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Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950
Backhouse, Constance
University of Toronto Press / Softcover / 1999-11-01 / 0802082866
Forensic / History
price: $49.95 (may be subject to change)
432 pages
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Historically Canadians have considered themselves to be more or less free of racial prejudice. Although this conception has been challenged in recent years, it has not been completely dispelled. In Colour-Coded, Constance Backhouse illustrates the tenacious hold that white supremacy had on our legal system in the first half of this century, and underscores the damaging legacy of inequality that continues today.

Backhouse presents detailed narratives of six court cases, each giving evidence of blatant racism created and enforced through law. 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.' From thousands of possibilities, Backhouse has selected studies that constitute central moments in the legal history of race in Canada. Her selection also considers a wide range of legal forums, including administrative rulings by municipal councils, criminal trials before police magistrates, and criminal and civil cases heard by the highest courts in the provinces and by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The extensive and detailed documentation presented here leaves no doubt that the Canadian legal system played a dominant role in creating and preserving racial discrimination. A central message of this book is that racism is deeply embedded in Canadian history despite Canada's reputation as a raceless society.

Winner of the Joseph Brant Award, presented by the Ontario Historical Society

About the Author:

Constance Backhouse is a professor of law, distinguished university professor, and university research chair at the University of Ottawa. She obtained her B.A. from the University of Manitoba (1972), her LL.B. from Osgoode Hall (1975), and her LL.M. from Harvard Law School (1979). She was called to the Ontario Bar in 1978. She teaches feminist law, criminal law, human rights, and labour law. She is the author of many award-winning legal history books, including Petticoats & Prejudice: Women and Law in Nineteenth-Century Canada (1991), Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canadian Law, 1900-1950 (1999) and The Heiress vs. the Establishment: Mrs. Campbell's Campaign for Legal Justice (2004). She received the Law Society Medal in 1998 and an Honorary Doctorate from the Law Society of Upper Canada in 2002. She has served as an elected bencher of the Law Society from 2002. She became a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2004.


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