My research and teaching focuses on the histories of international law, crime and punishment, and politics in British North America and post-Confederation Canada. My first book, Borderline Crime: Fugitive Criminals and the Challenge of the Border, 1819-1914 (Toronto: UTP and the Osgoode Society, 2016) examines how governments on both sides of the international boundary in northern North America struggled to deal with the omnipresent threat of migrating crime and criminals. It explores the migration and adaptation of international law ideas and their role in the formation of high government policy, as well as how 'low law' actors such as local sheriffs enacted their own transnational legal regimes to confront the threat that the boundary posed to the rule of law.
My new project examines the history of international law in Canada more broadly. Funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant, it explores the role and power of international legal order in British North America/Canada. It uses a series of cases studies involving marriage, Indigenous land rights, environmentalism and resource extraction, and war and armed resistance to show that, as the colonies and post-Confederation Canada emerged as state entities, the meaning of their statehood was being reshaped by shifting global legal doctrines.
With Angela Fernandez (Faculty of Law, University of Toronto) and Christopher Shorey (Lerners LLP), I am also writing a book on the case of the Frederic Gerring, Jr., a ship seized by Canada in the 1890's for illegal fishing in the North Atlantic. As the case wound its way from Nova Scotia, to the Supreme Court of Canada, and finally to an international arbitration tribunal, the Gerring became a symbol of deeply contested ideas about environmental protection, state jurisdiction on the oceans, and international law.
At UBC, I teach in the History Department and I am a core faculty member of the Law and Society Minor Programme. I have also recently completed a term as the chair of the Political History Group of the Canadian Historical Association.
Includes Aboriginal policy, immigration and national identity; Canada, Britain and the US; World Wars; economic modernization; the Great Depression; regionalism; political and social movements; and the creation of 'Canadian' culture. Credit will only be granted for one of HIST 325 or 426, if 426 was taken before 2007W.
Constitutions shape countries, peoples, and governments. This course explores the history of constitutions from the pre-contact period to the twenty-first century era of the Canadian Charter of Rights. It examines how constitutions defined, entrenched, and often limited the rights of individuals and groups, such as religious, linguistic, and racial minorities. Students will also explore how constitutions were reshaped by the rise of democracy in Canada as well as the emergence of federalism after Confederation in 1867. Finally, students will examine the growing influence of human rights in the early and mid-twentieth century and the resulting push for a Canadian bill of rights. We will finish by focusing on the role of Charter of Rights in debates over issues like First Nations land rights, gay marriage, and prostitution. Students will read key work by scholars of Canadian constitutional law, but they will also read important primary sources such as constitutional documents, political pamphlets, and seminal court decisions.
The way that societies understand crime, use criminal law to structure deviance and difference, and develop regimes to punish them reveals much about how those societies work. This course examines these connections between law and society by looking at crime and punishment in northern North America from the French colonial period until the era of the Canadian Charter of Rights. It focuses in particular on the intersection of legal traditions and notions of sovereignty and criminality among French, English, and aboriginal people, how constructions of deviance incorporated beliefs about race, religion, gender, and sexuality, and the development of regimes of punishment such as the death penalty and the penitentiary. Evaluations will be based on written work, active participation in discussion sessions, and a final exam.