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The African Canadian Legal Odyssey

The African Canadian Legal Odyssey: Historical Essays

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    The African Canadian Legal Odyssey
    Book Description:

    The African Canadian Legal Odysseyexplores the history of African Canadians and the law from the era of slavery until the early twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6680-1
    Subjects: Law, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    R. Roy McMurtry

    One of the central themes of the new legal history of the past two decades has been exploration of the law’s role in shaping the lives and experiences of historically marginalized groups in our society. The Osgoode Society has made a number of contributions to that enterprise, and we are pleased to do so again with this collection.The African Canadian Legal Odyssey: Historical Essays, compiled by Professor Barrington Walker, consists of both new essays and a few “classic” articles and is anchored by a sweeping introduction summarizing the state of the field and suggesting new lines of research for the...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. 1 Introduction: From a Property Right to Citizenship Rights – The African Canadian Legal Odyssey
    (pp. 3-46)

    This introduction, in the first Osgoode Society collection and reader on the history of Blacks and the law in Canada, makes two main arguments. First, the social history of Blacks in Canada is inextricably bound to the question of law – more so than any other historically disenfranchised group in Canada, save for its First Nations peoples. Second, the profoundly legal dimension of Black Canadian social history is a consequence of the era of European empire and slavery where questions of Blacks’ legal and citizenship status, the nature and quality of their freedom, and even their very humanity often hinged upon...

  6. Part One: Legal Pioneers

    • 2 Ethelbert Lionel Cross: Toronto’s First Black Lawyer
      (pp. 49-83)

      Ethelbert Lionel Cross was the fourth known Black lawyer called to the bar in Ontario and the first to establish a law practice in Toronto.¹ Until recently, nothing was written about him, and he appears to have been forgotten. However, in a pioneering article on Black lawyers in Ontario, Lance Talbot notes Cross’s call to the bar and states that his “career was short-lived when, in 1937, after encountering professional difficulties, he left the practice of law.”² Still more recently, Constance Backhouse has presented a far richer portrait of Cross as a spokesman for the Black, Jewish, and trade union...

    • 3 Constructing an “Imperial Pan-Africanist”: Henry Sylvester Williams as a University Law Student in Canada
      (pp. 84-98)

      In 2004 George and Darrill Fosty publishedBlack Ice, “the lost history of the colored hockey league of the Maritimes, 1895–1925.” They included a timeline of “Notable dates in black Canadian history,” among which was the enrolment at Dalhousie Law School of Henry Sylvester Williams (1867–1911), an ex-schoolmaster from Trinidad who became the father of modern organizational pan-Africanism.¹ Most of two chapters of the Fosty brothers’ book is devoted to an imaginative reconstruction of Williams’s involvement with Black people in Halifax during two years spent in the city in the early 1890s.² For them, Williams was a political...

  7. Part Two: Formal Legal Equality and Anti-Black Discrimination:: Case Studies

    • 4 “Bitterly Disappointed” at the Spread of “Colour-Bar Tactics”: Viola Desmond’s Challenge to Racial Segregation, Nova Scotia, 1946
      (pp. 101-166)

      The contentious racial incident began on Friday, 8 November 1946, when Viola Irene Desmond’s 1940 Dodge four-door sedan broke down in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.¹ The thirty-two-year-old, Halifax-born Black woman was en route to Sydney on a business trip. Forced to wait overnight for repairs, she decided to take in the seven o’clock movie at the Roseland Theatre. Erected on the northeast corner of Forbes and Provost Streets in 1913, the theatre was designed in the manner of grand old theatrical halls and graced with colourful wall murals featuring paintings of “the land of roses.” In its early days, the...

    • 5 Creating the Myth of “Raceless” Justice in the Murder Trial of R. v. Richardson, Sandwich, 1903
      (pp. 167-200)

      On 25 September 1903, a jury of twelve men returned a verdict of manslaughter in the case ofR. v. Richardsonin Sandwich, Ontario. Oliver Richardson had been charged with murder for killing his neighbour Edmund Matthews. The men, who were both farmers, had been engaged in an ongoing land dispute, which was described by local newspapers as “one the longest and fiercest family quarrels in the history of the County.”¹ The murder and subsequent trial garnered a great deal of attention, but it was not just because a murder had occurred in a small farming community. Rather, what was...

    • 6 Maniacal Murderer or Death Dealing Car: The Case of Daniel Perry Sampson, 1933–1935
      (pp. 201-242)

      On the evening of 19 July 1933, the bodies of young brothers Edward and Bramwell Heffernan were found a short distance from each other along the railway tracks that ran near their home on the outskirts of Halifax, Nova Scotia. With their clothes torn to shreds and their bodies bloodied, it was believed by many that their deaths had been caused by a tragic misadventure with a passing train, while others speculated that a deranged killer was in their midst. Following an inconclusive coroner’s inquest and months of fruitless investigation by local police and the RCMP, Daniel Perry Sampson, an...

    • 7 The Law’s Confirmation of Racial Inferiority: Christie v. York
      (pp. 243-323)

      By the mid-twentieth century, people of African descent had been in Canada for generations, lived in family units, attended Christian churches, spoke English and/or French, fought on behalf of king and empire in every war since the American Revolution, and publicly comported themselves according to the norms established by the majority society. The only significant distinguishing characteristic was colour. And yet African Canadians were subjected to restrictions in employment, housing, education, services, and recreation. Chiefly they were set apart and kept down, marginalized as neighbours, as employees, and as citizens. With only a few exceptions the law did not impose...

    • 8 Errors of Fact and Law: Race, Space, and Hockey in Christie v. York
      (pp. 324-360)

      The facts matter. As every lawyer knows, interrogating relevant facts and constructing a sympathetic narrative can win a case.¹ In litigation, facts are always open to question, but by the time those facts take their final form in the written decisions of supreme courts, they usually ossify into something beyond debate. In the confident prose of judges, facts become the incontestable history of the moments they describe. But what if those facts are wrong? This article argues that one famous case,Christie v. York,² contains errors of fact as illuminating as any of law.

      As the story goes, in 1936...

  8. Part Three: Slavery, Race, and the Burden of History

    • 9 Slavery and Slave Law in the Maritimes
      (pp. 363-420)

      That slavery existed in the Maritime provinces of Canada is a historical fact. The similarity of the material conditions under which slaves were held there – as domestic rather than plantation slaves – is also well established. Yet the role of the law in upholding or undermining slavery developed in quite different ways in the three jurisdictions. Slavery was upheld by New Brunswick’s Supreme Court but undermined by Nova Scotia’s, while in Prince Edward Island not only did the Supreme Court permit the recovery of an escaped slave, but the Island legislature also passed, in 1781, the only statute in British North...

    • 10 The Burden of History: Race, Culture, African-Canadian Subjectivity, and Canadian Law in R. v. Hamilton
      (pp. 421-436)

      There has recently emerged, in several Western liberal democracies, a series of controversies around the relationships among law, race, culture, penality, and justice. In the United States there are debates on the cultural defence, especially articulations of the Black rage defence. In Canada, the paradigmatic debate is about culturally articulated conceptions of justice that have emerged with theCriminal Code’s special sentencing provisions for Aboriginal offenders, as interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada inR. v. Gladue.¹ Culture and criminal justice have also engaged Canadian courts in the African-Canadian context, most notably the controversy over what some have called...

    • 11 A Black Day in Court: “Race” and Judging in R. v. R.D.S.
      (pp. 437-480)

      This is a story about a boy on a bike, a Halifax policeman, a crusading lawyer and a courageous judge, and “race” and judging in Canada. In the 1997 caseR. v. R.D.S.the Supreme Court of Canada broke with its tradition of silence and openly discussed racism in our society. The result was not without its hesitations and complications, but our top court did at last address this issue openly, and a majority confirmed the insidious existence of societal racism, and also confirmed the courts’ role in confronting it.R.D.S.was the first case dealing explicitly with “race” to...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 481-484)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 485-488)