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Monday, February 24, 2020

CTV report on historic slave trial in New Brunswick

Kudos to historian Graham Nickerson of UNB, whose archival find was recently the subject of a report by Laura Brown of CTV (@LauraBrownctv)

Here's the report:
FREDERICTON -- A black historian - originally from Nova Scotia - is uncovering some of New Brunswick's slave history, including the story of a slave named Nancy.
Graham Nickerson studies black loyalist history at the University of New Brunswick and is working on bringing Nancy's story to light.
Few details are known about Nancy. Nickerson has discovered she was born in Maryland and brought to New Brunswick in 1785. She spent much of her life as a slave on a large property where the neighbourhood of Nashwaaksis in Fredericton sits today.
There doesn't appear to be any photos or documents detailing Nancy's life or death, but there are archives of a trial between her and her slave owner in Fredericton 220 years ago this month.
"She brings a case that's essentially strong enough to challenge the entire institution," said Nickerson. "She's at a level that’s really, really close to the bottom and she's challenging an institution that's at the top. And so, I think there's a lesson to be learned that if you're on the side of right, you should challenge authority."
According to the archives, Nancy's case was in front of four judges, including three slave owners. One of those included Chief Justice George Ludlow, whose name was used to name the University of New Brunswick's law building.
Students at the University have asked the school to remove the name on Ludlow Hall. The president of U.N.B. formed a group in December to look at how the building was named, Ludlow's history, and recommend the next steps.
That group is supposed to provide a report by May 1.
"Either, we change the name of the Ludlow Hall to something that's more inclusive, or we also build a memorial to Nancy," said Nickerson. "As a black man, my family tree is full of black women who were traumatized by owners, and the white men in their life, and we don't have commemorations to that."
Nancy lost her case and has since disappeared from historical records. Nickerson says he wants to ensure her legacy lives on by sharing her story.
"To do justice to the women who raised us," said Nickerson.
A Black Heritage Exhibit – which will include Nancy's story – is scheduled to open this summer at Fredericton Region Museum.
h/t Nicole O'Byrne.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Osgoode Society 2020 books announced!

2020 Osgoode Society Books announced!

Our members book for 2020 is Doodem and Council Fire: Anishinaabe Governance through Alliance, by Heidi Bohaker, Associate Professor of History, University of Toronto. Published by the University of Toronto Press. While Canada's constitution protects Indigenous treaty rights, Canadians know much less about the legal traditions of Indigenous nations and the ways in which these different traditions informed treaties made between Indigenous peoples and the Crown. This volume is a ground-breaking exploration of one Indigenous legal tradition. In it, the author explains how a uniquely Anishinaabe category of kinship, the doodem, structured governance and law as practiced in formal councils (referred to metaphorically as fires) through the practice of alliance formation.  Such alliances created relationships of interdependence, which were renewed through the exchange of gifts in council. The records of early Canadian treaties, Bohaker argues, are to be found in the records of gifts exchanged to create these alliances between council fires; the Anishinaabe treated the French, and later the British, as if their governments were council fires also.  In return, colonial officials adhered to Indigenous law when they entered into treaties. Bohaker weaves together a voluminous amount of research from both Anishinaabe and European sources, including archival documents and material culture from institutions in Canada, Britain and France, to describe the continuities and changes in Anishinaabe governance and law until settler colonial law (the Indian Act) replaced traditional governance with elected band councils.

Become a member and receive the book free with your membership (other options of membership available--visit our membership page.) At the same time, pre-order this year's optional extra, for $60.00 (hardcover.)

In 2020 we are also publishing  The Death Penalty and Sex Murder in Canadian History, by Professor Carolyn Strange of the Australian National University in Canberra.  This major study of the operation of the death penalty focusses on the disposition by executive review of all cases between Confederation and the abolition of the death penalty in which the offender not only committed murder but did so at the same time as he (or she) also committed a serious sexual offence. Professor Strange is able to show that such offenders fared much less well in the commutation process than other people convicted of murder and sentenced to death. As importantly, she divides the overall narrative into six periods, showing that within each period political, administrative and public consideration of the cases were conducted against a background of other concerns, ranging from the ‘danger’ of immigrants to the rise of psychiatric concern with such offenders to the abolition movement of the 1960s.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Call for applications: Peter Gonville Stein Book Award

Peter Gonville Stein Book Award
American Society for Legal History

The Peter Gonville Stein Book Award is awarded annually for the best book in non-US legal history written in English. This award is designed to recognize and encourage the further growth of fine work in legal history that focuses on all regions outside the United States, as well as global and international history. To be eligible, a book must be published during the previous calendar year. Announced at the annual meeting of the ASLH, this honor includes a citation on the contributions of the work to the broader field of legal history. A book may only be considered for the Stein Award, the Reid Award, or the Cromwell Book Prize. It may not be nominated for more than one of these three prizes.

The Stein Award is named in memory of Peter Gonville Stein, BA, LLB (Cantab); PhD (Aberdeen); QC; FBA; Honorary Fellow, ASLH, and eminent scholar of Roman law at the University of Cambridge, and made possible by a generous contribution from an anonymous donor.

Last year, Khaled Fahmy won the award for In Quest of Justice: Islamic Law and Forensic Medicine in Modern Egypt, and Rohit De received honorable mention for A People’s Constitution: The Everyday Life of Law in the Indian Republic.

For the 2020 prize, the Stein Award Committee will accept nominations of any book (not including textbooks, critical editions, and collections of essays) that bears a copyright date of 2019 as it appears in the printed version of the book. Translations into English may be nominated, provided they are published within two years of the publication date of the original version.

Nominations for the Stein Award (including self-nominations) should be submitted by March 16, 2020. Please send an e-mail to the Committee at and include: (1) a curriculum vitae of the author (including the author’s e-mail address); and (2) the name, mailing address, e-mail address, and phone number of the contact person at the press who will provide the committee with two copies of the book. This person will be contacted shortly after the deadline. If a title is short-listed, five additional copies will be requested from the publisher.

Please contact the committee chair, Matthew C. Mirow, with any questions at

Friday, February 7, 2020

Next Osgoode Society legal history evening March 24, 2020

Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at 5:30 p.m.
The Museum Room, Osgoode Hall

A lecture event exploring the work of our 2019 McMurtry Fellowship recipients. 
This event is free, but open only to society members. Pre-register through our website 

If you aren't a member or need to renew, you can do that easily through the website too.

Anna Jarvis
Patronage and the Canadian Colonial Judiciary: Edward Jarvis of Prince Edward Island

This presentation will look at the role patronage played in the life and career of Edward James Jarvis, who was Chief Justice of Prince Edward Island from 1828-1852. Jarvis was part of a second generation of Loyalist families whose fathers sought to further their son's careers by drawing on professional, community, and family ties, networks those sons in turn drew on for their own sons. Jarvis sought the patronage of fellow attorneys, judges, colonial officials, and other prominent figures to further his legal career, illustrating the ways in which the patronage system functioned to maintain social, economic, and political divisions and hierarchies within colonial society.

Filippo Sposini
Just the Basic Facts: The Certification of Insanity in Ontario

The certification of insanity was a medico-legal procedure regulating admission into psychiatric institutions. This presentation will focus on the certification procedure developed during the second half of the nineteenth-century in Ontario. Taking the Toronto Lunatic Asylum as a case study, it will explore the introduction of certificates of insanity, examination practices, and people involved in the process. It will show that certification in Ontario was a consensus-based procedure shielding medical practitioners from potential legal actions.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Nichols, A Reconciliation without Recollection? An Investigation of the Foundations of Aboriginal Law in Canada

Now in paper, from U of T Press,  Joshua Ben David Nichols, 

A Reconciliation without Recollection?An Investigation of the Foundations of Aboriginal Law in Canada

The publisher says: The current framework for reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and the Canadian state is based on the Supreme Court of Canada’s acceptance of the Crown’s assertion of sovereignty, legislative power, and underlying title. The basis of this assertion is a long-standing interpretation of Section 91(24) of Canada’s Constitution, which reads it as a plenary grant of power over Indigenous communities and their lands, leading the courts to simply bypass the question of the inherent right of self-government.
In A Reconciliation without Recollection?, Joshua Ben David Nichols argues that if we are to find a meaningful path toward reconciliation, we will need to address the history of sovereignty without assuming its foundations. Exposing the limitations of the current model, Nichols carefully examines the lines of descent and association that underlie the legal conceptualization of the Aboriginal right to govern.
Blending legal analysis with insights drawn from political theory and philosophy, A Reconciliation without Recollection? is an ambitious and timely intervention into one of the most pressing concerns in Canada.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Books for Black History Month

Barrington Walker, The African Canadian Legal Odyssey: Historical Essays published by the Osgoode Society, and U of T Press 2012, $50.00


Constance Backhouse,  Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950 
Osgoode Society and U of T Press, 1999, $36.75