As my term as Dean of Osgoode Hall Law School is set to end tomorrow, I feel an enormous debt of gratitude to so many. I have experienced extraordinary support – more than I could do justice to in a single blog post. So, consider this just scratching the surface of the thanks that are due!
One of the best parts of academic life for me has been the opportunity to engage in research and contribute to debates about what I believe to be important aspects of law. While some of this work has been conducted on my own, or in partnership with academic colleagues, collaborating with students on research projects has been a wellspring which, in my view, deserves special recognition. These student collaborations have taken many forms and have not always resulted in published work, but wherever they have led, the experience of researching and co-authoring academic papers with students over the course of my career, and especially in my time as Dean at Osgoode, has been an enduring source of pride.
To mark the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dunsmuir v. New Brunswick (2008 SCC 9), Paul Daly and Leonid Sirota organized a blog symposium with contributions from a wide range of administrative law scholars, practitioners and judges. My contribution, “Dunsmuir – Plus ça change Redux” was published on March 4, 2018 as part of this series, and is reproduced below. Continue reading “Dunsmuir – Plus ça change Redux”
After the verdict a week ago in the Stanley trial, I was struck by the immediate and visceral reaction of so many I trusted and respected. Whether it was the lack of justice after the senseless death of a young Indigenous man from Red Pheasant First Nation, or the process that appeared to weed out any visibly Indigenous members of the jury which acquitted Gerald Stanley, or just the spectre of this verdict after so many devastating miscarriages of justice and missed opportunities for justice emerging from the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, many expressed the sentiment, in one way or another, that enough was enough.
Today, the Toronto-York-Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE) to York University finally opens. Its construction pretty much coincides with my entire time as Dean at Osgoode (ground-breaking on the subway was in 2009 and my term began in 2010). While for many in Toronto the subway was out of sight, and out of mind over this period, those at York University and Osgoode have lived with daily reminders of this massive project – with near constant construction delays on Finch Avenue and Keele Street (among many others). Now that we are here, it is timely to reflect on the significance of a subway to a community? Truly, we will only know once the subway has been operating for a period of time, but here are four possibilities that I think capture our community’s aspirations for this transformative transit.
I have read with a mixture of interest and anxiety the various posts and ripostes on the Law Society’s communication to members regarding a requirement to submit a Statement of Principles to promote diversity and inclusion (further to the recommendations on the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group Final Report (December 2016), “Working Together for Change: Strategies to Address Issues of Systemic Racism in the Legal Professions”). I participated in this Working Group process by providing this submission on the importance of obtaining data, among other goals, and believe the resulting Report represents a major step forward for the legal profession. The debate on the statement of principles, while heated, and at times uncomfortably divisive, has focused the attention of the legal profession on issues of equality, diversity and inclusion as never before. And that is, more or less, precisely the point of this exercise.
At the opening circle of the 2017 Osgoode Anishinaabe Law Camp in Neyaashiinigmiing (Cape Croker on the Bruce Peninsula), our task was to present an Anishinaabe word we had chosen in advance – any to explain why we chose it. Examples ranged from gaaskibagaasin (rustling leaves) to esiban (raccoon) and from nanda-gikendan (to seek to learn) to zaag’idwin (to show loving-kindness and compassion). I chose agawaateshin (he/she is in the shade). Since I was a child, seeking shade on a hot, sunny day captures for me a place of comfort, and a way we can gain perspective on what is around us. This was apropos the weekend we chose for the Camp, with not a cloud in the sky and temperatures soaring to near 30 degrees.
For some in the community, just hearing the language spoken in this way, and the curiosity, engagement and respect this exercise reflected, represented an important connection. It was especially meaningful for those old enough to remember when Indigenous languages and ceremonies were actively suppressed by Residential Schools and Indian Agents. Like Camp itself, this experience demonstrated how law can be shaped by words, and why it always matters where those words come from, and whose way of seeing the world those words reflect.
I am teaching Administrative Law this term. It is a course I first taught 20 years ago (when Osgoode Hall Law School’s Admin Law maven John Evans, who had taught me the subject, was appointed to the Federal Court, and the Law School had a hole to fill). Since that time, the field has not only sustained my scholarship and professional activities (as an advocate, an adjudicator and as an advisor), but also has served as a wellspring every time I return to teach it. As I once again try to convey my passion for the field to a new class at Osgoode, I thought it as a fortuitous time to reflect on what makes Administrative Law so compelling.
Continue reading “The Wonders of Administrative Law”
In July, I had a chance to participate in the International Society of Public Law (ICON·S) Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. The topic on which I presented explored the possibilities and limits of legal pluralism in Canada. As Canada marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation, much ink has been and will be spilled on reflections about Canadian constitutionalism. What is distinct about Canada’s journey? What insights on legal pluralism can be drawn from Canada’s experience? How can and will Canada come to terms with its colonial past?
This paper is being expanded for publication down the road – for now, I set out a summary below in hopes it will contribute to the ongoing and engaging conversations about Canada’s Constitution during this anniversary season.
Continue reading “Canada’s Constitutional Evolution and the Possibilities and Limits of Legal Pluralism”
On June 21, 2017 ( the newly renamed “Indigenous Peoples Day”), at a newly renamed space at York University “Skennen’kó:wa Gamig (House of Great Peace),” Osgoode Hall Law School launched its Reconciliation Fund. The Reconciliation Fund, with an initial investment of $300K, commits Osgoode to specific actions to advance goals of Reconciliation, and respond to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Osgoode’s enhanced commitment to Reconciliation, which has been identified as a top priority in the Law School’s 2017-2020 Access Osgoode Strategic Plan, represents an important next chapter in the history of the Law School.