"Race", Rights and the Law in the Supreme Court of Canada: Historical Case Studies

by James St. G. Walker, Professor of History and Associate Chair of Graduate Studies at the University of Waterloo. Published with Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1997.

Professor James Walker is a distinguished historian who has made a substantial contribution to understanding the role of minority groups, especially aboriginal populations and those of African ancestry, in the Canadian past. The present study is a culmination of years of thought and research in this critical area. ‘Race,’ Rights and the Law in The Supreme Court of Canada: Historical Case Studies is a superb analysis of how the Canadian judicial system dealt with four cases where “race” and “law” intersected: Quong Wing v. The King (1914); Christie v. York Corporation (1939); Noble and Wolf v. Alley (1950); and Narine-Singh v. Attorney General of Canada (1955).Professor Walker himself aptly notes that the events described in this book will “challenge many Canadians’ image of our national history and character, and the nature of our justice system.” But these events are on the whole encouraging and even inspirational, revealing how minority Canadians confronted restrictions in the past despite institutional barriers.The book also illustrates the rich possibilities of using case law to illuminate Canadian social history and the value of understanding the context of the times in interpreting court decisions. Not least impressive is how surefootedly Professor Walker, without formal legal training, has tackled and understood legal issues of great complexity and subtlety. ‘Race,’ Rights and the Law achieves new standards of legal-historical analysis in Canada. It will be of great interest to scholars of law and history and to all those concerned with building a Canadian future worthy of those who challenged racial disadvantage in the past.

Reviews of "Race", Rights and the Law in the Supreme Court of Canada: Historical Case Studies

This book is a major contribution to our understanding of the interaction of race and the law in the Canadian experience. It is history told with engaging detail, in a lively and comprehensive style and embodying wise and convincing reflection.  John McLaren, Canadian Historical Review, Vol 80, 1999, p. 706.
The author has illuminated the historical systematic racism in Canadian law and society most effectively, and he has shattered the smug self-righteousness of many Canadians. He convincingly presents national and international contexts for Canadian legal developments...and sets out the appropriate theoretical and methodological context for this and other historical studies. In every way, this is an impressive and important book.  Michael Brown, American Historical Review, Vol 104, 1999, p. 1654.

Reviews have also appeared in the following publications:

  • Tracey Lindberg, Labour/Le Travail, Vol 47, 2001, p. 185.
  • Louise Robertson, Canadian Law Libraries, Vol 26, 2001, p. 92.
  • Benjamin Berger, Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Vol 38, 2000, p. 519.
  • Edward Andrew, Journal of Canadian Studies, Vol 34, 1999, p. 184.
  • Rosemary Cairns-Way, National Judicial Institute Bulletin/Institut national de la magistrature Bulletin, Vol 12, 1999, p. 3(2).
  • Kerry Rittich, University of Toronto Quarterly, Vol 68, Winter 1998/1999, p. 377.
  • Jim Hornby, Dalhousie Review, Vol 77, 1997, p. 299.