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“Race,” Rights and the Law in the Supreme Court of Canada

Historical Case Studies

James W. St. G. Walker

Publication Year: 1997

Four cases in which the legal issue was “race” — that of a Chinese restaurant owner who was fined for employing a white woman; a black man who was refused service in a bar; a Jew who wanted to buy a cottage but was prevented by the property owners’ association; and a Trinidadian of East Indian descent who was acceptable to the Canadian army but was rejected for immigration on grounds of “race” — drawn from the period between 1914 and 1955, are intimately examined to explore the role of the Supreme Court of Canada and the law in the racialization of Canadian society. With painstaking research into contemporary attitudes and practices, Walker demonstrates that Supreme Court Justices were expressing the prevailing “common sense” about “race” in their legal decisions. He shows that injustice on the grounds of “race” has been chronic in Canadian history, and that the law itself was once instrumental in creating these circumstances. The book concludes with a controversial discussion of current directions in Canadian law and their potential impact on Canada’s future as a multicultural society.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

The purpose of the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History is to encourage research and writing in the history of Canadian law. The Society, which was incorporated in 1979 and is registered as a charity, was founded at the initiative...

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pp. ix-x

Racism is a hot and handy target. We recoil when accused of it, whether at the expense of Aboriginals, Jews, immigrants or Blacks, or in its more cultural anti-French, anti-English forms in Canada. Virtually no Canadian openly condones...

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pp. xi-xiii

Early in 1988 I entered the Supreme Court of Canada building in Ottawa to seek the advice of the Consultant Curator, DeLloyd Guth, for a research project I then had under way. By the time I emerged several enlightened hours later...

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pp. 3-11

The cases described in this book will challenge many Canadians’ image of our national history and character, and the nature of our justice system. We tend to seek distinctions between ourselves and Americans, and both ‘‘race’’ and ‘‘law’’ feature strongly in the comparisons that we draw in our own favour...

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Chapter 1 Orientation

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pp. 12-50

In 1900 a prominent English scholar and humanitarian, Gilbert Murray, expressed a sentiment that was then unchallengeable: There is in the world a hierarchy of races. . . . [Some] will direct and rule the others, and the lower work...

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Chapter 2 Quong Wing v. The King

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pp. 51-121

On 5 March 1912 the Saskatchewan legislature passed An Act to Prevent the Employment of Female Labour in Certain Capacities.1 Threatening a fine of up to $100 or two months in jail, the Act specified that No person shall employ in any capacity any white woman or girl or permit any white woman or girl to reside or lodge in or to work in or, save as a bona fide customer in a public apartment...

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Chapter 3 Christie v. York Corporation

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pp. 122-181

The characteristics that Canadians often associated with Chinese, and that were used to justify discriminatory treatment, could not be applied to African Canadians. Black people were not ‘‘aliens,’’ either legally or culturally. They did...

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Chapter 4 Noble and Wolf v. Alley

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pp. 182-245

Almost half a century after it became the subject of a Supreme Court controversy for its restrictive policies, Beach O’ Pines remains ‘‘exclusive’’ and ‘‘restricted.’’ Visitors to this Lake Huron summer estate enter between stone...

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Chapter 5 Narine-Singh v. Attorney General of Canada

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pp. 246-300

For a country such as Canada, immigration is undoubtedly the most fundamental policy a government can set. Immigrants provide the raw material for the national identity. The nature of the country itself, and what it is to be in the future, is determined by the kind of people who are allowed to enter. An...

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Chapter 6 Implications

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pp. 301-323

If Canadians imagine a racially defined society, it is probably Nazi Germany or apartheid South Africa that come most readily to mind. In that classic of racist propaganda, Mein Kampf , Adolf Hitler described Jews in terms that seem idiosyncratic in their assumption of racial purity and the threat posed...

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pp. 324-344

Prevailing Canadian opinion holds that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a powerful weapon on behalf of individual rights;1 it is widely regarded, in the words of a 1986 CTV special program, as A Gift of Freedom. 2 In a celebratory...


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pp. 345-436


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pp. 437-450

E-ISBN-13: 9780889205666
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889202894

Page Count: 464
Publication Year: 1997