The Osgoode Society – Thirty Three Years, Eighty Eight Books, and Still Counting.

Four new titles were launched yesterday evening at the Osgoode Society’s 33rd annual book launch and reception for authors and supporters. As usual, the event was presided over by Roy McMurtry, the progenitor and President of the Osgoode Society, and the genial host of most if not all of these occasions. He proudly noted that the Osgoode Society had now published 88 titles, over the thirty three years of its existence, and has established itself as one of the leading historical societies in the world.

The Osgoode Society is well known and respected for its approach to legal history. As is demonstrated by this year’s titles, it takes a diverse, inclusive and human approach to what constitutes history with topics ranging from the introduction of criminal law on the aboriginal plains, to the african – canadian legal odyssey, from gun control to property law, all presented in a modest unassuming fashion. Definitely not the touting of dead British monarchs and the endless propaganda for the glory of the late and unlamented British Empire that passed for Canadian history when I was young.

This year Irwin Law joined the University of British Columbia Press and the University of Toronto Press in the mix of notable publishers that have collaborated with the Osgoode Society in publishing the legal history of Canada. Irwin Law is the stubbornly independent English language legal publisher that has done so much to enrich Canadian legal literature in recent years. The University of Toronto Press and the University of British Columbia Press are the leading academic presses in the country and to their credit have often supported the work of the Osgoode Society in the past. The partnering with the country’s leading publishers has, I think, played a critical role in ensuring the success of the series.

The 2012 Publishing List

By R. Blake Brown

From the École Polytechnique shootings of 1989 to the political controversy surrounding the elimination of the federal long-gun registry, the issue of gun control has been a subject of fierce debate in Canada. But in fact, firearm regulation has been a sharply contested issue in the country since Confederation. Arming and Disarming offers the first comprehensive history of gun control in Canada from the colonial period to the present.

In this sweeping, immersive book, R. Blake Brown outlines efforts to regulate the use of guns by young people, punish the misuse of arms, impose licensing regimes, and create firearm registries. Brown also challenges many popular assumptions about Canadian history, suggesting that gun ownership was far from universal during much of the colonial period, and that many nineteenth century lawyers – including John A. Macdonald – believed in a limited right to bear arms.

Arming and Disarming provides a careful exploration of how social, economic, cultural, legal, and constitutional concerns shaped gun legislation and its implementation, as well as how these factors defined Canada’s historical and contemporary ‘gun culture”. The University of Toronto Press Release

Edited by Eric Tucker, James Muir and Bruce Ziff

Property on Trial is a collection of studies of Canadian property law disputes — some well-known, some more obscure — that have helped to shape the contours of the principles and rules of property law over 150 years. These studies, written by some of Canada’s leading legal historians, range in time from a discussion of a nineteenth-century dispute over the ownership of seal pelts in Newfoundland to modern questions of what constitutes private property in a digital age. They investigate the relationship between private and public interests in property; the limits of private property owners’ rights in relation to others, particularly neighbours and family; and the intersection of property law principles with other branches of the law, including criminal law, family law, and human rights.

The authors describe, in rich detail, the social, cultural, and political contexts in which the events unfolded, the backgrounds and personalities of the litigants, the skills of the lawyers, and the judicial attitudes of the day. On the one hand, Property on Trial is a collection of thoughtful and compelling stories about conflict in a wide variety of contexts, each with its own heroines and heroes, villains and ne’er-do-wells, winners and losers. On the other, it is an insightful look at the history of property law doctrine in Canada. Irwin Law Press Release

The studies and their authors are as follows:

1. The Law of Property in Animals, Newfoundland-Style by Bruce Ziff
2. Nuisance and Neighbourhood in Late Nineteenth-Century Montreal: Drysdale v Dugas in its Contexts by Eric H . Reiter
3. KVP: Riparian Resurrection in 20th Century Ontario by Jamie Benidickson;
4. Cottages, Covenants, and the Cold War: Galbraith v. Madawaska Club by Philip Girard
5. “The right to discriminate”: Kenneth Bell versus Carl McKay and the Ontario Human Rights Commission
by Frank Luce and Karen Schucher
6. “The courts have turned women into slaves for the men of this world”: Irene Murdoch’s Quest for Justice by Vanessa Gruben, Angela Cameron, and Angela Chaisson
7. Morgan and Jacobson v Attorney General for Prince Edward Island by Margaret McCallum
8. The Zoroastrian Temple in Toronto: A Case Study in Land Use Regulation, Canadian-Style by Eran Kaplinsky
9. Manitoba Fisheries v The Queen: The Origins of Canada’s De Facto Expropriation Doctrine by Jim Phillips and Jeremy Martin
10. The Malling of Property Law?: The Toronto Eaton Centre Cases, 1984–1987, and the Right to Exclude by Eric Tucker
11. Regina v Stewart: Is Information Property? by C. Ian Kyer
12. Begging to Differ: Panhandling, Public Space, and Municipal Property by Nicholas Blomley
13. Pirate or Prophet? Monsanto Canada Inc. v Schmeiser by Patricia L. Farnese;
14. A Railway, a City, and the Public Regulation of Private Property: CPR v City of Vancouver by Douglas C. Harris
15. Private Property and the Public Interest: (Re)Telling the Stories of Principles, Places, and Parties by Mary Jane Mossman.


By Shelley Gavigan

Scholars often accept without question that Canada’s Indian Act(1876) criminalized First Nations. In this illuminating book, Shelley Gavigan argues that the notion of criminalization captures neither the complexities of Aboriginal participation in the courts nor the significance of the Indian Act as a form of law.

Gavigan uses records of ordinary cases from the lower courts and insights from critical criminology and traditional legal history to interrogate state formation and criminal law in the Saskatchewan region of the North-West Territories between 1870 and 1905. By focusing on Aboriginal people’s participation in the courts rather than on narrow legal categories such as “the state” and “the accused,” Gavigan allows Aboriginal defendants, witnesses, and informants to emerge in vivid detail and tell the story in their own terms. Their experiences — captured in court files, police and penitentiary records, and newspaper accounts — reveal that the criminal law and the Indian Act operated in complex and contradictory ways.

By showing that the criminal courts were as likely to include acts of mediation as coercion,Hunger, Horses, and Government Men takes the study of criminal law and criminalization in a new direction, one that challenges conventional wisdom and popular images of relations of power and discrimination in the courts. University of British Columbia Press – Press Release

Edited by Barrington Walker

African-Canadians’ Legal Odyssey explores the history of African-Canadians and the law from the era of slavery until the early twenty-first century. This collection demonstrates that the social history of Blacks in Canada has always been inextricably bound to questions of law, and that the role of the law in shaping Black life was often ambiguous and shifted over time.

Comprised of twelve engaging chapters, organized both thematically and chronologically, it includes a substantive introduction that provides a synthesis and overview of this complex history. This outstanding collection will appeal to both advanced specialists and advanced undergraduate students and makes and important contribution to an emerging field of scholarly inquiry. University of Toronto Press – Press Release

The Historical Essays and their authors are as follows:

1. Introduction: From a Property Right to Citizenship Rights – The African Canadian Legal Odyssey by Barrington Walker
Part One: Legal Pioneers by Barrington Walker
2. Ethelbert Lionel Cross: Toronto’s First Black Lawyer by Susan Lewthwaite
3. Constructing an “Imperial Pan-Africanist”: Henry Sylvester Williams as a University Law Student in Canada by J. Barry Cahill
Part Two: Formal Legal Equality and Anti-Black Discrimination: Case Studies
4. Bitterly Disappointed at the Spread of Coulour Bar Tactics: Viola Desmond’s Challenge to Racial Segregation, Nova Scotia, 1946 by Constance Backhouse
5. Creating the Myth of Raceless Justice in the Murder Trial of R. v. Richardson, Sandwich, 1903 by Susan McKelvey
6. Maniacal Murderer or Death Dealing Car:The Case of Daniel Perry Sampson, 1933 – 1935 by David Steeves
7. The Law’s Confirmation of Racial Inferiority: Christie v. York by James W. St. G. Walker
8. Errors of Fact and Law: Race, Space and Hockey in Christie v. York by Eric M. Adams
Part Three: Slavery, Race and the Burden of History
9. Slavery and Slace Law in the Maritimes by D.G. Bell, J. Barry Cahill and Harvey Amani Whitfield
10. The Burden of History: Race, Culture and African Canadian Subjectivity in Canadian Law in R. v. Hamilton by David Sealy
11. A Black Day in Court: “Race” and Judging in R. v. R.D.S. by James W. St. G. Walker

The holiday season of gift giving – a reminder from Roy McMurtry

As usual, the event concluded with President McMurtry drawing attention to the holiday season of gift giving that will soon be upon us and to the benefit to the Osgoode Society and to the recipient of a gift of one of the many books now avialable from the Society, which he described as a “special club of people who support the history of their country and the administration of justice”.

Comments are closed.