I write this post from Delhi, India, where eight Osgoode faculty joined counterparts at the Jindal Global Law School (“JGLS”) for a symposium on “Global North and Global South Perspectives on Transnational Governance: An Indo-Canadian Perspective.” The symposium explored issues ranging from access to justice, legal regulation of sexuality and the tax treatment of foreign investment. It was a lively and engaging event, and deepened the links between Osgoode and Jindal – capped off with a memorable outdoor dinner at the home of Naveen Jindal, the Indian politician and business leader, whose extraordinary philanthropy gave rise to the creation of JGLS in 2009.
During this trip, Osgoode has also renewed our longstanding student exchange with the National Law School of India University at Bangalore, and strengthened relationships with the National Law University Delhi and the Delhi University Faculty of Law. Additionally, Osgoode is exploring new partnerships and initiatives in India, including those relating to judicial and professional education, as well as law students’ internship and research opportunities. Osgoode’s faculty members have been overwhelmed with the hospitality and genuine warmth which we were shown by our hosts.
It is trite to observe the contradictions that define India – soaring economic development and embrace of modernity alongside visceral poverty, and deep links to diverse cultural traditions and rich histories. Law is embedded in and reflects these contradictions as well. We met with leading litigators who work in chambers with a senior counsel and a number of juniors, where fees are still expressed in “guineas” rather than rupees, as if it were still the English legal system of the “Raj.” We also spoke with an Indian Supreme Court Judge about the progressive force of law in India to transform a culture where caste and class still limit life opportunities for millions. We were also keen to learn of the major debates in India around the legal profession, including a new national bar council examination, the establishment of new national law schools and the erosion of barriers to foreign law firms and law schools in India.
On March 4, 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially kicked off the “Year of India in Canada.” The timing is clearly right for major bilateral projects. The significance of India for Osgoode relates not only to our global research and academic activities, but also to the growing proportion of Osgoode alumni who are of South Asian descent.
What impact can a large, vibrant and diverse law school like Osgoode have in a large, vibrant and diverse country like India? This is a question worth pondering. At a minimum, we can join in and serve as a catalyst for vitally important conversations about the role of law in economic development, transnational governance, environmental and social sustainability and the protection of democratic institutions and minority rights. Osgoode faculty, staff and students have expressed both interest and excitement to develop more exchanges, internships, joint conferences, research projects and collaborative pro bono projects, just to scratch the surface. As this Osgoode trip to India vividly demonstrated to those who participated, we have much of value to learn from India, and much to share as well.
Indian and Canadian values build on a variety of common foundations – as culturally and linguistically diverse societies whose legal cultures are built on democratic institutions, federalism, common law and constitutional traditions, and politics that reflect a delicate blend of principle and pragmatism. Canada and India also share the confidence and optimism of countries focused on the future, whose best days lie ahead.