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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Adams on Private Bills for Professional Accreditation in Ontario

"Sneaking in the Back Door? Social Closure and Private Bills for Entry into Ontario Professions, 1868–1914" by sociologist Tracey L. Adams has been around for a while--it appears in Social History/Histoire Sociale in 2006 (no.78). Many Ontario legal historians know the story of Delos Rogest Davis, once believed to be the first man of colour to be admitted to the practice of law in Ontario (we now know that honour belongs to Robert Sutherland.)

But what is not as well-known is that the practice of using private bills for the purpose of circumventing the (racist, sexist) accreditation process was fairly routine across all the professions. Adams argues that the path to the legislative back door was well-worn, but that this door also opened most easily for white, middle-class males. 

The abstract:

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Ontario legislature received many petitions from individuals who could not meet the requirements for entry to practice established by professional bodies. Petitioners sought legislation that would waive certain requirements and grant them the right to practise regardless. These private bills for entry into Ontario professions might have provided a recourse for members of groups excluded by professional leaders — especially women, men and women of racial and ethnic minorities, the working class, and the lesser educated. An examination of the experiences and backgrounds of petitioners indicates, however, that, while the Ontario legislature eased the ability of the disadvantaged to enter profession in some particular cases, it generally facilitated the entrance of men similar in background to those whom professional bodies sought to recruit.
Thanks to Sonia Lawrence of the Institute of Feminist Legal Studies at Osgoode Hall Law School for the tip (check out her blog and or Twitter feed!)

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