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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Black History Month! Read up on the history of race and the law in Canada

The Osgoode Society has published several books and articles on the historical experience of blacks and other racialized groups in the Canadian legal system. Here's a partial list by author:

Backhouse, Constance, Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950 (1999). See particularly chapters 6 and 7: ‘It will be quite an Object Lesson: R. v. Phillips and the Ku Klax Klan in Oakville, Ontario, 1930,’ and ‘Bitterly Disappointed at the Spread of Colour Bar Tactics: Viola Desmond’s Challenge to Racial Segregation, Nova Scotia, 1950.’ 

Backhouse, Constance, ‘Your Conscience will be your own punishment: The Racially Motivated Murder of Gus Ninham, Ontario, 1902,’ in G. Blaine Baker and Jim Phillips, eds., Essays in the History of Canadian Law Volume VIII (1999) 

Brode, Patrick, The Odyssey of John Anderson (1989) 

Fyson, Donald, ‘Minority Groups and the Law in Quebec,’ in G. Blaine Baker and Donald Fyson, eds., Essays in the History of Canadian Law Volume 11: Quebec and the Canadas (2013) 

Girard, Philip, Jim Phillips and Blake Brown, A History of Law in Canada Volume 1: Beginnings to 1866 (2018). See particularly chapter 12, ‘Slavery, Race and the Constitution’, and chapter 31, ‘Less Favoured by Law: Blacks and Workers.’ 

Miller, Bradley, Borderline Crime: Fugitive Criminals and the Challenge of the Border (2016). See particularly chapter 5, ‘The Non-Law of Refugees in British North America.’ 

Murray, David, Colonial Justice: Justice, Morality, and Crime in the Niagara District, 1791-1849 (2002). See particularly chapter 10, ‘Hand Across the Border,’ about an ex-slave extradition case. 

Luce, Frank and Karen Schucher, ‘The Right to Discriminate: Kenneth Bell vs Carl Mackay and the Ontario Human Rights Commission,’ in Eric Tucker, James Muir and Bruce Ziff, eds., Property on Trial: Canadian Cases in Context (2012) 

Walker, Barrington, ed., The African-Canadian Legal Odyssey: Historical Essays (2012) 

Walker, Barrington, Race on Trial: Black Defendants in Ontario’s Criminal Courts, 1858-1958 (2010) 

Walker, James W., Race, Rights and the Law in the Supreme Court of Canada: Historical Case Studies (1997). See particularly chapter 3, ‘Christie v York Corporation,’ and chapter 4, ‘Noble and Wolf v. Alley.’

Details on how to purchase available at or email Amanda Campbell <>

Legal Histories of Empire: Second Symposium (via Zoom, March 4/5, 2021)

Notice from Shaunnagh Dorsett (

Legal Histories of Empire: Second Symposium

Join us for the second of several symposia planned for 2020 and 2021 for Legal Histories of Empire.

Our speakers:

Lisa Ford: 'The King's Colonial Peace: Variable subjecthood and the transformation of empire'

This paper is drawn from my forthcoming book, The King's Peace: Empire and Order in the British Empire. The book uses colonial peacekeeping as a lens through which to examine the shifting parameters of crown prerogative in Empire in the Age of Revolutions. This paper will argue that the legal vulnerability of (and often threats to order posed by) a diverse array of subjects - formerly French Catholics in Quebec, Caribbean slaves and NSW convicts - both prompted and justified the unravelling of the very idea of the freeborn Englishman that had been mobilised by protestant Britons in pre-revolutionary America.

Lisa Ford is Professor of History at the University of New South Wales, Australia. Her major publications include Settler Sovereignty: Jurisdiction and Indigenous People in America and Australia, 1788-1836 (2010) which won the Littleton-Griswold Prize (American Historical Association); the Thomas J. Wilson Prize (Harvard University Press); and the Premiers History Award (NSW). She is also co-author of Rage for Order: The British Empire and the Origins of International Law, 1800-1850 (co-authored with Lauren Benton, 2016) and author of The King’s Peace, which will be published by Harvard later this year. Ford is currently leading a collaborative project funded by the Australian Research Council exploring the role of commissions of inquiry sent throughout the British Empire in the 1820s on which subject she hopes to lead author a book manuscript this year. She also holds a four-year ARC Future Fellowship, during which she will explore the changing use of martial law in the British Empire from the late eighteenth century until 1865.

Jessica Hinchy: 'Child Removal and the Colonial Governance of the Family: Hijra and "Criminal Tribe" Households in North India, c. 1865-1900'

Historians have primarily examined colonial child removal projects in settler colonial contexts. Yet from 1865, the colonial government in north India forcibly removed children from criminalised communities. Child separation began in the households of gender non-conforming people labelled ‘eunuchs,’ particularly Hijras, and eventually extended to socially marginalised people designated as ‘criminal tribes,’ especially Sansiyas. First, what does a comparison of these child removal schemes tell us about the colonial governance of the family? Patrilineal, conjugal and reproductive household models marginalised Hijras and Sansiyas in differing ways, while the category of ‘child’ was contingently defined. Child separation was attempted to varying ends, including both elimination and assimilation. Yet often, the colonial state could not sustain such intensified forms of intimate governance in the face of resistance from households. Nor could officials simply determine removed children’s futures. Second, what does child removal suggest about the making of colonial law? When children were initially removed from Hijra and Sansiya households, officials admitted that ‘the law may have been somewhat strained,’ since existing laws did not provide police or magistrates with legal powers to separate these children. The Sansiya child removal project, for instance, prompted debates about colonial legal exceptions and the ‘legality’ of the colonial state’s practices among colonial officials and Indian and European non-officials.

Jessica Hinchy is an Assistant Professor of History at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. She researches the history of gender, sexuality, households and family in colonial north India. In 2019, Cambridge University Press published her first monograph, Governing Gender and Sexuality in Colonial India: The Hijra, c. 1850-1900. Her research has also appeared in Modern Asian Studies, Gender & History and Asian Studies Review, among other journals.

The event will take place by zoom on Friday 5 March (or Thursday 4 March, depending on your timezone - see below). Please register here (via Eventbrite) to attend.


Sydney @ 12.30 pm on 5 March

Singapore @ 9.30 am on 5 March

Auckland @ 2.30 pm on 5 March

New Delhi @ 7.00 am on 5 March

London/Dublin @ 1.30 am on 5 March

Nairobi @ 4.30 am on 5 March

Vancouver @ 5.30 pm on 4 March

New Haven/Toronto @ 8.30 pm on 4 March