Law as an Instrument of Change

When I was at law school, many years ago, Stephen Lewis visited as a speaker.

At the time he was Canadian ambassador to the UN. He flew up from New York for the afternoon.

There are two things I still remember about his talk.

The first is a humerous anecdote about his experience at law school. He told of how he went to the library to research an assignment and when, after some difficulty, he found the volume that contained the key case for the topic, the relevant pages had been torn out. This convinced him to quit law school, which he did.

The second was his view that law is a futile profession, unless it is used for change.

That comment, to which I paid no great attention at the time, has followed me through the years, like a horsefly follows a swimmer.

It buzzed me again last week when I read about Roger Cox’s recent visit to Toronto. He is the lawyer with the Dutch firm that successfully argued the Dutch government has a duty to protect its citizens from the harm of environmental damage, by doing its part to keep global temperatures from rising. He spoke on the prospects for similar results in Canada.

See also Dianne Saxe’s excellent piece on this subject in SLAW, here.

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