Summer Reading

Exams are nearly over and summer is nearly here (notwithstanding spring’s rather reluctant arrival), so no doubt everyone’s mind is turning to their summer reading. The Guardian newspaper has very thoughtfully compiled a reading list for you, and we have a number of the books in our collection, including a DVD in one case. Your summer reading list is ready for pick-up!

Of the top six nominations, we have (in the order set out in The Guardian):


Other books in the top six recommendations for you to hunt down (try your public library):

  • Tom Bingam, The Rule of Law
  • Nicholas McBride, Letters to a Law Student
  • Catherine Barnard et al, What About Law?

Other nominations:

  • Gary Slapper, How Law Works
  • Clare Dyer and Marcel Berlins, The Law Machine
  • Lon Fuller, The Case of the Spelun[c]ean Explorers
  • Mark Giminez, The Colour of Law

Of course, we have plenty more DVDs and law-related fiction in our fiction corner in the northwest corner of the main floor of the library, in the midst of the study rooms.

Don’t thank me, thank Dan Pinnington’s Slaw blog of April 8, 2013.

English law was adopted as Canadian law at Confederation, right?

The Quebec Conference 1864

Wrong.  Another simple question at the Reference Desk last  week.  But we all know English law was received into Canada at some point, don’t we? We may think we know that, but I didn’t have any idea just how complicated the answer to the question of what law was received and when until I went looking for a quick confirmation of what I thought I “knew”.  The shortest answer I found was the seventeen page summary of the rules of reception in volume 1 of Professor Hogg’s  Constitutional  Law of Canada, which only touched on the major issues discussed in J. E. Cote’s two major studies of the subject ((1963-1964) 3 Alta L Rev 262-292 and (1977) 15 Alta L Rev 29-92).  In fewer than seventeen pages, this is what I found out: 1.  There are British common law rules governing when and how English law becomes the law of a colony.  2.  These rules don’t apply to Imperial statutes that were passed by the English Parliament and intended by it to be applicable in one or more of its colonies (i.e. they don’t form part of the law of England).  3.  The Statute of Westminster, 1931dealt with these statutes and prohibits  future Imperial statutes from having effect in self-governing (former) colonies unless that government requests it.  4.  The British common law rules on reception depend on whether the colony in question was “settled” as a colony or was “conquered/ceded.”  5.  For “settled” colonies, the rules deem the law of England to have been brought to the colony with the settlers, unless, of course, English law was unsuitable for the colony.  [Pages and pages of discussion on what “settled” means (Nova Scotia is deemed to be “settled” even though it was ceded by France to Britain in 1713) and what “unsuitable” means omitted.]  English statutes enacted after that time were inapplicable (except the type described in point 2). [Pages and pages on whether it is the date of settlement of the colony or the date on which it established its first legislature that prevails.]  6.  For “conquered/ceded” colonies, e.g. New France, the general rule was to leave the existing law in force to the extent possible except for constitutional laws or barbaric ones until the authorities changed them. [Pages and pages of discussion on which colonies were considered to have been conquered and which laws were left intact and which not (existing Aboriginal rules were simply disregarded and Scots law apparently didn’t count where Scottish settlers colonized) and what happened when places switched back and forth between French rule and English rule, ensue.  Note English criminal law was substituted for French criminal law by the Quebec Act 1774.]  7.  Things get really messy when boundaries change or English statutes were repealed or amended after the date of reception.  8.  By and large, the date of reception of English law into what is now Ontario is October 15, 1792, but don’t quote me on any of this!

What is your verdict on Louis Riel?

November 16 marked the 127th anniversary of the hanging of Louis Riel, a fascinating and important figure in Canada’s, and especially in Manitoba’s, history.  Much has been written about him, the Northwest Rebellion, the creation of the Province of Manitoba, his dealings with the federal government, his mental state and his trial and execution.   The controversies surrounding his trial have still not died away, and re-enactments and mock trials continue to be performed, sometimes with “not guilty” verdicts being delivered.  There is a wealth of information available at York and Osgoode on Riel, from his times, causes and trial, from contemporary reports and transcripts and his diaries to modern analyses to plays, a musical drama, to a graphic novel about his life.  CBC’s Canada, A People’s History naturally includes Riel (video available through the library), and in 1985, the CBC also broadcast a panel discussion on whether Riel should be pardoned.  In 2002 it televised a re-trial of Riel, “starring” Eddie Greenspan as Riel’s counsel, Alan Lenczner for the Crown, Mr. Justice Thomas Berger as the judge and Guy Bertrand as Riel himself.  As you can see from the news clipping below, even the mock trial caused controversy.

I have assembled a small subset of the multitude of resources available through YUL on Riel.  Decide for yourself whether he was mad, wrongly convicted, a traitor or a founder of Canada:

Louis Riel : a comic-strip biography / Chester Brown.

Epitome of parliamentary documents in connection with the North-West Rebellion, 1885.

The diaries of Louis Riel / edited by Thomas Flanagan.

The Queen vs. Louis Riel, accused and convicted of the crime of high treason [electronic resource] : report of trial at Regina.-Appeal to the Court of Queen’s Bench,…

The execution of Louis Riel [microform] : speech of the Hon. John S.D. Thompson, minister of justice, delivered March 22, 1886.

 In the case of Louis Riel, convicted of treason and executed therefor : Report of Sir Alexander Campbell.

The gibbet of Regina [microform] : the truth about Riel : Sir John A. Macdonald and his cabinet before public opinion / by one who knows.

Exemplification of the proceedings and judgment of outlawry of Louis Riel : the Queen vs. Louis Riel.

Message from the president of the United States, transmitting, in response to Senate resolution of February 11, 1889, a report upon the case of Louis Riel.

[Trial of Louis Riel] [electronic resource].

The Queen v Louis Riel / With an introduction by Desmond Morton.

The trial of Louis Riel : justice and mercy denied : a critical, legal and political analysis / George R.D. Goulet ; principal research associate, M. Terry Goulet.

Louis Riel [videorecording] : a music drama / by Harry Somers ; libretto, Mavor Moore in collaboration with Jacques Languirand, with their grateful acknowledgement to John Coulter’s play Riel.

CBC Digital Archives – Rethinking Riel – Louis Riel: To pardon or not …

Rejection of Riel pardon / Metis National Council.

The re-trial of Louis Riel. Part 1, The re-trial [videorecording] / CBC Newsworld in association with The Dominion Institute.

A re-enactment of the trial of Louis Riel, based on Canadian law of the present day. The case is argued by Edward Greenspan for the defence and Alan Lenczner for the prosecution and is presented before former B.C. Supreme Court Judge Thomas Berger. Both lawyers present their arguments, cross-examine Riel, played by Quebec lawyer Guy Bertrand, and give their closing arguments. Louis Riel addresses the jury, and the judge gives his summation of the case.

Métis leader blasts televised Louis Riel trial as an ‘abomination – CBC


The Senate is Making News

The Globe and Mail reports this morning that the Senate will likely defeat  Bill C-290, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Sports Betting), which would allow Canadians to bet on a single sports event.  While it is unusual enough for the Senate not to pass a bill that has passed in the House of Commons (eight times in the past 70 years and 133 times since 1867, according to the Globe), there are several other very unusual aspects to the situation.  First , the majority of the Senate is now Conservative, like the House of Commons, so the defeat is not based on partisan politics.  Second, the Bill passed the House of Commons unanimously, which indicates it was not controversial in the Commons.  Thirdly, the Bill started life as an NDP private members’ Bill, and private members’ bills are rarely passed in the House of Commons.  All in all a very interesting situation.  For more information on the workings of the Senate, see:

See also:

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting)

Are Good Research Skills Important For Summer/Articling Students?


Want to impress those you are working with? Summer and articling students (and junior lawyers too) do a great deal of research work. Being known as an efficient and effective researcher can only help at hire-back time. Law firms and departments are always looking for cost-effective ways of carrying out their work. Electronic library resources, a number of which are provided to law schools and students for free, are extremely expensive for others to use. Learn how to use those resources to their full advantage, learn what free legal resources exist while you are at law school, and increase your value to your future employer. Firms can’t always recover research costs from clients, and don’t like to write off time and research expenses. Maximize your search power and minimize costs. The reference librarians await your call or visit.

(For more, see Simon Chester’s October 22, 2012 post on Slaw (