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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Campbell, "Race, Upper Canadian Constitutionalism and 'British Justice'"

In the February 2015 issue of the Law & History Review, Lyndsay Campbell of the University of Calgary has an article "Race, Upper Canadian Constitutionalism and 'British Justice.'"

Here's the abstract: 

This article explores a puzzle in Canadian legal historiography: the meaning of “British justice” and its relationship to race. Scholars have noted the use of this term in the interwar years of the twentieth century, to object to demonstrations of racial bias in the legal system. The puzzle is why. From the mid-1850s onward, statutes aimed at circumscribing the rights and opportunities of aboriginal people multiplied. British Columbia passed anti-Chinese, anti-Japanese, and anti-Indian legislation. Saskatchewan prohibited Chinese and Japanese employers from hiring white women. At least some officials supposed that legislation targeting African Canadians would be permissible. In 1924, the Toronto Telegram called for a poll tax against Jews. It is clear that between 1880 and 1920 or thereabouts, federal and provincial law was deeply involved in creating and reifying legal categories that rested explicitly on physical distinctions perceived to exist among people, which were assumed to signal morally and legally relevant characteristics. Why, then, would anyone have thought that “British justice” should be a shield against racism?

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