are re-organized to be presented in a chronological manner. The table of contents of the paper can serve as a time line of the laws that created and enforced and ended Indian Residential Schools. Other sources are also cited.

This paper is one of series written by the author in attempting to understand and explain why it was nearly impossible for indigenous peoples to use the legal system to protect themselves or obtain compensation for the abuses they suffered in the residential schools until well into the 1990s.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Hot Docs honours 35th anniversary of the Charter with free event, April 29th

Hot Docs is honouring the 35th anniversary of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms with a very special event.

The Charter at 35
On Saturday, April 29, we invite you to join former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Mr. Ian Binnie and Maclean’s Ottawa Bureau Chief John Geddes for an invigorating conversation about Canada’s Charter and how it impacts pressing issues facing Canadians today.  The discussion will be followed by an exclusive sneak peek of In the Name of All Canadians, Hot Docs’ feature compilation of short films about the Charter, funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.

Tickets: FREE
Date: Sat, Apr 29, 1:00 PM

Deadline extended for Osgoode Society awards to May 7

The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History administers three awards: John T. Saywell Prize for Canadian Constitutional Legal History, R. Roy McMurtry Fellowship in Canadian Legal History, and the Peter Oliver Prize for Published Student writing in Canadian Legal History . We invite nominations and applications for each of these. The original deadline for each was April 30, 2017, but we have extended that to May 7, 2017.
John T. Saywell Prize for Canadian Constitutional Legal History
The Saywell Prize is given bi-annually to the best new book in Canadian legal history, broadly defined, that makes an important contribution to an understanding of the constitution and/or federalism. In exceptional circumstances, the jury could also consider a seminal article or series of articles, some of the latter not written in the two-year period, to satisfy the objectives of the award.
Jack Saywell died in April 2011, still working on the history of federalism. His family has requested that any donations be made to the Saywell Prize or another charity of the donor’s choice. Those wishing to donate to the prize may do by sending a cheque to The Osgoode Society, Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, Toronto M5H 2N6. Cheques should be made payable to the Society and marked as contributions to the Saywell Prize. For further information please contact the Society at
The Saywell Prize will next be awarded in 2017, for a book published in 2015 or 2016. Publishers or others who wish to nominate a book for the Saywell Prize in 2017 should send three copies of the book to: The Osgoode Society, Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, Toronto, M5H 2N6. The deadline for nominations for 2017 is May 7, 2017.
R. Roy McMurtry Fellowship in Legal History
The R. Roy McMurtry Fellowship in Legal History was created in 2007, on the occasion of the retirement as Chief Justice of Ontario of the Hon. R. Roy McMurtry. It honours the contribution to Canadian legal history of Roy McMurtry, formerly both Attorney-General and Chief Justice of Ontario, founder of the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History and for many years the Society’s President.
The fellowship was established by Chief Justice McMurtry’s friends and colleagues, and endowed by private donations and the Law Foundation of Ontario.
The fellowship is to support graduate (preferably doctoral) students or those with a recently completed doctorate, to conduct research in Canadian legal history, for one year. Scholars working on any topic in the field of Canadian legal history are eligible. Applicants should be in a graduate programme at an Ontario University or, if they have a completed doctorate, be affiliated with an Ontario University.
The fellowship may be held concurrently with other awards for graduate study. Eligibility is not limited to history and law programmes; persons in cognate disciplines such as criminology or political science may apply, provided the subject of the research they will conduct as a McMurtry fellow is Canadian legal history. The selection committee may take financial need into consideration. Applications will be assessed by a committee appointed by the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History.
Those interested in the 2017 fellowship should apply by sending a full c.v. and a statement of the research they would conduct as a McMurtry fellow to Amanda Campbell, McMurtry Fellowship Selection Committee, Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, Toronto, M5H 2N6, The deadline for applications is May 7, 2017.

Peter Oliver Prize in Canadian Legal History
The Peter Oliver Prize in Canadian Legal History was established by the Society in 2006 in honour of Professor Peter Oliver, the Society’s founding editor-in-chief. The prize is awarded annually for published work (journal article, book chapter, book) in Canadian legal history written by a student.
Students in any discipline at any stage of their careers are eligible. The Society takes a broad view of legal history, one that includes work in socio-legal history, legal culture, etc., as well as work on the history of legal institutions, legal personnel, and substantive law.
Students may self-nominate their published work, and faculty members are also encouraged to nominate student work of which they are aware. Those nominating their own work should send a copy of it to the Society.
The deadline for nominations for the 2017 Prize, to be awarded for work published in 2016, is May 7, 2017.
Please send nominations to Amanda Campbell, Oliver Prize Selection Committee, Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, Toronto, M5H 2N6, or

Professor Jim Phillips
Faculty of Law & Dept of History
University of Toronto
Editor-in-Chief, Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History