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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 <>

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