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Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Persons Case by Sharpe and McMahon in UTP Canada150 collection

The Persons Case: The Origins and Legacy of the Fight for Legal PersonhoodThe University of Toronto Press is promoting a "Canada 150" collection, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of confederation. One of the thirty books so honoured is The Persons Case: The Origins and Legacy of the Fight for Legal Personhood by Mr. Justice Robert Sharpe and Patricia McMahon.

The U of T press has this to say about the collection:

In honour of Canada’s sesquicentennial, University of Toronto Press is proud to introduce the Canada 150 Collection, a special selection of outstanding books published over the years that bear witness to the depth and breadth of the nation’s history and the diversity of its peoples. These books showcase remarkable achievements as well as uncomfortable truths in Canada’s history, from pre-Confederation to the present. This carefully curated collection includes classic works of cultural, historical, legal, and literary scholarship that have informed and shaped Canada as a nation. A testament to University of Toronto Press’s longstanding commitment to authoritative and boundary-pushing scholarship, the Canada 150 Collection presents works that are essential reading for students, scholars, and anyone with an interest in Canada’s past and future.

The Persons Case was published by the University of Toronto Press in conjunction with the Osgoode Society in 2007.  This is what the society has to say:

The Persons’ Case is one of the best known Canadian constitutional cases, both for the fact that it declared women to be ‘persons’ for the purposes of eligibility for Senate appointment, and for Lord Sankey’s invocation of the living tree metaphor in interpreting the constitution. Robert Sharpe and Patricia McMahon add enormously to our understanding of the case by a detailed exploration of its context. They analyse the campaign for the recognition of women as senators in both political and legal circles, and they examine the background and personalities of the major players in the litigation, in particular Lord Sankey, Prime Minister Mackenzie King, and Emily Murphy. Murphy, one of the ‘famous five’ litigants, was the driving force behind the demand for legal recognition, and she is shown here to be a fascinating and complex individual.

Reviewers say: 
One of the most compelling reasons to read The Persons Case is to find out what drove the women known as the Famous Five to fight to open the Senate's doors. Readers also discover why the verdict remains one of the most important constitutional decisions in Canadian history..... [A] gripping drama in which the fitness of women's appointment to the Senate is merely the backdrop.... Reading history should always be this much fun. Penni Mitchell, The Beaver, June-July 2008
There is much that is engaging in this account of the Persons case, particularly in relation to the five women who requested the constitutional reference, and the behind the scenes political manoeuvres of Prime Minister Mackenzie King and his advisors... In addition the study situates the case within the ongoing tensions with respect to constitutional interpretation between judges in the Supreme Court of Canada on one hand and in the Privy Council on the other. Mary Jane Mossman, Ottawa Law Review, vol 40, 2009
Working closely from the archival record, Robert J. Sharpe and Patricia I. McMahon place the [Persons] case in its political, constitutional and personal context .... [A] valuable contribution to Canadian constitutional history. Lyndsay Campbell, Law and History Review, vol 27, 2009.


  • Alison J. Fingas, Saskatchewan Law Review, Vol. 71, 2008, pp. 424-425.
  • Jennifer Koshan, Canadian Journal of Women and Law, Vol. 20, 2008, pp. 343-351.
  • Francis C. Muldoon, Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law, Vol. 3, 2010, pp. 545-552.
  • Colleen Sheppard, McGill Law Journal, Vol. 53, 2008, pp. 367-373.
  • Janneke Lewis, Advocate, Vol. 66, 2008, pp. 814-815.
  • Christopher Moore, ‘New book authoritative telling of Persons Case,’ Law Times, November 12, 2007.
  • Tracey Tyler, ‘The mothers of Canadian equality,’ The Toronto Star, October 20, 2007, Sec ID, p. 4.

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