Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950

by Constance Backhouse, Professor of Law, University of Ottawa. Published with the University of Toronto Press, 1999.

Colour-Coded has been translated into French and published in Quebec
as De La Couleur des Lois:

White supremacy had a tenacious hold on the historical roots of the Canadian legal system. Backhouse presents convincing case studies to illustrate how early 20th-century law played a dominant role in creating and preserving racial inequality. The cases focus on Aboriginal, Inuit, Chinese-Canadian and African-Canadian individuals, taking us from the criminal prosecution of traditional Aboriginal dance to the trial of members of the ‘Ku Klux Klan of Kanada!


Ontario Historical Society's Joseph Brant Award 2002

Reviews of Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950

Colour-Coded convincingly documents the case for the real-life consequences of racialization in Canada. If one of its goals was to obliterate the “stupefying innocence” of Canadians regarding racism in Canada, it has surely succeeded. Beyond that, it provides an invaluable teaching tool for law schools, the Bar and the Bench. Emily F. Carasco, Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice, Vol 20, 2001, pp. 341-343
Law professor Constance Backhouse has a wonderfully direct way of telling stories and explaining convoluted case law, so I too will be direct. I loved Colour-Coded. Laura Robinson, Globe and Mail, February 12, 2000

Reviews have also appeared in the following publications:

  • Lori Chambers, Acadiensis, vol 41, 2012, pp. 255-256
  • Stephanie Cole, Law and History Review, Vol 20, 2002, pp. 221-223
  • Dianne Newell, Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, Vol 14, 2002, pp. 225-228
  • Adelle Blackett, McGill Law Journal, Vol 46, 2001, pp. 1175-1176
  • Bryan D. Palmer, Alberta Law Review, Vol 38, 2001, pp. 1080-1084
  • Melanie R. Durette, Saskatchewan Law Review, Vol 64, 2001, pp. 649-650
  • Benjamin Berger, Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Vol 38, 2000, pp. 524-529
  • Franki Elliott, Canadian Law Libraries, Vol 25, 2000, pp. 178-179