The Supreme Court of Canada: History of  the Institution

By James SnellProfessor, Department of History, University of Guelph, and Frederick VaughanProfessor, Department of Political Science, University of Guelph. Published with the University of Toronto Press, 1985.

Canadians know little about the history and traditions of their highest court. In providing the first comprehensive history of the Supreme Court of Canada, James Snell and Frederick Vaughan make a significant contribution to Canadian history. Their study deals with such central concerns as the Court’s relationships with government and politicians, the perception of the Court on the part of the bar and the public, and the Court’s internal administration and personnel. Leading cases are discussed in their historical context to illustrate the main tendencies in the Court’s jurisprudential evolution.Throughout, the authors emphasize the relationships between the Court and the larger society. Often the story they tell is a starling one, especially with respect to the all but crippling problems the Court faced during the first half-century of its life. This is not an account of a steady or automatic process but rather of gradual growth in stature in the face of many obstacles. In this history, Professors Snell and Vaughan demonstrate that the life of institutions, like that of individuals, is complex and uncertain. With the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in place as part of the constitution, the Supreme Court now plays a vastly expanded role in Canada’s system of government. This book adds greatly to our understanding of our judicial heritage and governmental traditions.

Reviews of The Supreme Court of Canada: History of  the Institution

As a basic history of the Court, the book is both enlightening and enjoyable .... An ambitious and admirable effort.  Louis B.Z. Davis, McGill Law Journal, vol 31, 1986, p. 561.
As a [preliminary] effort to grapple with the changing moods and styles of the Court and its impact upon Canadian politics and society, the book is an invaluable contribution.  Peter McCormick, Canadian Journal of Law and Society, vol 2, 1987, p. 201.
A thorough and groundbreaking institutional history.  Hamar Foster, Canadian Historical Review, vol 67, 1986, p. 422.

Reviews have also appeared in the following publications:

  • William Kaplan, Canadian-American Law Journal, Vol 4, 1988, p. 101.
  • Jennifer Smith, Canadian Public Administration, Vol 30, 1987, p. 127.
  • Alan C. Cairns, Canadian Bar Review, Vol 64, 1986, p. 764.
  • Curtis Cole, Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice, Vol 6, 1986, p. 371.
  • F.G. Hulmes, Canadian Journal of Political Science, Vol 19, 1986, p. 373.
  • Elizabeth Jollimore, University of Toronto Faculty Review, Vol 44, 1986, p. 264.
  • Catherine Shepard, Archivaria, Vol 22, 1986, p. 187.
  • William E. Thoms, American Review of Canadian Studies, Vol 16, 1986, p. 230.
  • P.B. Waite, American Historical Review, Vol 91, 1986, p. 1025.
  • Peter Calamai, The Beaver, Vol 66, 1986, p. 55.
  • Linda Fung, The Whig-Standard (Kingston), 19 April 1986, p. 1.
  • Joan Honeywell, Advocate (Vancouver Bar Association), Vol 44, 1986, p. 223.
  • Patrick Monahan, Canadian Lawyer, Vol 10, 1986, p. 44.
  • Paul Truster, Ontario Lawyers Weekly, No. 35, 1986, p. 18.
  • Peter Calamai, National (Canadian Bar Association),  Vol 10, 1985, p. 36.
  • Agar Adamson, Canadian Book Review Annual, 1985, p. 336.
  • Kenneth C. Binks, The Ottawa Citizen, 28 September 1985, p. C3.