Osgoode Hall Law School

Dean Sossin's Blog

Visiting Hong Kong at the Crossroads

November 5, 2014

What a remarkable time to have scheduled a visit to Hong Kong. Long before the pepper spray and vast protesting crowds of the “Umbrella Revolution,” a group of Canadian law schools decided to continue a tradition of pan-Canadian alumni events abroad (building on successful events in New York and London last year) by deciding to come together in Hong Kong in early November. The visit proved memorable both from the perspective of connecting with Osgoode graduates and from the perspective of witnessing a pivotal moment in Hong Kong’s history.

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Partnerships and Collaboration – The Future of Experiential Learning

September 19, 2014

We have made much at Osgoode of our embrace of experiential education. Our curriculum change (commencing with the Class of 2015 graduating this June) is the first in Osgoode history and the first in Canadian legal history to have an experiential education requirement. In 2012, Osgoode launched the first Office of Experiential Education to support the new clinics, intensive programs and courses that have accompanied this experiential turn. This is enhanced by our vibrant mooting and lawyering program, and the OPIR, Osgoode’s Public Interest program. What is crucial to this development, but deserves greater profile, is the fact that Osgoode could not reach this ambitious goal on our own. Rather, it is attainable only through new and innovative partnerships and collaborations. A great example is the Willms & Shier Environmental Law Moot, a joint initiative of Osgoode and the law firm Willms & Shier. Read the rest of this entry →

New Approaches to Financial Accessibility and Law School

September 14, 2014

Commencing with the JD class beginning their studies in 2015, Osgoode will begin offering some students admission to Law School on an income contingent loan basis. Eligible students who self-select for this program will not pay any tuition while they are law students, but will agree to repay the entirety of their tuition commencing when their income reaches a point where they can afford to do so. And, if their income never reaches that point, the loan will be forgiven incrementally over a period of years. This program would provide an entirely new way to access legal education, and when combined with existing bursaries, scholarships and graduation awards, advances the goal that every qualified student should be able to obtain legal education regardless of financial means. Read the rest of this entry →

A Visit to Tunisia and Reflections on the Arab Spring

August 16, 2014

I spent a day this week at the Canadian Embassy in Tunis, which hosted an IDRC funded workshop of International IDEA (The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance) on security sector oversight in comparative perspective. Presenters from Chile, Argentina, Jordan, South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia, Canada, Germany and the U.K. (among others) are exploring how civilian oversight of military intelligence gathering and security activities can strike the right balance between meaningful democratic accountability and independence (while avoiding partisan abuse). As I often experience at comparative administrative law conferences, it is amazing to reflect on how many parts of the world share the same dilemmas, but address them in such disparate ways. Spending several days in Tunisia is also an opportunity to talk to people here about the ripple effects of the Arab Spring (or Awakening, as it is often referred to here) and the nature of democratic change. Read the rest of this entry →

Justice Delayed: Komagata Reflections

August 1, 2014

On May 23rd, 1914, the Komagata Maru, a Japanese ship, entered Burrard Inlet outside of Vancouver carrying 376 people looking for a better life in Canada. They were denied entry on a legal technicality. Canada had introduced a law that required immigrants to Canada to arrive by a single, direct journey from their country of origin. This means immigrants from European and other desirable destinations that direct passenger service could emigrate to Canada, and those from more distant and less desirable lands could not. It was part of a series of discriminatory immigration measures (many aimed against Chinese immigration such as the notorious “head tax”) that characterized Canada’s policy through the early part of the twentieth century. It is hard to imagine now the popularity of the song “White Canada forever” then. Read the rest of this entry →

Lunch and the Future of Law

July 21, 2014

I met up with Gary Mooney for lunch the other day. Gary is an Osgoode graduate who has large ambitions for the delivery of legal services. For the most part, this vision consists of a wide variety of legal services no longer being delivered by lawyers and instead being automated.   And yet, he is convinced this is good news for lawyers – and more importantly, for their clients. By the end of lunch, a clearer picture of the future of legal services was emerging. The question I was left with was – are we ready? Read the rest of this entry →

In Tribute to Rod Macdonald

June 22, 2014

Rod Macdonald passed away on Friday, June 13th. Three years ago, he was on the stage at Osgoode Hall Law School’s Convocation in 2011, receiving an Honourary Doctorate, and serenading the graduating Osgoode class with a protest song from Pete Seeger. If you were not there, it is well worth watching. At that time, his debilitating throat cancer was in remission and he was very much in his element, both in captivating law students, and at Osgoode (where he had graduated in 1972, part of a storied class which included Michael Mandel, Russell Juriansz, Linda Draynoff, Paul Emond, Art Vertleib and many others). Harry Arthurs was on hand to deliver the citation for Rod and most of Osgoode’s faculty had turned out to show their enthusiasm for Rod. Being on stage to share in this moment was particularly sweet for me, as it was my first June Convocation as Dean, and because Rod had such a profound and positive impact on my own journey. Read the rest of this entry →

Osgoode @125

May 20, 2014


While there were at least 4 separate attempts by the Law Society of Upper Canada to start a law school in the 19th Century, it was only in 1889 that the idea stuck. That is the year the “modern” Osgoode Hall Law School was founded and that is the date we use as a point of departure for the history of legal education in Ontario. In the upcoming 2014-15 academic year, Osgoode will celebrate its 125th Anniversary. Such a milestone only received a formal title in the 1960s (when an editor at Funk and Wagnalls with too much time on his hands came up with Quasquicentennial, as opposed to sesquicentennial for 150, which sounds more like an occasion and whose origin as a word can be traced at least to the nineteenth century). So, what reflections does Osgoode’s Quasquicentennial warrant? While anniversaries are usually a time to reflect on the past (think re-enactments of the battles of 1812 at Fort York a couple years back), for me they are always forward looking events. You can learn a lot about where an institution is going by looking at how they measure their past. For example, Canada’s centenary Expo 1967 featured Montreal’s iconic and futuristic geodesic dome and bold promises of future greatness. So, with that context, where is Osgoode at 125? What lies in store for this year of looking forward and looking back? Read the rest of this entry →

Beijing Beginnings!

May 9, 2014

I am just home from an eye-opening week in Beijing. The ostensible reason for the trip has been to sign a new partnership agreement between Osgoode and Tsinghua University’s School of Law, one of China’s leading Law Schools. This agreement will facilitate student and faculty exchanges and, together with the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law and Hong Kong University’s Faculty of Law, confirm Osgoode’s participation in a bi-annual Canada-China Symposium (rotating between Toronto and Beijing). Beyond this agreement, however, we hope to develop an integrated and interlocking set of initiatives in China (and at the same time, enhance our relationship with a vibrant Chinese-Canadian community).  If this week is any indication, the future of “Osgoode in China” looks extraordinarily bright. Read the rest of this entry →

The Chief Justice, the Prime Minister and the Erosion of Trust

May 3, 2014

In the spat that has emerged and intensified over a call that never happened between the Chief Justice and the Prime Minister last July, the Chief Justice is in the right, and it doesn’t matter. The Chief Justice is right because it is entirely proper for her to alert the Government to an issue regarding the eligibility of a proposed Supreme Court nominee (in this case, the ill-fated appointment of Federal Court of Appeal Justice Marc Nadon). The Government was free to address the issue of eligibility or not (in the end, they did so in explicit ways seeking not only an opinion from retired Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie but also from retired Supreme Court Justice Louis Charron and the most cited academic before the Supreme Court, Peter Hogg, to validate Ian Binnie’s conclusion that Justice Nadon was indeed eligible for appointment). The appointment of Nadon and the controversy surrounding it played out in the Fall. There was no litigation either active or contemplated in July when the Chief Justice raised this with the PMO, and when she considered (but did not follow through on) a call to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. All this doesn’t really matter because as long as Prime Minister openly questions the integrity and conduct of the Chief Justice, key premises underlying our system of justice are in doubt. Read the rest of this entry →

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